Centre St. Marijuana Dispensary Receives Conditional Use Permit

Jamaica Plain is one step closer to having a recreational marijuana dispensary on Centre St. The Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) granted marijuana entity Core Empowerment, who has presented numerous times to the neighborhood, a conditional use permit to open the cannabis establishment at 401A-405 Centre St.

The 6,000 square-foot facility will be below-ground, and have a pickup/dropoff area on Centre St., according to Core Empowerment’s lawyer, Mike Ross. Ross said that Core Empowerment is “in the process of obtaining off-street parking within a quarter mile radius,” and has agreed to a police detail for the minimum of the first month “to manage and handle logistics relating to parking,” he said. The off-site parking would be a dedicated lot with a minimum of 12 parking spaces for Core Empowerment only. They are also in the process of working with the Hyde Square Merchants Association to create a shared valet zone for businesses in the area.

The first month of business will also be appointment only, with the ability to serve walk-in clients if there’s room, Ross said. The hours of operation will be from 11:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m., seven days a week. They are looking to have a staff of 24 people to start, 12 per shift. For the first month, however, they would like to have 16-18 people per shift and then scale it back to the 12 per shift as time goes on. They anticipate that each person will spend 5-10 minutes inside the dispensary, Ross said.

Ross explained to the ZBA how the flow of the building would work. He said they anticipate about 350 people per day, but the space is large enough to comfortably handle 1,500 people per day. “But we think that number is going to be closer to 350,” he said.

Customers will walk in on Centre Street, where they will be greeted by an employee who will tell them to have their ID ready to be inspected. This is also were the handicap lift is located to bring people down to the dispensary area. Once people are underground, they will walk into a reception area, “which has substantial capacity in it of itself for about two to three dozen people,” Ross said. “At that point, they would have the ID check with the security personnel,” he said, and then they would enter the public space. This space will have five point-of-sale systems with the potential to be increased up to eight. This is where people would fulfill their orders, Ross said.

Ross also said that there is a security desk at the dispensary entrance where online fulfillment would be taken care of. People who ordered online will wait in a separate line to come pick up the orders that they paid for ahead of time.

There is also a secure storage area for employees only. “Each of the doors are going to be secured for your level of access depending on who you are as an employee,” Ross said. “The product itself will come in through a separate door off Centre Street on the leftmost part of the space where security staff will arrive on a randomized basis” to drop off product, etc., Ross said.

Ross said that delivery will be randomized, but they are looking at having deliveries “at least three times a week.” He also said that they will not be selling any loose leaf flower—all products are child-proofed and have been prepackaged outside of the facility. Certain edibles, such as lozenges and tinctures, will be available, but “state regulations don’t allow animal shapes or certain items to be wrapped colorfully,” Ross said.

The ZBA requested to hear about the security process, so Dan Linskey of Kroll Experts provided a rundown. “We will exceed the state standards for cameras and limited access control,” Linskey said. He also spoke about the Good Neighbor Policy that each customer must sign upon their first visit. It includes such agreements as safe utilization, proper storage, proper transportation, and keeping it from being placed in the hands of underage people, he said.

This includes utilizing the product in public spaces in the surrounding neighborhoods. “If we get notification from anyone in law enforcement, anyone from the community, that one of our customers has gone and violated that policy, we will immediately send them a notice of trespass and they will not be allowed to return back to our facility,” Linskey said. All products are also able to be tracked.

“We are working with the Cannabis Control Commission to make sure we have the certified RFID program so that the product coming in will be tracked from seed to sale and work very hard liaisoing with law enforcement and the various community groups so that if there are any concerns outside of the security issue with quality-of-life issues in the neighborhood, they can contact us in addition to the Boston Police to we can turn over information to them in a timely manner to make sure we’re dealing with it,” Linskey said.

He said there will be “overlapping” security staff, including two security personnel supplemented by police details. He said that based on the community feedback they’ve heard, people are “not as concerned about the safety and security of the facility” as they are “the traffic and pedestrian management,” he said. “We want to make sure the quality of life around the facility is ongoing.”

Tom Tinlin of Howard Stein Hudson said that this dispensary is located in an “exceedingly accessible area” by public transport and bicycle. “We’re going to encourage people to take transit and to walk and bike,” Tinlin said. “We met with the [Boston Transportation Department] commissioner to step up the enforcement in that area.”

There’s got to be somewhat of a long-term look at this because enforcement comes and goes, and I think the community needs to be sure that in fact this is going to be something constant, that’s going to be a constant spot where they can rely on customers to park,” said ZBA Chair Christine Araujo.

Ross responded by saying that in the Community Host Agreement, Core Empowerment “agrees to the representations it made to the community regarding a shared valet zone, a pickup/dropoff zone, and police details.” He said that the city’s Emerging Technologies office is holding Core Empowerment to those community commitments, and “we’re prepared to do that,” Ross said.

Core Empowerment COO Tomas Gonzalez said that they will be holding job fairs with JP based organizations like Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, Urban Edge, Mildred  Hailey, and the Union of Minority neighborhoods.

Several people and organizations spoke in support of the project, saying that Core Empowerment has been working with the community on working through issues. Faisa Sharif said that the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services is in support of the proposal. “I want to put on the record that this proposal is supported by JP Zoning, Jamaica Pond Association, and businesses in the Hyde Square area. They have been in touch with the Commissioner’s office at BTD and the parking mitigation and enforcement around this issue is something that is priority for the city as well and we will be continuing to work with both the applicants and also business in that area to make sure some of that quality of life issues improves,” Sharif said.

Will Poff-Webster from City Councilor Matt O’Malley’s office said that O’Malley’s primary concerns have been to make sure the “impacts on the neighborhood are positive,” and that he “has received assurances from the applicant that they will be appointment only for the first month and so they’re going to be managing some of that initial demand and continuing to work with the community.”

A JP resident on Perkins St. said he is a card-carrying patient in the medical marijuana program and has attended all public meetings related to this particular dispensary. “All the feedback that was heard at all the public meetings I feel has been addressed,” he said. He added that “this is a transit oriented site if there ever was one,” and people do not drive to dispensaries at rush hour.

Other comments in support include that the dispensary will bring in foot traffic to other businesses in Hyde Square, and that people will go to the dispensary that is closest to them and will not be driving to the dispensary in large quantities. There will also be no flashing signs and no children allowed in the dispensary, unlike liquor stores.

Others, however, did not think the proposal was so great. A JP resident on Sheridan Street said that the dispensary will “encourage children to see the use of drugs,” as it is located just outside of the required two block radius of a public school. “It’s on the route where children are walking and all the buses are going by,” she said. “350 customers going in and out is a good sign for children that drug use is okay.”

Susan Mahoney mentioned several businesses in the area who are opposed to the dispensary, and said that “it’s a matter of parking. There is no specific plan for the parking as far as I know,” she said, saying that traffic and congestion in the Hyde Square area is a major concern.             After hearing the proposal and the feedback, the ZBA approved the application with the proviso that it is for this applicant only, meaning anyone else who would want to use the space in the future would need to get their own conditional use permit. Core Empowerment hopes to open their location on Centre Street in October of this year.

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