While the bid to bring a casino to Suffolk Downs continues to be their main focus, Revere officials also have begun weighing a plan that could make the city a venue for the sale of medical marijuana.
A newly formed nonprofit, the Boston Wellness Association, is proposing to locate a dispensary on the site of an industrial building at 44 Railroad Ave., off Lee Burbank Highway, according to Lawrence Simeone Jr., an attorney who is representing the firm. He said marijuana also would be cultivated on the site.
The group is the first to apply for a special permit under a recently adopted city ordinance that allows medical marijuana treatment centers in the city’s Technology Enterprise District. On Monday, the City Council is set to open a hearing into the application.
To operate the facility, Boston Wellness also would need to secure one of the 35 licenses — up to five per county — that the state plans to award for dispensaries under the 2012 ballot law that legalized medical marijuana. Final applications are due on Thursday.
Matthew Philbin, a principal of the group that owns the Rodeway Inn Logan International Airport on Route 60, is president of Boston Wellness Association.
Other board members include former Worcester County sheriff Guy Glodis, according to Simeone.
Philbin could not be reached for comment
The proposal comes after foes of the proposed casino voiced concerns about increased crime if Suffolk Downs receives the Greater Boston license. But city councilors last week said they were keeping an open mind about the dispensary proposal.
Ira Novoselsky, president of the council, said that since voters statewide agreed to legalize medical marijuana and the city could not legally ban it, “We adjusted our zoning and usage to accommodate a location for them.”
Novoselsky said he anticipated councilors would have concerns with the proposed dispensary, but given that the ordinance is now in place, the council would have to be able to cite a good reason to refuse the permit.
The new ordinance requires that dispensaries be at least 400 feet from residences, parks, and playgrounds, as well as schools and churches. It was approved by an 11-0 vote of the council on Oct. 28, and signed by Mayor Daniel Rizzo the following day, which is also when Boston Wellness Association filed for its special permit, according to city clerk Ashley Melnik.
“I support the use of medical marijuana now that it has become law,” Rizzo said in a prepared statement. “It is my hope that many people suffering from chronic pain or illness can find relief and comfort as a result of its implementation. Obviously, like any other prescription drug, safeguards need to be taken to prevent against abuse and unauthorized purchases.”
Councilor at large Jessica Ann Giannino said she wants to hear more about the dispensary proposal before making a decision.
“This is still something very new to our community,” she said. “So we are in a phase now of figuring out if it has a place in our community and if it does, where that should be.”
Councilor at large Brian M. Arrigo said he is “keeping an open mind to see what they are trying to propose.”
Arrigo said he has heard from residents who are concerned about the proposal “mostly around the issues with addiction and the drug issue that we have in the city anyway.” He said some wonder if a medical marijuana facility might negatively impact the city’s image at a time when the community is working actively to address substance abuse.
“The city was pretty strongly in favor of the medical marijuana ballot question,” said Arrigo of the November 2012 vote, when supporters outnumbered opponents 58 percent to 42 percent. Statewide, 63 percent favored passage.
“The biggest thing for me is public safety and making sure . . . the facility is not an issue in the city,” he said, noting that Boston Wellness Association’s team includes a former sheriff.
Glodis, who is also a former state legislator and now a Beacon Hill lobbyist, said his primary role in the effort is to serve as an unpaid adviser on the public safety aspects of the project.
“There is a very illicit and dangerous side of drug, but there is also a very medicinal purpose side of drugs,” he said.
“The key to these facilities is making sure they are run professionally, that they are safe and secure, and that there are checks and balances,” he said.
John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.