In Merrimack, state to seek public input on medical marijuana dispensaries



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CONCORD, New Hampshire — State and local officials say they're hearing little negative feedback in communities that will soon be home to long-awaited medical marijuana dispensaries, although some residents are seeking reassurance about security.

The state and Prime Alternative Treatment Centers of NH are hosting a public hearing on Tuesday evening in Merrimack about plans to build a dispensary in town. It's the fourth in a series of public hearings by the state Department of Health and Human Services and the three companies it has selected to open the dispensaries.

Hearings have already been held in Peterborough, Lebanon and Plymouth and two more are planned in Manchester and Rochester, all proposed homes for either the dispensaries or marijuana cultivation sites.

Town officials in Merrimack, Peterborough and Lebanon said they've heard minimal opposition to the plans. At Peterborough's public meeting, a high school student expressed concern about the proximity of the proposed cultivation site to the school, town manager Pam Brenner said. Other questions have centered on securing the facilities from break-ins.

The forums serve largely as a platform for spreading information about the centers, as the remaining authority to register and approve the centers falls with state and local officials.

"We want to make sure that people actually have good, reliable information about therapeutic cannabis, about its benefits, about the alternative treatment centers," said John Martin, head of the bureau and licensing certification at DHHS.

Martin hopes the centers can begin growing marijuana by October and open three to four months after that.

The dispensaries will provide patients the first legal way to access the drug since lawmakers approved medical marijuana in 2013. Under the law, people suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Crohn's disease, agitation of Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic pancreatitis, spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury can qualify for medical marijuana with approval from their doctor. Every patient will need an identification card from the state to obtain the marijuana.

Other companies awarded licenses for dispensaries include Sanctuary ATC, which hopes to cultivate in Rochester and open a dispensary in Plymouth, and Temescal Wellness, which is planning a cultivation site in Manchester and a dispensary in Lebanon.

Temescal has been awarded a license to operate a second dispensary in the region spanning Strafford, Belknap and Rockingham counties but hasn't finalized a location, Martin said.

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