Canal District leaders high on dispensary plans at former Widoff’s site

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For more than 100 years, Widoff’s Bakery on Water Street was the place to go to get your bulkies on Sunday morning. In the not-too-distant future, it could serve as a place to pick up your medical marijuana.

Representatives from Mayflower Medicinals, Inc., a prospective medical marijuana dispensary firm out of Boston, met with Worcester’s Canal District Alliance on Thursday, Dec. 3, to propose opening a dispensary at the former Widoff’s Bakery site at 129 Water St.

Mullen Sawyer, Canal District Alliance president, said, “We’ve been able to meet with the principals of the company to get a good sense of their business plans, their credentials and experience. They’ve been well-received by our community.”

The former home of Widoff's Bakery could become the site of the city's first marijuana dispensary.

Patrick Sargent / For Worcester Sun

The former home of Widoff’s Bakery could become the site of the city’s first marijuana dispensary.

Edward Murphy, principal of Baystate Investment Fund LLC, said his company and Mayflower Medicinals have met with both the Canal District’s business and neighborhood associations, and the response from those groups “has been surprisingly positive so far. We haven’t received much opposition.”

Baystate Investment Fund purchased the 19,000-square-foot Widoff’s building in July for $550,000.

According to Murphy, Mayflower Medicinals originally looked at the building at 1 Kelley Square (also owned by Murphy) to open a dispensary. However, because Murphy is planning to add residential units above the retail space, it didn’t appear to be a fit.

Although still nearly a year away from potential approval from the state, if all goes as planned, Mayflower will only take a portion of the space at the Widoff’s building. If and when Mayflower is approved to sell by the city and state, Murphy and company will begin renovating the building to house Mayflower and fill other retail spaces.

When Murphy was asked how a medical marijuana dispensary will benefit the Canal District, he said, “It will definitely make it safer. The state regulations for safety are pretty significant and the company’s security plan that I’ve seen so far call for 24/7 security, including direct links to the police department.”

“With all of the [things] that sometimes give the Canal District a bad reputation, it will hopefully help clean that up, especially with a trained security guard at the property 24/7 who is not just a guy sleeping in the car, he’s protecting a pretty substantial amount of inventory,” Murphy said.

“We think that [their presence] will increase public safety in a critical area in the Canal District. We understand that their patient-centric approach is professional and medical and appropriate. Their interaction in the community has been tremendously positive,” Sawyer said. “Their security cameras, and security personnel will make a tremendous difference in safety in the area.”

An artist's rendering of the proposed retail space -- and new home of Mayflower Medicinals marijuana dispensary -- at 129 Water St.

Courtesy Baystate Investment Fund LLC

An artist’s rendering of the proposed retail space — and new home of Mayflower Medicinals marijuana dispensary — at 129 Water St.

Mayflower Medicinals submitted its application of intent to open three dispensaries in Massachusetts on June 29. Since then, the company has submitted its management and operations profile. Last month, the state requested additional information on Mayflower’s management and operations.

The fact that Mayflower is now seeking a location is potentially a sign that the dispensary could open relatively soon. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, applicants do not submit location information until later in the application process.

Of the 158 applications of intent (from roughly 100 applicants) submitted to the state, less than half have gotten as far as Mayflower Medicinals has in the process, according to a DPH status report from late November. The company will next be asked for a “siting profile” to describe the location(s) where they would like to set up shop.

Mayflower Medicinals is led by CEO John Henderson of Boston, who oversaw the $500 million development of four proton therapy centers while serving as COO and CDO of ProCure Treatment Centers, Inc.

Henderson is joined by Executive Director Jaime Lewis, who has an extensive background in medicinal marijuana. Lewis is the founder of Mountain Medicine, an infused cannabis product manufacturer, and is a founding member of the Cannabis Business Alliance and the chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

In a statement released to the Sun, Henderson said, “Throughout the last five months, the Mayflower Medicinals team has explored the possibility of opening a medical marijuana dispensary in Worcester’s Canal District. As a patient-first, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing care to patients suffering from debilitating illnesses, we know that our success is directly related to the relationships built with the surrounding neighborhood.

“Our team has completed extensive outreach to the local community to share our vision, expand on our commitment to safety, access and compassion, and address any questions or concerns. We look forward to working with the community in the months to come.”

Sawyer said, “It’s an unusual opportunity and we are very pleased with the caliber of the executives and their business plan and their community development efforts. It seems like a full complement to us.”

Since June, Massachusetts has allowed four dispensaries to sell in Ayer, Salem, Brockton and Northampton. Patriot Care Corp. of Lowell has been issued its final certification of registration and will likely be next to be approved to sell in the state. According to its website Patriot Care has headquarters in Lowell, Greenfield and Boston, and will be opening dispensaries in each of those locations in 2016.

In July, John Glowik, president of Prime Wellness Inc., pursued the opening of a dispensary at the former Friendly’s restaurant site on Park Avenue. However, the deal fell through when he could not reach a lease agreement with the property owner.

Good Chemistry of Massachusetts, for which Lewis had previously been director, had plans for a dispensary on Harding Street and cultivation center elsewhere in the city, but the firm’s application process remains stalled.

Of the other 13 certified registered medical marijuana retailers waiting for approval to sell from the state, only one, Milford Medicinals Inc., is located in Worcester County.

According to a source, there are up to six applicants in Worcester attempting to open up a medical marijuana retail site.

Like those applicants, Mayflower Medicinals will need a letter of support or non-opposition of their efforts at a particular site from City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. and members of the City Council.

According to Sawyer, the city’s legislators have already seen Mayflower’s plans and operations and “are impressed by it.”

“We know that there will be a regional draw. The more we understand about medicinal marijuana and its benefits to the folks with cancer, MS and Parkinson’s, and so many other conditions that can reduce their pain, and combine that with the professionalism of the group [Mayflower Medicinals] is really impressive.”

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