Former mill operator petitions council to allow marijuana cultivation

Former mill operator petitions council to allow marijuana cultivation

WOONSOCKET – Gerry Beyer says he can't find enough tenants to fill a four-story former mill on Singleton Street and he has a solution: cultivation of marijuana.

According to Beyer, the property manager at the mill, the roughly 240,000 square-foot building at 159 Singleton St. housed textile manufacturing operations until the business shut down in November of 2016. Beyer was the general manager of Hanora Spinning at the property, owned by First Republic Corporation of America.

The building was once part of Lippitt Mills, and the business's main site in downtown Woonsocket at 1 Main St. now houses Hanora Lippitt Mills Apartments.

"We can no longer compete, and to try to find tenants in an industrial base to fill this business is very hard," Beyer told members of the City Council this week.

Several months ago, Beyer presented a case to the council regarding marijuana cultivators. He said he's had several inquiries from potential tenants hoping to set up operations on the property.

"I see this as manufacturing," Beyer said. "It's not for the public. It's regulated by the state."

Rhode Island's law governing the growth of medical marijuana has been amended six times since 2006 and currently allows registered patients to grow up to 12 plants, while caregivers can have 24. Those that form a cooperative can increase the number of legal plants to 48.

But the largest potential for cultivation as Rhode Island's newest manufacturing operation comes through licensed cultivators, who by state law can grow up to 500 plants depending on the size of the facility.

Communities throughout the state have been working to catch up with the latest state regulations and control cultivation within their municipalities. North Smithfield addressed the issue in 2017, passing an ordinance stating that card-holding patients can grow up to 12 plants, but only with a zoning certificate following inspection and approval by the fire chief. Would-be licensed cultivators in the town would need to go before the Zoning Board, and all other forms of cultivation, including growth by caregivers, cooperatives and compassion centers, are prohibited.

A similar law in neighboring Smithfield has been challenged in Superior Court by The Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union.

In Woonsocket, the issue has yet to be addressed, and an ordinance regulating cultivation under the new state law has not yet been developed.

In an email to City Council President Daniel Gendron last November, Beyer laid out his concerns. He noted that while the building's current tenants include C & C Plastics, Morrison Thread and R & T Transportation, those enterprises take up only 86,000 square feet of the available space, and another 154,000 square feet remains vacant.

"This country was built on manufacturing, which continues to fade away," Beyer said.

Beyer said he worked at the textile operation for 32 years but, "due to import of textiles, it was no longer a viable business."

"This is going to become a fast-growing business and I'm asking for your help to make this possible," he said of cultivation.

The council first heard Beyer's case at a work session in November, and Monday he requested the opportunity to speak before the board to learn of the city's progress.

Gendron said he's also been approached by potential marijuana growers looking to do business in the city.

"Where we stand right now, the director of planning had put together an overview of what other communities do," Gendron said. "I think everybody knows where they want to go."

Both councilors and the mayor have declined to publicly take a firm stance on the issue.

"Quite honestly, what we're waiting for is the recommendation from the administration on how to proceed," said Gendron. "I think the council is ready to act, and we can put that together relatively soon."


If Mr. Beyer is having trouble renting out space, maybe he should invest in cleaning up those properties, and reconsider what he charges for rent. Those buildings on Singleton are a mess and a fire hazard. I drive by them every day. The whole area of mill buildings on Singleton and River streets need to be razed and redeveloped.

Woonsocket Zoning Ordinance prohibits the activity currently
52.) Indoor Farming: The cultivation of vegetables, fruits and/or fungi in a closed environmentally controlled structure such as mushrooms, or other specialized products to be sold at wholesale or limited retail, excluding cannabis or other products governed by R.I.G.L. § 21-28.6-3; including harvesting, and processing on site, packaging and shipping.

State law allows licensed cultivators as defined
§ 21-28.6-16. Licensed cultivators.
(i) Cultivators shall only be licensed to grow marijuana at a single location, registered with the department of business regulation and the department of public safety. The department of business regulation may promulgate regulations governing where cultivators are allowed to grow. Cultivators must abide by all local ordinances, including zoning ordinances.

First action required...Ordinance to amend zoning law subject to a public hearing and a recommendation from the Planning board.

Survey of other communities should be done too. This is not the same as siting a compassion center. This is only about a licensed cultivator producing and packaging product for compassion centers who distribute medical marijuana.

People seem to be upset at Marijuana Cultivation done legally producing tax dollars, yet show less interest in the zombies wandering around in an Opiod haze.

Tax it and regulate it. Gain tax dollars, hire oversight with the taxes. Not rocket science, folks.

Federal law > State law > Local law. It's that simple.

Just because you can tax something, doesn't mean you should be doing it. Our soldiers fight in hell holes around the world because of the political corruption drugs cause. 90% of the issues in Afghanistan are due to the poppy trade. 90% of the issues in South America are due to cartel activity in support of the cocaine and marijuana trade. Politicians can't handle themselves when it comes to the corruption around legal drugs, why should we allow them to make an even bigger mess with illicit drugs? The citizens can't handle it either. Every day I encounter people on the road driving and smoking pot since MA sudo-legalized pot (it's still illegal under federal law). Your fellow drivers can smell it, you're not fooling anyone. That's an OUI violation, and the people doing don't care. That's what happens when you legalize something that should be a illegal for a reason - the altering aspects of the drug removes all commonsense for the persons using it, and the people profiting off of it.

No false equivalency, Cannabinoids are not Opiods. There's no reason to bring up Opium. The point of this article is someone wants to do something legal under state law.

Federal Laws remain backwards and against the opinion of the American people. It's helpful to patients who use this care under doctor's prescription to help with real medical diagnosis. I would rather someone be under the care of a Cannabinoid than Opiods, something which is destroying America currently (even the President agrees with this, regardless of your personal politics). Current data indicates the use of Cannabinoids over Opiods has lead to a better quality of life and reduction of mortality.

Unless you still want to base your opinions on 1980s anti drug ads which did absolutely nothing to curb illegal drug use. Oh, and again, we can tax Marijuana cultivation. That's capitalism.

The JAMA article noted above was posted in OCTOBER 2014 in which case, much of this information is now outdated! Miscellaneous DATA is, can be, or has been provided, by other sources which, no doubt, oppose this article's findings.

The main issue, however, is that the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT has NOT LEGALIZED Marijuana. The States should follow, or have followed, the RULE OF LAW!

"The Federal Drug Administration [FDA] has various Drug Classifications – Schedule I, II, III, IV, V, which was released in 1970. The drug classification schedules organize drugs into groups based on risk of abuse or harm. Those drugs with high risk and no counterbalancing benefit are banned from medical practice and are Schedule I drugs.

Schedule I Controlled Substances:

Substances in this schedule have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.

Some examples of substances listed in Schedule I are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis) peyote, methaqualone, and 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“Ectasy”)."

These debates will be ONGOING between the PRO and CON followers, so we must “agree to disagree”, as NO ONE will win until the RULE OF LAW is followed! Enough said! AMEN!