A virtual community meeting was held regarding the proposed cannabis dispensary at 331A-333 Newbury St. on August 19, where the project proponents explained that they are seeking to open both a medicinal and adult use facility at this site.
The dispensary, Compassionate Organics, has already received a conditional use permit for the medical facility, but is now also seeking to include adult use at the site, which requires additional relief from the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA).
Attorney Mike Ross said that the medical proposal went through the process and received ZBA approval two years ago, but the facility has been unable to open.
“We were never given our building permit,” he said, adding that now that the Boston Cannabis Board has been created, the proponents will appear before the Board asking for a host community agreement for the medical portion.
“This is what we are here for tonight,” Ross said. He said that they were also seeking to pursue adult use as well, though it will likely come after the facility has been open for medical first.
Cannabis company Green Thumb Industries (GTI) has partnered with Compassionate Organics, and has several cannabis operations in the United States.
Anthony Georgiadis, GTI’s CFO, said that the company has medical and adult use stores in Illinois, Nevada, as well as Massachusetts. “We’ve been going about this since 2014-2015,” he said, with 48 stores currently in operation. “We take this business very seriously.”
He talked a little bit about the proposed space on Newbury St., which includes many features of other approved cannabis facilities in the City, such as a waiting area for people to be checked in before entering the secure portion of the facility, as well as surveillance cameras.
As part of previous community meetings, the project proponents agreed not to sell individual joints at the request of the community, Ross said.
“Our number one issue is to make sure that this product does not get into the hands of young people,” he said.
He also said that preventing nuisance in the neighborhood is at the top of the list for the proponents, adding that with more dispensaries opening up across the city, people will not be flocking to Newbury St. for something they can find in their own neighborhoods.
He also said there were 10 parking spaces reserved for customers nearby.
Compassionate Organics also said that their commitment to the community includes things like participating in neighborhood civic and business groups, hiring a diverse, local staff with well-paying jobs, using local businesses and vendors for goods and services, and a “robust community outreach program,” according to the slides presented.
One neighbor asked if an appointment system will be in place to control the amount of people waiting to enter the store, but Ross said that the facility would not be appointment only. He did say, however, that in order to ensure that lines do not form and block the sidewalk and other businesses on Newbury St., they will have to figure out a solution should that be the case.
“GTI knows how to run these facilities and has run into these issues before,” Ross said, adding that “we would not want to put any type of restriction on ourselves unnecessarily.”
Dina Rollman of GTI said that “one thing we’ve implemented very efficiently during COVID” is an online preordering system where customers make their selections online and come to the store just to pick it up, which cuts down on lines and people gathering, which is a particular concern during the pandemic.
Other questions around safety were also asked, including how the proponents would prevent breaking into the store.
Ross said that because the proposed location is in a historical district, the Back Bay Architectural Commission (BBAC) would not allow grates to be installed on the windows, but he said that all cannabis and cash gets put into a safe at the end of the day.
He said due to the store’s small footprint, the total amount of product and cash will be “minimal,” and there will be “video cameras absolutely everywhere.”
Some neighbors were in support of the project, and others had concerns.
One said that “Newbury St. is a destination location,” and that he was “not sure it’s an appropriate location for this business.”
Shanice Pimentel from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services said that the community process on this matter will continue to be open, and while members of the community were invited to ask questions and make comments at this meeting, it will not be the only opportunity to do so, as more meetings are forthcoming.