CHICOPEE — Owners of the city’s first cannabis business have been given the go-ahead to expand by opening an about $15 million marijuana cultivation facility in an industrial building that has been partially vacant since 2017.
The City Council voted 10-0 with one abstention last week to approve a special permit that will allow Mass Alternative Care Inc. to open a second business. When adopting the permit, the council also accepted five waivers to its regulations, some of which were technicalities.
With the special permit and approval from the State Cannabis Control Commission, Mass Alternative Care Inc. plans to open an about 56,000-square-foot cannabis cultivation and manufacturing business at 77 Champion Drive, in the part of the building that most recently held Menck Windows.
The company was the first to open a cannabis business in Hampden County. It has been operating a medical marijuana business at 1274 East Main St., since 2018 and expanded to retail sales at the same spot in 2019. Mass Alternative Care also has a cultivation and production operation at the site.
The company also operates a second dispensary for medical and recreational cannabis in Amherst.
“This is a business that will not have retail,” City Councilor George Balakier said, explaining the only people who will be coming in and out will be the employees.
The City Council also approved a waiver to the regulation that bans cannabis companies from operating outside the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. because the company may have employees there overnight.
It also voted to allow the cultivation to exceed 50,000 square feet, which was the maximum size permitted by regulations.
Mass Alternative Care was also granted waivers to regulations that require a 100 foot planted buffer between a cannabis business and any residential areas.
The state currently allows Chicopee to have four retail cannabis businesses and all four licenses have been issued. Theory Wellness operates on Fuller Road, Jim Buddy’s Rec Shop received a license and is expected to open this summer and Revolution Greencare was granted a special permit in February.
“For manufacturing and cultivation, it is my understanding we do not have a limit,” Balakier said. “We are all new to this industry so we are watching it carefully.”
The company is expected to hire about 100 full- and part-time employees who would earn salaries ranging from $30,000 a year for those will little experience up to about $45,000 for more-experienced growers.