RICHMOND — The Town Council has denied an application for a zoning amendment to allow a compassion center to sell medical marijuana in the town.
Two compassion center applications were scheduled to be heard at the June 16 public hearing, but one of the applicants, Coastal Farms LLC, asked that its application be continued to July.
The second applicant, Owen Long, sought a special use permit that would have allowed him to open a compassion center in a general business district at 1195 Main St.
Long also intends to operate a medical marijuana cultivation facility at the Main Street location, a use that is already permitted in the town.
Representing Long, attorney Joseph Brennan said even if he received support from the town, his client would still have to enter a statewide lottery for the single compassion center that will be allowed to open in southern Rhode Island, where none currently exist.
“In the process that the state’s doing, they’ve created six new compassion center licenses and there’s three currently existing facilities in the state,” he said. “But they’re only opening up one in each zone and they’ve created six zones. Richmond, Rhode Island, falls into one of the zones, so in Richmond and surrounding cities and towns — I don’t know exactly how far the zone goes out — everybody who wants to apply for a compassion center at the state level has the ability to. As long as they all check off the boxes and show that they’re a viable candidate, they get put into a lottery system. So whether there’s five, 10, 15 different locations in Zone 5, which Richmond’s in, only one license can get it.”
Council members expressed concerns that if someday Rhode Island allows the sale of recreational marijuana, a Richmond compassion center would want to tap into that lucrative market. They also worried that the center would attract people from neighboring states, particularly Connecticut.
The council voted 4 to 1 against granting the special use permit. Councilor Mark Trimmer was the lone member supporting the application.
Council president Richard Nassaney said the compassion center would not have been a good fit for the town.
“The potential for recreational marijuana is around the corner, and the town didn’t feel that it was a good look for the town,” he said. “It wouldn’t benefit the town in really any way, and then we have that stigma of ‘go get your pot in Richmond,’ right next door to a liquor store. So it doesn’t give a family image in the town of Richmond and that’s what we’re looking for and that was kind of like the ultimate nail in the coffin. That’s not what the town of Richmond wants to be known for.”