Pittsfield marijuana company eyes Rafter’s site in Amherst

  • A nonprofit company based in Pittsfield is hoping to convert the building that has long housed Rafter’s Sports Bar & Restaurant, at 422 Amity St., into a medical marijuana dispensary. Herbology Group Inc. will eventually include sale of adult-use marijuana. GAZETTE STAFF

Staff Writer
Sunday, April 15, 2018

AMHERST — A nonprofit company based in Pittsfield is hoping to convert the building that has long housed Rafter’s Sports Bar & Restaurant into a medical marijuana dispensary.

But before the Herbology Group Inc. can move forward with plans for the 422 Amity St. site, which will eventually include sale of adult-use marijuana, it needs to receive a letter of support or letter of non-opposition from the Select Board.

On Monday, the board opted against making a decision, with members observing they had already issued a similar letter for the same site to Happy Valley Ventures Inc. of Newton in June 2016.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said it is appropriate for the board to take more time to determine how to approach the request from Herbology, noting that changes in state law that have legalized adult-use marijuana, and the idea of co-locating a medical dispensary and recreational shop, complicate the decision.

Frank Perullo, CEO of the Novus Group and a consultant for Herbology, told the Select Board that the company has a purchase-and-sale agreement with Happy Valley, but this can’t be executed until a new letter is issued.

Herbology’s plans are to use the Rafter’s building and invest $500,000 to $700,000 in interior and exterior improvements.

“We are just redoing the existing building on site,” Perullo said.

The total investment, including the property purchase, will be around $3 million, he said.

Happy Valley bought the property for $2 million in late 2016. Rafter’s will remain open at its current location for as long as possible, and its owners say they are working on plans for a new restaurant across the street.

The dispensary would be open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., feature between 20 and 25 full-time jobs, and have security cameras and security employees on foot patrol to make sure no medicine is being used on site.

The main focus will be on treating patients, Perullo said. “Medical is at the core of what we offer,” Perullo said.

Perullo said the plan is to have a consultation room and enhanced privacy for patients, which will be needed once adult-use sales begin.

Herbology is willing to negotiate one or more host community agreements, Perullo said. Happy Valley previously signed a host community agreement that called for providing Amherst $75,000 during the pre-opening phase, then 3 percent of annual revenues minus that initial payment, as well as $15,000 a year to a local charity and offer employment to local residents.

The leadership team for Herbology argues that it is unique in the cannabis industry because it is both women and veteran owned.

Founder and CEO Jane Hawman, an Air Force veteran, said the dispensary will have a high quality product line through a partnership with Sea Hunter Therapeutics. These will include some products that don’t get users high.

“One of our main focuses is to provide non-euphoric options,” Hawman said.

Herbology is also planning similar facilities in Easthampton and Greenfield.

The company will hold a community meeting Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Hangar Pub & Grill, 10 University Drive.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.