Council OKs permits for two cannabis manufacturers in Holyoke

  • Holyoke City Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/22/2021 12:06:02 PM

HOLYOKE — The City Council approved two special permits for marijuana growers this week, and in the process discussed possible changes to city cannabis ordinances that the council is considering.

The two businesses, Massbiology Technology LLC and EMB Natural Ventures LLC, are planning to operate marijuana manufacturing operations in vacant buildings on the Connecticut River at 6 Appleton St. and 140 Middle Water St., respectively. They are part of a large number of manufacturing facilities looking to locate in Holyoke, which has focused on attracting those operations to the city’s commercial areas.

At-Large Councilor Rebecca Lisi said that the Massbiology Technology operation would employ 25 people, with a “living wage” and benefits, per shift.

The second of those applicants, EMB Natural Ventures, requested to remove from its special permit conditions regarding the hours it can operate — a request that was ultimately granted. The company was before the council because it has now decided to rebuild the building it intends to occupy instead of renovating the property.

Jeffrey Dannenber, who represented the company at the meeting, said that as a manufacturer the facility requires a “skeleton crew” after 8 p.m. For that reason, the company asked that a limit on operation hours — a standard condition the council has applied to many other marijuana operation special permits — be waived.

Some councilors spoke in favor of that amendment to the special permit, including acting Mayor and Ward 2 Councilor Terrence Murphy. He said the company has decided to invest in Holyoke, despite realizing that the building it intended to rehabilitate could not be renovated. Lisi said that the company’s plan is for the building to have a brick face similar to the original property.

Ward 3 Councilor David Bartley expressed opposition to striking the condition on operating hours, saying the request could be made in the future. However, the council ultimately accepted striking the condition.

At-large Councilor Joseph McGiverin noted that the Council’s Ordinance Committee is considering a change to city ordinances that would remove limits on when cultivation and manufacturing facilities can operate, allowing them to do so on a 24-hour basis. He stressed his support for that change and the more immediate change of striking those conditions from EMB Natural Ventures’s special permit.

“The city of Holyoke gained its notoriety by having three shifts in every one of these buildings employing thousands of people,” McGiverin said. “Are we saying we want to limit hours and that means less employees, less job opportunities, less opportunities for employees to make more money? It makes no sense to limit the hours”.

That change is soon to be considered by the full City Council, though it was ultimately tabled on Tuesday so that the Ordinance Committee can present a full legal form with that and other ordinances changes to the full council.

The proposed ordinance to allow 24-hour cannabis cultivation and manufacturing comes after several applicants have expressed interest in running three shifts in their buildings.

The Ordinance Committee is further discussing that proposed ordinance change, as well as others, at its meeting on April 27. Other ordinances to be discussed include allowing medical marijuana deliveries by special permit and reducing a buffer zone for marijuana manufacturing facilities. The committee will also discuss whether on-site consumption would be allowed — Lisi told the Gazette a city-wide referendum would be needed — and what kind of expansion of the industry might be allowed in the city’s industrial park-zoned areas.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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