Chichester is the next site for a medical marijuana facility in NH
These days, pot simply doesn’t create the buzz it once did.
That’s certainly been the case in Chichester, which will soon be home to the state’s sixth therapeutic cannabis dispensary, at 349 Dover Road, on or around April 1.
The new center fills a gap in the Concord region, created by the distances of the other five dispensaries: Merrimack, Plymouth, Conway, Dover and Lebanon.
Slowly, as the evidence of the medical benefits from using pot has been accepted, laws have been loosened over the past decade, as cannabis continues its march across mainstream America.
In Chichester, nary a peep came from residents during several remote public meetings recently with the members of the Select Board and Planning Board.
The key players involved – the Department of Health and Human Services’ Therapeutic Cannabis Program, and Prime Alternative Treatment Center NH – joined town officials to answer questions about the use of a drug that once was viewed as an enemy of society.
Now it’s legal in 15 states, including Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts.
“There was no resistance to it at all,” said Kristy Willey, Chichester’s administrative assistant to the town administrator and selectmen. “I expected at least a little bit, but in this day and age, where people are more accepting of using it for medicinal purposes, no one had much to say.”
Governed by New Hampshire’s Therapeutic Cannabis Program, New Hampshire residents, with the proper documentation from a doctor, can buy pot for a variety of ailments, including chronic pain, PTSD, epilepsy and the loss of appetite caused by cancer treatments.
Willey remembered one issue that surfaced in one of the meetings: traffic. The Alternative Treatment Center in Chichester sits off of Route 4 at the location of a former used car dealer. The high-speed road is a dangerous spot for drivers, with several serious accidents a year.
“Once that was the worry,” Willey said. “The impact of Route 4 is something that we’ve all felt. It’s always been busy and dangerous.”
As a state road, the proposed location on Route 4 needed approval from the Department of Transportation, which studied various traffic flows from the parking lot to the main road.
Everything checked out. In fact, the first Prime ATC in the state opened five years ago in Merrimack, and officials say little has gone wrong since.
“Five years ago there was more concern because people were unfamiliar with the medical aspect,” said Keenan Blum, CEO of Prime ATC. “For a century, people had heard that cannabis is bad, but we’re not seeing problems. There’s no black market feel or a rise in crime. None of that has come to fruition.”
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan in 2013 signed on to create a medical marijuana program, and Prime ATC, one of three approved distributors in New Hampshire, opened in Merrimack in 2016.
HB 355, adopted in 2019, asked the Department of Health and Human Services to pinpoint the best location for a new center, given that towns and cities in the Capital Region and south had far to travel to ease their pain.
“When you think of how big the state is, it’s about an hour plus to get to (the other centers),” Blum said. “This will reduce travel plans, reduce time and stress. They told us to open in the Concord area, and we found a facility.”
The center, at 349 Dover Road, home to a former used-car dealership, is less than 10 miles from Concord, making it a prime spot to improve accessibility in the Granite State.
The inside is undergoing major renovation, needing new walls and extra-secure windows. Blume said opening day is tentatively scheduled for April 1.
Another Alternative Treatment Center for distributing medical marijuana, Temescal Wellness, is also slated to open a chapter on April 1, this one in Keene, said Michael Holt, an administrator with the DHHS’ Therapeutic Cannabis Program.
Holt added that an eighth ATC branch is being planned for the Seacoast, which would bring New Hampshire’s total number of dispensaries to the maximum allowed by law.
Meanwhile, Blum has said that his Merrimack chapter caters to as many as 200 customers per day, and he expects similar numbers in Chichester.
The new facility will feature a drive-through, a unique feature among the outlets, but deemed necessary during COVID.