WSANA Looking to Limit Marijuana Operation to Medical

A diverse group of viewpoints and opinions were shared on Tuesday night, April 24, at the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) following a presentation by Compassionate Organics medical marijuana company, but the bulk of the membership seemed to indicate they might support the operation slated for 633 Tremont St. if it agreed not to morph into a recreational marijuana store.

After a presentation by Attorney Mike Ross and Geoff Reilinger of Compassionate Organics, the crux of the hour-long discussion among WSANA was that it would be wise to seek out a moratorium on recreational marijuana – perhaps for five years.

“I think it would be good to push to get the largest moratorium we can,” said Robert George.

“It looks to me like the key issue here is going to be this moratorium on recreational,” said Vice President Bob Minnocchi, who served as the president of the meeting in the absence of George Stergios.

WSANA is somewhat of an outlier in terms of being a host of the proposed store, which has applied to the Zoning Board for a medical marijuana store at 633 Tremont St. However, WSANA is seen as a key participant in the matter due to the fact that it is the most directly impacted neighborhood regarding substance abuse issues – including the opiate epidemic. Many feel like the South End and WSANA are overloaded with social services, which includes medical marijuana. Any new service would almost certainly need some kind of blessing from WSANA.

Although it would be medical upon opening, owners have said they would like to become a recreational store at some point. The same company, which is mostly local people, agreed to never do recreational marijuana at its Newbury Street store – which sparked a lot of debate at the meeting on Tuesday following the presentation of the overall plan.

“We do have a non-recreational agreement there,” said Ross, who seemed to regret having made that agreement. “We agreed not to do recreational there. At some point you put yourself out of business if you can’t do recreational anywhere…I think a lot of the forever bans are going to be problematic.”

Minnocchi asked if they would be open to signing a 10-year moratorium on converting to a recreational store.

“I don’t think he’s inclined to agree to that,” said Ross. “We would sign an agreement, but I think 10 years is too long…Let us come back to you. It’s a very important question and a very hard question. I don’t want to put (my client) on the spot now.”

Moratorium agreement aside, many in the room felt like getting the facility on Tremont Street was a good deal. Reilinger and his group made a professional presentation and have former Boston Police Chief Dan Linskey on staff for security. Many felt like having a store on Tremont Street would be the best option, as they felt like something was going to locate somewhere in the South End.

“I like this location,” said Mike Nelson. “I do believe a dispensary is coming to the South End. It’s a matter of time. I like Tremont Street…What you need is an active, somewhat-affluent site so you get street activation and other store owners that take pride in their store. That sets the tone for it. If we shoot this down, we might get one cro-barred into a less desirable location. It seems like they are sort of meeting us where we ask them to.”

Peter Sanborn said the Tremont Street location is very central, and with the City’s zoning – which doesn’t allow any facilities within a half-mile of one another, it blocks off a lot of worse locations. He commented that if one were to locate in the Ink Block area, it would leave Worcester Square open to another proposal, which many believe would really exacerbate the current drug issues in WSANA.

Many also said that if there is too long of a moratorium forcing Reilinger to do medical only, it could put him out of business and invite a less-polished operation into the neighborhood.

Richard Atkinson, a doctor in the area, said he is a medical marijuana patient and he said many in the neighborhood want this service.

“I’m a 38-year-old medical doctor, and I’m a medical marijuana patient and not a person on the street with a needle in the arm,” he said. “I am the kind of person that goes to a medical marijuana dispensary. The person who goes to a recreational marijuana store also isn’t the person with a needle in their arm on the street.”

The presentation indicated that the store would require patients to have a card and to be buzzed into a waiting room. The large waiting room would be where patients are checked and verified. A database would also show how much product they have received at other dispensaries.

The actual sales floor would be in another room accessed after verification. There, patients would be able to secure the products, which will all be individually wrapped.

Two differences between medical marijuana and recreational are that medical requires the operation to grow its own product. Recreational can purchase product from growers. Also, medical is not taxed, while recreational is taxed at 22 percent.

Reilinger said he sees definite business advantages from the medical model in the early going, which is why he has not proposed a recreational facility.

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