After years of deliberating with local authorities, the Brookline Board of Selectmen approved a medical marijuana dispensary license for New England Treatment Access (NETA) on December 22, 2015. The dispensary will be located at 160 Washington Street, the site of the former Brookline Savings Bank in the heart of Brookline Village. NETA opened a dispensary in Northampton just a few months ago.

“We are ready to handle an influx of patients,” says Norton Arbelaez, spokesperson for NETA and former medical attorney. “Everything is in place for January and we are very well equipped to handle any issues or concerns that might arise.”

Concerns over unwanted traffic, parking, and security have not gone unheard. The town has held numerous public hearings where residents have voiced their concerns to the company directly.

“There are only 12,000 or so people with registration cards in Massachusetts,” says Arbelaez. “Realistically, a very small portion of the population will have access to the facility.  Licenses have been approved for dispensaries in Cambridge, Newton, and Lowell, which are on the way in 2016. Yes, Brookline will be the first, but our experience in Northampton has shown that we are ready and capable and will be dedicated to the town.”

The process of getting a Registered Marijuana Dispensary (RMD) up and running is extensive. Over the course of two years, NETA has met with various town departments to discuss licensing terms, including compliance with an approved Transportation and Demand Management Plan, which requires the dispensary to have a parking lot attendant and a police officer on site to address security and parking concerns.

“It’s a new industry, but we’ve spent two years in the community,” says Arbelaez. “We’ve gone out and met our neighbors and heard from them. Ultimately, we’re here to help the patients in Brookline who are suffering. This is our core mission, and we want to be a model for others who share that same belief.”

To ensure a smooth opening, the company has designated the first couple weeks to servicing patients with appointments only.

Massachusetts voted to legalize medical marijuana in a 2012 statewide referendum. Those approved for medical use must have a registration card issued by the Department of Public Health and have one of the qualifying conditions. For a list of qualifying conditions, as well as for general information about medical marijuana, you can visit

By Tanner Stening