AYER -- Selectmen Tuesday night heard a proposal by Central Ave. Compassionate Care Inc. to place a marijuana dispensary in the abandoned laundry building at 31 Central Avenue.

John Hillier, founder of Central Ave. Compassionate Care, is the current owner of the building. He believes having a dispensary in an open and accessible area would be beneficial to people with legitimate debilitating illnesses.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health defines a debilitating sickness as potentially terminal, diagnosed by a qualifying physician.

The center plans to dispense marijuana and marijuana-infused products to registered patients and registered caregivers. There will be no public access to the dispensary. Patients will only be allowed by appointment.

Concerns expressed by board members included security of the drug and the overall influence it could have on the community. Other board members argued that the security procedures used in selling marijuana would be no different from those used with other drugs and narcotics that are sold through retail pharmacies.

"I wouldn't be doing this if I thought any harm would come to public safety," Hillier said.

Hillier noted that the absence of a dispensary allows backyard growers to establish businesses in the community. He also argued that backyard growers would be prohibited from growing the drug if a marijuana dispensary is established in town.

One board member said that if such a business were permitted, a town has the ability to designate where the facility can be placed, possibly away from the downtown area.

Hillier said putting the facility in an industrial area would not be beneficial. Placing a marijuana dispensary in town would provide a controlled environment to dispense the drug. The proposed center is accessible to public transportation and located across the street from the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health.

The center would be nonprofit, Hillier said. Money made from the dispensary will go back into the community, he added.

The board concluded that the public as well as the selectmen need to learn more about the issue before deciding whether to move forward with the proposal.