, Newburyport, MA

March 8, 2014

Mayor Gray brokers deal with pot farms

By Jim Sullivan

---- — AMESBURY—Mayor Ken Gray announced the signing of host community agreements between the city and a pair of medical marijuana cultivation companies which he projects will bring a combined $1.1 million in new revenues to Amesbury over the next 10 years.

“Medical marijuana is now the law in Massachusetts,” Gray said. “And Amesbury will be receiving a significant benefit from having these two facilities located within our city.”

The agreements between the city and Alternative Therapies Group (ATG) and Green Heart Holistic Health and Pharmaceuticals Inc. clear a hurdle for the nonprofit companies as they seek to establish processing and cultivation facilities within the city limits. ATG’s facility would be located at 49 South Hunt Road, while Green Heart’s Amesbury processing and cultivation site is planned for 10 Industrial Way.

“I think this will be good for the community,” Gray said. “A lot of the apprehension in the community is because there are a lot of unknowns. Both of these agreements are contingent on never opening a dispensary. These are strictly cultivation facilities. To call them pot farms makes for a sensational headline. But these are enclosed, cultivation facilities. Unless you know it was there, you wouldn’t be able to recognize it. They are going to be in industrial buildings. They are going to be over on the Salisbury line and one is on the Merrimac line. I suspect they will be very good neighbors and the management teams will contribute to the city.”

ATG’s dispensary is on Grove Street in Salem, while Green Heart’s is located on Southampton Street in Boston. Negotiations to bring the two companies to Amesbury began under Gray’s predecessor, Thatcher Kezer, and the topic has caused much controversy along the way.

“These negotiations started in late November, under the previous administration,” Gray said. “When I took office two months ago, the city had been offered $50,000 per year for five years from one of the companies and a pledge of community support with no specific dollar amount from the other. Had we accepted, the total benefit to Amesbury would have added up to a total of $250,000 over ten years. Through negotiation, we were able to increase the benefit to Amesbury to total over $1,100,000 over the next ten years. Both firms negotiated in good faith and both will be active in supporting the city, not only through their monetary means but through creating jobs and participating in community groups.”

Specifically, the two firms will pay $50,000 annually, in two installments, for five years, with an escalation after that which will increase the payments based on inflation. In addition, each company will donate a minimum of $5,000 annually to Amesbury-based charities of their choice.

Gray has also been quietly working on his economic development strategy as well, which he said he will be making an announcement on early next week.

“I’ve been dealing with everything from snow emergencies to the budgets,” Gray said. “The big thing taking up a lot of the time right now is that we are heavily into the budgets. That has been consuming a lot of our time. This was going to happen. This issue for us was, what kind of agreements could we negotiate?”