We wanted to narrow it down even more, though, to exact locations, if possible. We looked at the state's guidelines for judging proposals, and spoke to officials, but also to medi-mari supporters both prominent and otherwise.
Just about everybody we talked to wanted the place to be close to public transportation. Congress Street got a few mentions because there are so many bus lines meeting up there. (The biggest bus-route interchange in the county is at Monument Square.)
But getting there by car, with easy highway access and handy parking, will also be important. A dispensary in the heart of downtown could struggle with that. Locating a dispensary just off I-95 or I-295 could allow for easy driving for people from out of town, at a location with plenty of room for parking. Available floor space is also an issue — some sites could handle a dispensary but not a growing operation to supply the marijuana itself.
We took all that in with a good deep breath, kicked back, and let our minds wander a bit as we chatted with people about where might be good spots for either the initial dispensary or future ones down the road. Turn the page to find out what we came up with.
Behind the doors: What a dispensary will look like
While most people will only be able to see this dispensary (wherever it ends up) from the outside, there may be a lot more inside than you might expect. Rebecca DeKeuster of Northeast Patients Group says her company wants to create a multi-office medical building, with other services beyond distributing medical marijuana.
"The overall atmosphere is going to be clinical but welcoming," DeKeuster says. "Patients should come there and feel safe and welcome."
While floor plans will depend on the actual final location, DeKeuster says her firm wants to have room for private patient consultations, as well as space for acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic treatment, and other alternative forms of healing. There may also be room to hold classes on subjects ranging from substance abuse to adult literacy, and a store for patients to buy books or "medical delivery devices" such as water pipes or rolling papers.
When all is said and done, the portion of the building for dispensing marijuana to patients may be the smallest part, according to DeKeuster.
She says it's unlikely there will be an on-site marijuana-growing operation. In addition to complicating zoning matters with a combined office-medical space and industrial-farming facility, efficiency is also an issue. The company is presently planning a single grow site, in Hermon, that will supply patients at all four of the dispensaries NPG has received state approval for.
Several places along Congress Street are currently vacant and could become a dispensary. According to its application, the Northeast Patients Group's top choice for a location is at 959 Congress, the old Key Bank on the corner of St. John Streets. With adequate parking, public transport access, and even a vault already installed, it's easy to see why they like it. There is also space for lease near Monument Square, very close to the METRO bus shelter. Marshall, Benjamin Chipman of the Yes on 5 campaign, as well as a handicapped supporter we talked to all said the downtown section of Congress Street would be the best place for a dispensary, but the pros of bus lines and easy access extend out as far as St. John. Regardless, Congress Street is a standout in the downtown region.