Medical marijuana, letters, and law in West Tisbury

Susan Sanford, shown in this file photo, owner of Greenleaf MV Compassionate Care Inc., is seeking a license to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in West Tisbury. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

West Tisbury selectmen met Wednesday, March 19, and voted unanimously to approve a letter of non-opposition for Susan Sanford, owner of Greenleaf MV Compassionate Care Inc. The letter is one part of the Department of Public Health (DPH) application for any company seeking a license to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts.

On January 31, DPH announced the statewide recipients of a limited number of registered marijuana dispensary (RMD) licenses. None of the four Martha’s Vineyard applicants for a license in Dukes County made the list.

Four Vineyard applicants were in the running for the Dukes County license to own and operate an RMD. Ms. Sanford, Oak Bluffs businessman Mark Wallace of Kingsbury Group Inc., Geoffrey Rose and Jonathan Bernstein of Patient Centric of Martha’s Vineyard Ltd., and Michael Peters, doing business under the name MV Greencross.

Ms. Sanford, whose business scored the second highest of the Island businesses in the application process, said the letter from selectmen would bolster her company’s chances of being approved during a future review by the state.

Unwilling to sign any letter that appeared to be an endorsement of medical marijuana, selectmen took no action on a similar request for a letter from Ms. Sanford last October. However, when Mr. Rose submitted a similar request in February, selectmen were swayed by the argument that a locally owned dispensary would be better than one opened by an off-Island business.

Ms. Sanford asked the selectmen to sign a letter she had authored, but Richard Knabel and Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter, the two selectmen present, only agreed to sign the same letter they had signed for Mr. Rose. Mr. Manter said he was reluctant to change the first letter without participation by selectman Cynthia Mitchell, who was absent Wednesday.

The letter states, “The Board of Selectmen is not opposed to the operation of an RMD for the cultivation, processing and dispensing of medical marijuana in the Mixed Business District subject to all applicable zoning laws and permits.  Further, we believe that local management of the RMD is important to the integrity and overall success of the operation.”

Mr. Manter said that the state had not given the selectmen enough options to express their position on the issue.

“I’m uneasy enough sending this letter as it is,” Mr. Manter said. “I don’t want people to misinterpret this, because we are not in opposition and we are not in support of it either.”

Mr. Manter, a West Tisbury police sergeant, said that the selectmen have taken a neutral position on the issue, but the state doesn’t allow them to clearly express a neutral position.

In other business, there were no questions or comments during a brief public hearing that preceded a unanimous vote to grant the Lambert’s Cove Inn a seasonal beer and wine license. The Inn had a year-round license. The seasonal license allows the inn to close for a longer period in the off-season.

Selectmen voted unanimously to accept a donation of $3,300 from the friends of the library committee to pay for a library website redesign.