Info Meeting Held on Proposed Marijuana Manufacturing FacilityOct 30, 2019 08:59AM ● By Pamela Johnson
A similar presentation was given at the Planning Board's Oct. 10 meeting, where the Board voted to recommend this article.
written by Amy Bartelloni, Contributing Writer
On Tuesday, Sept. 18, per state regulations, Frozen 4, LLC held a community outreach meeting in the Municipal Center for their product manufacturing license at 24 William Way. The meeting was the last step before the company can apply with the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). Owners Ben Virga and Luke Marut briefed concerned citizens on the facility’s’ products, security, and benefits to the town.
In January, the three partners signed a host community agreement with Bellingham for cultivation at 26 William Way and product manufacturing at 24 William Way.
“We are not seeking, nor will we ever seek, retail in Bellingham,” they promised. While it was pointed out that the bylaws wouldn’t allow for that, even if they could, Frozen 4 isn’t interested. “We’re going to make our product in Bellingham, but we are never looking to sell it here. It’s just not something that would work for us geographically.”
The company will be subject to state oversight, which includes strict unannounced inspections. The product is highly monitored by the state, down to the last leaf. “It’s stopped any kind of games in their tracks, due to the regulatory setting,” Virga said. “Every step of the way, it’s tracked by what the state calls metric. As soon as the plant comes out of the ground, it gets tagged and the state can track it all the way from seed to sale.”
“The state is very strong in their regulatory enforcement,” he continued, “so what we do at 26 William Way for cultivation we cannot do at 24 William Way with production. They’re very separate but linked things.” The state doesn’t give guidance until they apply, so all the evening’s information was with the caveat that everything they do is subject to the state.
Virga explained the plant itself—the top half, or flower, can be packaged as is for sale based on weight or sold in a variety of ways.
“The bottom part of the plant is what we will use in the product manufacturing,” he said. (He then provided a lengthy explanation of the process, not included here.)
The company takes security seriously. “There will not be a more secure facility in Bellingham,” he promised. They plan to use a company called Netwatch to live monitor over 100 cameras on the property 24 hours a day.
Virga also listed financial benefits to the town. Because the buildings are for product manufacturing and not retail, the town doesn’t get a percentage of profits, but as part of the host agreement, they will pay a flat fee of $1 million to be paid $200,000 each year for five years. “On top of that, there are numerous other smaller donations we’ve agreed to for various non-municipal organizations, with the town’s discretion on what they go to,” he said, including a $10,000 donation for the town’s 300th anniversary. “Our plan is to be a great corporate partner to this town,” he said, including plans to employ 70-80 people, with preference for local residents.
Part of their plan is to not be noticed. “Our goal is that you won’t have any odor issues within the facility itself, let alone escaping from the building,” he continued. He anticipates minimal traffic, with UPS deliveries 2-3 times a day, and one big truck a month for the cultivation facility. They have the required 226 parking spaces for 80-100 employees. Hours of operation will be something like 8-5 for manufacturing, and though the cultivation side may have longer hours they don’t plan to run on a 24-hour cycle. “A majority of people will be there for that 8-10 hour main shift,” Virga explained. Waste has to be disposed of per strict state regulations.
“It’s going to be a great facility,” he finished. “It’s going to generate a lot of revenue for the town as far as the host agreement goes, and as far as taxes go.”
Though the goal of the evening was informational and not to debate legalization and morality, Virga answered questions from concerned citizens about access to their products by children, which, because of the state’s metric, should be strictly controlled though he admitted you can’t prevent everything. There were concerns about vaping, and the age at which people could buy products, which is over 21. As a warning, resident Ken Hamwey read the story of Thomas Clardy, a military veteran and MA State trooper killed during a routine traffic stop by a driver high on marijuana, leaving a wife and five young children.
“I know it’s not your responsibility, but I hope you’ll remember Mrs. Clardy when you’re selling this,” he said. “That’s what this stuff is doing to the culture.” Virga’s answers went a long way toward calming those fears. “If everything you’re saying is true,” Ken finished, “I feel a little more comfortable.”
The facilities have permits for manufacturing and cultivation at this time, and town discussion is closed. The next step for Frozen 4, LLC is to apply with the state’s Cannabis Control Commission for a license. Before opening, they will need to wait for the building and permit process for cultivation at 26 William Way to be completed, so he anticipates opening in the summer of 2020. Questions on this topic can be directed to Town Planner Jim Kupfer, at [email protected] or 508-657-2893.