Herbal Power, a social equity cannabis company, held a community meeting on March 16 regarding its proposed cannabis dispensary at 329 Columbus Ave., in the former Coda restaurant space.
This was not a city-sponsored meeting, but rather one hosted by Herbal Power to inform the community about its proposal as well as gain feedback from neighbors.
Brian Chavez, a member of the Herbal Power team, explained that “securing real estate is one of the key barriers for equity applicants,” as well as spoke about other disparities equity applicants face.
He said that in Massachusetts, 22 percent of the population is Black and Latino, but they are about 57 percent of the people who are put in prison. Chavez said that the “collective knowledge and expertise” of the team has allowed them to overcome many of these barriers/
Desiree Franjul, co-owner and founder of Herbal Power, talked a little bit about the proposed location at 329 Columbus Ave. Coda Bar + Kitchen closed in May 2020, and Herbal Power intends on taking over the space.
The proposed hours are from 9am-10pm, seven days a week, and is located near two parking garages, the Back Bay Orange line station, bus lines, and a Bluebikes station.
“Our total square footage is 2,900 square feet,” Franjul said, including 1400 square feet of retail space and 1500 square feet of administrative space on another floor.
The vault will be located on the second floor, while the first is dedicated to the retail space, which will also allow queuing. Customers will interact with security at the front door to prove they are 21+.
At the end of the day, the inventory will placed in the master vault as required by the Cannabis
Control Commission, she said, and security cameras will be located “across the entire space” as well. Additionally, deliveries will come through the access control vestibule at randomized times throughout the day.
Yomari Chavez, a member of the Herbal Power team, said that “we are focused on hiring locally and hope to provide jobs for the immediate community through a partnership with MassHire,” and Herbal Power will donate to the South End Technology Center.
“We’ve also heard throughout this process a number of concerns about the intersection and traffic,” she said, so a traffic study will be commissioned.
While the proposed location is not within 500 feet of a school, it is within the buffer zone of another cannabis location in the Back Bay, Franjul said, so the project will require a zoning variance.
“Our process started with community engagement and is built on community feedback,” Yomari Chavesz said. She said that Herbal Power has met with local organizations, residents, and City Councilor Ed Flynn.
Attorney Lesley Delaney Hawkins said that Coda had a capacity of 70 people with a 1:00am closing, but Herbal Power will close by 1:00pm and has a capacity of 30 to 40 people.
“We feel very strongly that this is actually a less intrusive use than what was there before,” she said.
Abutter Todd Davis said that “my concerns are pretty much what you went over,” adding that he likes that security cameras will be located in the alley. He said that “Coda was really never a terrible problem,” and he doesn’t think there is an issue with traffic.
Other residents said they support the use, but feel that this is not the appropriate location for a dispensary. Several neighbors cited the fact that young children live in the area and brought up the concern of secondhand smoke and their belief for the need to enforce the illegality of public consumption of marijuana.
Others still said they support minority owned business in the South End and would welcome a dispensary in the area. The project team said that they are more than willing to speak with any and all residents who have comments or concerns about this proposal, and more meetings about this are to come.