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3 making plans for medical marijuana dispensaries

State officials are finalizing process to license medical marijuana shops

Jonathan Napoli wants to run a dispensary in Roxbury.

Jonathan Wiggs/GLobe staff

Jonathan Napoli wants to run a dispensary in Roxbury.

Jonathan Napoli has two young daughters, a farming background, and a garden shop in Roxbury’s Dudley Square.

Eric Germaine, a retired South Shore veterinarian with a longtime family home in the Berkshires, has a daughter with experience starting new businesses.

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Catherine Cametti, known as Rina, is a Norwood native and owner of a local real estate appraisal company, with a degree in business management.

All three are preparing to apply for the first crop of licenses to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts. As state health officials finalize rules for what is expected to be a competitive process, a wide range of candidates are stepping forward.

The state Department of Public Health has invited prospective medical marijuana purveyors to a public information session Tuesday, but has not announced a date when it will begin accepting applications. The ballot initiative that voters approved last fall, legalizing marijuana for medical use, stipulates that health officials could register up to 35 dispensaries this year, with no more than five per county.

“I feel like I am someone who can do it right with my experience,” said Napoli, 41, who has made a career out of hemp, the plant that marijuana comes from, opening three The Hempest clothing stores in Massachusetts and one in Vermont over the past two decades. A fierce believer in the plant — his daily diet includes hemp seed — Napoli said he and his business partners have the $500,000 that is required by the state to be eligible to apply for a license.

Jonathan Napoli owns Boston Gardener, a Dudley Square gardening supply shop.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Jonathan Napoli owns Boston Gardener, a Dudley Square gardening supply shop.

He said he also has lined up a location for the dispensary, the now-vacant retail condo next door to his garden shop on Washington Street in Dudley Square, just down the street from a $115 million redevelopment project that will house Boston’s School Department headquarters.

‘I feel like I am someone who can do it right with my experience.’

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Napoli’s plans have upset some in the neighborhood, including Joyce Stanley, executive director of Dudley Square Main Streets, a business group whose mission is to revitalize the neighborhood and reduce crime.

“We already have enough crime here,” Stanley said.

Fear of increased crime around dispensaries is a complaint commonly heard across the country and in many communities in Massachusetts, the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana. Research is scant on the subject, but two recent studies suggest crime rates are not higher near the facilities, especially if security measures, such as cameras mounted outside the building, are clearly visible.

Having a guard outside also appears to ward off crime, said Bridget Freisthler, an associate professor of social welfare at UCLA and coauthor of a study published in February that evaluated security measures and crime rates at 31 Sacramento dispensaries.

“A lot of communities require security cameras, but a lot don’t think about requiring [security guards] outside,” she said.

Massachusetts rules require security cameras but are silent about guards.

The Germaine family’s dispensary, planned for Pittsfield, would include a “casino-grade” security system, including outdoor cameras that send live feeds to local police, but at this point, no security guards.

Germaine, 64, who is teaming up with his 28-year-old daughter Julia and her boyfriend, Nial DeMena, also 28, said they have the required finances and envision an environmentally friendly dispensary and cultivation site run by solar, geothermal, and reusable battery power.

Eric Germaine said he misses health care and was drawn to the idea of a marijuana dispensary by DeMena, who helped care for an aunt in Maine with multiple sclerosis who used marijuana to relieve nausea from her treatments.

“Medical marijuana is not for everyone, but for those who it does help, it’s a deeply rewarding experience both for the patient and the caregiver,” Germaine said.

Cametti, a 50-year-old real estate appraiser who is hoping to open a facility in Norfolk County, said she has no personal experience with medical marijuana, but has been intrigued with the idea of starting a dispensary since the law was passed last year.

“I voted for it,” Cametti said. “At that point, I thought if I were a patient and something like this could help me, I would be all for it.” She said the more she researched the issue, the more determined she was to open a dispensary.

Cametti said she has the finances in place, a six-member board, consultants who have helped dispensary start-ups in other states, and is in negotiations for a lease, but declined to name the location or community until the deal is signed.

“We are committed,” said Cametti. “We will make this as transparent as possible.”

Kay Lazar can be reached at klazar@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.
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