The Herald News, Friday, November 22, 2013 – Page A1

Fall River – A Boston company that wants to build a medical marijuana dispensary in the biopark remains in the running for a medical marijuana license.

And if all the company plans work out, Fall River could become a world leader in research into the medical uses of marijuana, a company spokeswoman said.

Herbal Care Center Inc. of Boston was included in the list of finalists for a medical marijuana license that was released Thursday by the state Department of Public Health.

The DPH is expected to decide in late January where the state’s first medical marijuana dispensaries will be located and who will run them.

“We, like 100 other people, have applied for the medical marijuana dispensary,” said Soo Sheung Wong, the chief marketing and innovation officer for Herbal Care. “We are very excited about Fall River and the South Coast Life Science Technology Park. We are interested in providing cannabis for people who need it for medical purposes. We also want to do more work with the research on cannabis.”

Herbal Care signed a contingency contract with the Bristol County EDC to buy 4 acres in the biopark if the company is awarded a license to operate a medical marijuana dispensary, according to Kenneth Fiola, executive vice president of Bristol County EDC, which markets the 300-acre biopark.

“Herbal Care is interested in not only the growth of medical marijuana for medical purposes, but research and development,” Fiola said. “They believe there are other potential uses for this plant.”

If the company wins a license to operate a medical marijuana dispensary, it will buy land and build a 35,000-square-foot building, Fiola said.

“It would create 45 jobs to start,” Fiola said. “They are talking about an option for an additional 10 acres. They would build an additional building of up to 200,000 square feet if they expand. That would be 150 to 175 jobs.”

The expansion would take place if Herbal Care won federal approval to conduct research into medical uses of cannabis.

Herbal Care entered into a contingency agreement for the purchase with the city after getting approval for the project from Mayor Will Flanagan, City Council President Linda Pereira and the police department.

“Fall River has a great vision with the life science park,” Sheung Wong said. “We are very happy to be part of it. We need to leverage where we are strong. Massachusetts is known around the world as being at the forefront of medical research, especially bio-medical research. Cambridge and Boston are saturated.”

But Fall River has the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth right next door and its Massachusetts Accelerator for Biomanufacturing, currently under construction in the biopark, to provide the laboratories and equipment needed to do medical research.

“That MAB is a great facility,” Sheung Wong said. “It is a great opportunity to have them right at our doorstep, as a neighbor.”

But the hope is to get the dispensary up and running first, she added.

Massachusetts voters approved the use of medical marijuana in a vote one year ago. The state will establish up to 35 dispensaries in the state. The law calls for at least one dispensary, but no more than five, in each county.

If Herbal Care wins the license, it will buy the 4 acres for $320,000, Fiola said.

The dispensaries will be regulated by the state, and its operation will also be restricted by the deed covenants if the sale is made, Fiola said.

“This project offers an opportunity for employment and it provides a much-needed service for people with certain illnesses,” Fiola said.

“They said a decision should be made by the end of January,” Sheung Wong said. “As we know, these things change. We have no idea what the hiccups may be going forward, but we are very excited.”

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