Several neighbors in the South End this week believe that the meeting with Compassionate Organics medical marijuana company was ‘stacked’ with supporters, whom they say turned the argument to a referendum on marijuana and not a discussion of the location.
The meeting with the group – which is proposing a location in the Pilot Block neighborhood, but made a presentation to the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) April 30 – did not go how many WSANA leaders had hoped, and this week they said they believe the company stacked the meeting with supporters to drown out the location discussion.
“This is all about location and they made it about marijuana,” said Vice President Bob Minnocci, who led the April 30 meeting. “I think the meeting was stacked. We would have not had the meeting if we’d have known Compassionate Organics would stack the meeting.”
Minnocci said he and others, including President George Stergios, feel that their meeting wasn’t a fair representation of the argument.
“Drugs are an enormous problem here,” he said. “We have created an open-air drug market. We’ve brought a lot of people in the throes of addictions right into the reins of drug dealers. That’s why the discussion of location is so important.”
Stergios said one thing to remember is that those who voted for medical marijuana and recreational marijuana did so to decriminalize the drug and prevent unfair prosecutions. It was more of a social justice move, he believes, than a tacit approval for a marijuana facility next door.
“Most of my friends who voted for these referendums did so for the decriminalization aspect – to prevent people from going to jail from unfair prosecution,” he said. “It wasn’t a vote to put a medical marijuana facility down the street.”
The idea that the meeting was stacked has brought about more coordination between the neighborhood groups, with Pilot Block and South End Forum Moderator Steve Fox commenting this week on their stances.
Etta Rosen and Nicola Truppin, both who are reviving Pilot Block Neighborhood Association, said they had a meeting in January and they limited the discussion very strictly to prevent ‘stacking.’ They said they would meet this week on the Compassionate Organics proposal and likely take a stance. However, they reiterated that their concerns are based on the location of the facility and not on the idea of marijuana treatment.
“We made it clear in our meeting that the discussion was for abutters only,” said Rosen. “It was a very civil and informational meeting…The end result was very different…Pilot Block hasn’t taken a position yet. If we do take a position it will be that the location is a forbidden use (in the zoning code). It’s not a position on medical marijuana or recreational marijuana but because it’s a residential neighborhood and this type of business doesn’t belong in that location.”
Alice Andrus, an abutter to the location, said she has spent 46 years ridding that corner of drugs with the police, and she worries that – given the amounts of social services in the South End – it will attract that same element back to the corner.
She said it was unfortunate what happened at WSANA and that they got “sideswiped.” She said her main concern lies in the fact that the alley behind the building is not designed to be used according to the original plans.
“It’s not an alley ever meant to have truck on it,” she said. “It was built at a time when horses traveled up and down there. That, coupled with the fact there is no parking for the people to deliver or pick up drugs or cash. There’s no place on Tremont Street for crowds to gather. It’s just a bottleneck you can’t absorb.”
Fox said the issue is not the product, but quite simply, the location.
“Nobody is debating the medical marijuana issue,” he said. “It’s legal. We know that. We don’t even want to have that conversation…What’s important is looking at a brick-and-mortar location in the South End and infringing on the balance we’re trying to achieve.”
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