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Salem medical marijuana dispensary to open Wednesday

Nearly three years after Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved marijuana for medicinal use, the state’s first dispensary is poised to open Wednesday in Salem.

But in striking contrast to the hoopla that has surrounded the state’s dispensary selection process, Alternative Therapies Group plans a decidedly low-key debut — with patients accepted by appointment only.

State regulators signed off on the final paperwork Tuesday allowing the dispensary to open.

Access to the dispensary, which is in a converted factory building that houses other businesses, will be restricted to patients with a state-issued marijuana registration card, according to the company. Even then, patients will not see any products on display, but will make their choices via a computer screen, according to Salem’s police chief, Mary Butler .


People may have a perception, Butler said, “that there is all this marijuana sitting out and around, and that’s not the case.”

No marijuana is grown or processed at the Salem site; the company’s cultivation center is in Amesbury.

Alternative Therapies’ chief executive, Christopher Edwards, did not return calls from the Globe. But Baker and Salem’s mayor, Kim Driscoll, said company leaders have been forthright in communicating their plans to the city.

“They went out of their way to meet with neighbors, officials, and others in Salem, to introduce themselves and explain what they will be doing,” Driscoll said in a statement.

“Salem has long been a progressive, forward-thinking, and open-minded community, and we look forward to [Alternative Therapies] starting operation this week and providing yet another critical medical choice to patients for the entire North Shore,” the mayor said.

Under an agreement signed between Salem and Alternative Therapies, the city will receive 1.25 percent of the company’s annual sales for the first two years. That climbs to 2 percent in subsequent years.

It has been a long haul for Alternative Therapies and for thousands of patients waiting for the first dispensary to open.


Alternative Therapies initially announced an April opening, only to push it back two months. A lab testing the company’s marijuana detected lead levels that exceeded the state’s strict rules. State regulators and chemists at two labs that will be testing dispensary products are at odds over testing rules.

Last week, the state granted Alternative Therapies a temporary waiver that will allow it to sell cannabis that has not been fully tested for pesticides and other contaminants.

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