Medical marijuana dispensary proposal aired at council hearing

Updated Dec. 15, 12:45 p.m. with council vote

A medical marijuana dispensary proposed for a 6,000 square-foot, free-standing building at 50 Clapp St. was the subject of a city council hearing last week. The proponent, Aidan O’Donovan, and his company, Natural Selections will receive a letter of non-opposition from the council to move ahead with the proposal.

The company already has a 50,000 sq. ft. cultivation facility approved in Fitchburg and dispensaries approved in Fitchburg and Watertown. If approved, O’Donovan anticipates the Dorchester location will be “the most busy.” Hours of operation are planned for 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

Boston facilities are limited in their placement by proximity to areas where children gather, like schools; square footage requirements; and a half-mile radius between other dispensaries.

City Councillor Frank Baker, who sponsored the Planning and Development hearing, noted that several potential dispensaries had eyed the Clapp Street lot in the past for meeting those standards.

“I’m okay with this petitioner here,” he said.

O’Donovan has returned to the Boston area after working in the Colorado cannabis industry. Attorney and former city councillor Mike Ross represented Natural Selections at the hearing, introducing Eric Robinson with RODE Architects, who are working on the building design; Boston-based attorney JD Barry; and Dan Linskey, former Superintendent-in-Chief of the Boston Police Department and the project’s head of security.

Baker and colleagues visited Denver to assess the impacts of the legalized cannabis industry, and “one of the things I came away for Denver with was [an understanding that marijuana is] just a very aggressive business, and my thinking is that we should try and be on the front end of this business here.”

The Natural Selections dispensary location, residents have noted, is near enough to the Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass stretch of the city known for dense populations of individuals suffering from addiction to worry them.

Councillor Annissa Essaibi-George said she has “significant concerns about the location and its siting, but I’m also, I’d say, impressed with the quality and presentation that your group has put forward and also understand that maybe not all presenters and not all proponents that come before the neighborhood and before the council would be of this high quality.”

Natural Selections met several times with the John W. McCormack Civic Association, which approved the proposal in a narrow 24 to 23 in their November general membership meeting, and the Newmarket Business Association.

The team laid out a “commitment package” to the community, Ross said, though “anything we do commit to would be at the blessing and direction of this council and the mayor’s office.”

Natural Selections would set a minimum $40 purchase price, not sell any cannabis paraphernalia, improve lighting on the site and down the street, pay for 24/7 security as well as fund additional police presence and security cameras around the area that police could monitor, and prohibit consumption of the products on the property.

Natural Selections would also impose a moratorium on applying to sell recreational marijuana until 2020, and then only if the business has been open for a full year.

They have also pledged annual contributions to local programs, including 1.5 percent of annual revenue to be split between three neighborhood groups like McCormack Civic.

The project needs approval from the Zoning Board of Appeal. At its Dec. 13 membership meeting, the city council voted to submit a letter of non-opposition for the proposal.

“Compared to some for other applicants in this city and across the state, we’re proud of our experience and everything we’ve learned,” O’Donovan said. “There have been a lot of learning lessons in Colorado and a lot of years of just learning this industry… I think it’s really awesome what we’ve been able to accomplish and achieve there, and we’re excited to bring that back to Boston.”