Blackstone/Franklin Blazes Trail with Marijuana MOU

The Blackstone/Franklin Neighborhood Association (BFNA) has agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Liberty Compassionates medical marijuana facility on Albany Street that calls for donations, volunteerism, parking mitigation, and minimum purchases in exchange for their support of the proposal.

It is the first host neighborhood association to support any of the numerous marijuana proposals in the South End, and the first neighborhood association in the City to have crafted a legal MOU document with a marijuana company – going far beyond the standard, cookie-cutter Host Community Agreement that the City has been drafting with marijuana applicants.

“Part of the effort was to provide a vehicle to codify commitments on the part of the applicant that go beyond what we gather will be in the City’s Host Community Agreement (HCA),” said BFNA Board member David Stone, who negotiated the agreement for Blackstone. “We think an agreement like this is a good thing to have in place…They had made a lot of commitments and we felt as if what they were prepared to do on these fronts was significant and positive…but there needed to be a vehicle to codify it and make it real. That’s where the MOU originated. We believe it’s the first voluntary agreement between a marijuana applicant and a neighborhood in the city…I hope it’s useful to people as a political model in other parts of the city.”

As part of that MOU, Blackstone has agreed to pledge its support to the Liberty proposal as the host neighborhood association.

“BFNA agrees to formally state its support and non-opposition to Liberty Compassionate’s proposal for a Medical Use Cannabis Establishment (dispensary) at 591 Albany St. to the Boston Zoning Board of Appeal, and if necessary to the state Cannabis Control Commission,” read the MOU – which stipulated that the support for the proposal would not extend to recreational marijuana uses.

The Ellis South End Neighborhood Association had agreed to a letter of non-opposition with Compassionate Organics in January – and is still working on an agreement – but they are not the host association for that proposal.

Pilot Block Neighborhood Association is the host for that proposal, and they have officially opposed it.

The MOU follows a neighborhood process that began last fall between all of the major neighborhood associations as they grappled with numerous proposals and applicants in all corners of the South End. To be fair to everyone, a criteria was established and an MOU process was suggested.

Stone said BFNA and Liberty took great pains to follow that community agreement, and both were proud of following that process.

Liberty representative Vin Giordano could not immediately be reached for comment on the MOU, but was a signatory on the Feb. 11 document.

Part of the MOU includes community benefit payments and volunteer hours for Blackstone. If licensed and open, Liberty will contribute payments for the first five years – including $15,000 the first year, $15,000 in the second year, $20,000 in the third year, $25,000 in the fourth year, and $30,000 in the fifth year. The payments will be used for safety/security, public realm improvements and neighborhood welfare. BFNA and the Friends of Blackstone and Franklin Square will each get one-third of those payments, and the final third will be distributed to non-profits in the immediate neighborhood.

Beyond that, Liberty agreed to provide no less than 125 hours per year of volunteer community service by its employees for South End causes.

They have also agreed make best efforts to recruit and hire qualified residents of the South End for employment at the dispensary.

Some of the other stipulations are nuts and bolts issues, such as the minimum payment – which has been defined as $50 on the first visit and $35 on every other visit.

“The logic there is to address the equivalent of a problematic liquor store where you have nips or the equivalent of that,” he said. “It’s not to be a single-dose.”

Other stipulations include:

•Hours of Operation:  10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday; with Sunday to be at the discretion of Liberty but at a reduction of hours. The facility will not open July 4, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

•Parking: Liberty will offer customer parking arrangements to discourage double parking or parking in resident-only spaces. They anticipate to use a valet service during peak hours.

Another piece of the agreement states that if the rules change at the state level, or licensing requirements are altered, the agreement will be re-negotiated.

“That gives us further protections against the possibility that the rules get changed,” Stone said.

He also said he hopes the agreement can be an interesting platform for other neighborhood associations.

“We think it has benefits to our corner of the world,” he said, “but also may be helpful to the city at-large.”

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