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Downtown site for medicinal cannabis only, firm says

Patriot Care Corp., the only company awarded a state license to sell medical marijuana in Boston, would not sell the drug for recreational use at its controversial downtown location if a widely anticipated 2016 ballot initiative for legalization wins approval, the company’s lawyer vowed Tuesday.

The pledge came as leaders of several other marijuana companies, squeezed financially by months of bureaucratic delays in the state’s medical marijuana program, have said the prospect of legalizing recreational use is luring new investors. Many observers expect the marijuana legalization initiative to include a provision that would give existing medicinal dispensaries preference for recreational-use licenses.

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But Patriot Care, backed by a New York financial company that has dispensaries in other states, would not wade into the recreational arena in Massachusetts, former City Council president Michael P. Ross, now Patriot’s lawyer, said in an interview.

The company is “putting a hard line in the sand that says we will not sell recreational marijuana at 21 Milk St.,” said Ross, who also is a Boston Globe contributing columnist.

Patriot Care will stick to medicinal marijuana because the company is “in the business of healing sick people,” Ross said.

He was slated Tuesday to argue the company’s case for a Milk Street dispensary before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, but asked for a deferral until July 7, a last-minute action that surprised dozens of advocates and opponents ready to speak at the hearing.

Ross said the company needed more time to sort out several operational issues, and to work closely with Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who has been a vocal opponent of medical marijuana. He declined to specify what issues needed to be addressed.

“We are here to get it right in Boston,” Ross said. “We know that there are a lot of moving parts to it, and an education process that we know we have to bring residents and community leaders up to speed on.”

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Walsh’s office released a statement saying that it supported the company’s request for a delay, and that it will “work with Patriot Care to address ongoing neighborhood concerns, including hours of operation and signage.”

Patriot Care has not announced a time frame for opening its Milk Street dispensary, which is across from the historic Old South Meeting House near Downtown Crossing.

The company’s planned location has infuriated the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, a coalition of commercial property owners. Patriot’s pledge to shun recreational marijuana sales, should such use become legal next year, apparently didn’t change the business group’s thinking.

“The input we’ve received from these neighborhood stakeholders makes clear that their opposition is not to medical marijuana itself or the legalization of marijuana more generally; rather, it is about the fact that issues in the surrounding area make 21 Milk St. an inappropriate place for a medical marijuana dispensary,” the group said in a statement.

Ross said Patriot Care recently fared better with another neighborhood organization.

“We were really proud to learn that the Midtown Cultural District Residents’ Association voted in favor to support the dispensary,” Ross said. “It was a narrow margin.”

However, Rishi Shukla, the association’s cofounder, said it “has not yet taken an official position on 21 Milk St.” Shukla said a recent poll of its members drew only a 14 percent response, not enough to reach solid conclusions.

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Patients at Tuesday’s City Hall hearing, hoping to support Patriot Care, were disappointed about the continued delays.

“I was extremely impressed by their plan,” said Brianna Morrell, a 22-year-old Boston resident who said she uses marijuana to treat irritable bowel syndrome, a chronic condition that causes cramping, abdominal pain, and other symptoms.


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