By Seth Daniel
As the City and state continue to deal with medicinal marijuana dispensaries, and the prospect of legalized marijuana seems to be gaining headway, City Councilor Michael Flaherty re-introduced a zoning text amendment at Wednesday’s City Council meeting to bring some controls to the situation before such businesses begin the frenzy of finding key locations in the city.
Already, medical marijuana is legal in Massachusetts and the state is in the process of licensing these dispensaries in certain parts of the state – including one such location on Milk Street downtown and others rumored in neighborhoods surrounding the downtown area. Additionally, a measure to approve recreational marijuana in the state – similar to what has already been done in Colorado – is steadily moving towards a vote of the people on the November ballot. If that is approved, many – including Flaherty – predict that trendy pot cafes and medical dispensaries could begin to pop up all over the various business districts throughout the city – whether on Main Street in Charlestown, Tremont Street in the South End or Newbury Street in the Back Bay.
Flaherty said the state allows cities like Boston to have local control over the siting of medical dispensaries, and potentially, over recreational pot shops. His proposal would call for no additional dispensaries or recreational marijuana shops to be located within a one-mile radius of any existing facility or shop.
“This takes a lot of the mystery out of the situation,” he said on Wednesday prior to the meeting of the Council. “In anticipation of recreational marijuana possibly being approved and the medical marijuana that has already been approved, we’ve seen how things have happened in Denver. I felt it was important now to put in this text amendment…At the end of the day, what we see playing out in Colorado is local business districts have been turned upside down. The coffee shops, bakeries, hair salons and dry cleaners have all been converted to pot shops or cannibas cafes to participate in or cash in on their medical or recreational marijuana laws. We’ve worked too hard with our local business leaders and our Main Streets districts to allow this to happen here.”
Flaherty had filed the same text amendment last year and had an extensive hearing in the Economic Development Committee. The input from that hearing took he and his staff back to the drawing board – working with planners, City officials and business leaders. What came out of that planning session was the revamped text amendment with the one-mile rule.
“This really provides sensible protection for our neighborhoods,” he said. “We don’t want any one neighborhood oversaturated with pot shops and cannibis cafes…We know we have a dispensary going on Milk Street. If you take your compass and draw a circle, this would literally protect the West End, North End, Downtown, Beacon Hill and some other neighborhoods from getting another location. This would work in other places and neighborhoods too where other proposals are rumored.”
The results of Flaherty’s amendment at Council were not available by press time, but he said beforehand on Wednesday that he was open to having a hearing, but in light of already going through that process, he would push for a suspension and passage of the amendment.
That would clear the approval hurdle at the Council level.
It would still have to go to a vote of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and then to the City’s Zoning Commission to be codified.
In any case, Flaherty said he hopes that the process can move fast before more locations are discussed.