New site, same hopes as pot shop proprietors begin engaging with Fields Corner community

This site at 1548 Dorchester Ave. is being floated as the new home for a recreational marijuana facility. Google maps image

With their hopes of opening a recreational marijuana shop in Fields Corner hanging in the balance, the owners of Holistic Health Group (HHG) are looking ahead to engaging in a continuing community process after they submit new plans for their Dorchester Avenue site.

Tim McNamara and Colonel Boothe first came to the neighborhood in the spring with plans for their recreational dispensary. Since then, they’ve switched locations to 1548 Dorchester Ave., about a block and a half south of the site for their earlier proposal.

Boothe said they were working toward an agreement on the building at 1490 Dorchester Ave. when they found that it was slightly closer than 500 feet from the Boston Arts Academy. A city ordinance mandates that any marijuana facility, recreational or medical, must be at least 500 feet from a school and half a mile from any other dispensary.

Th new site is in “a lot better condition than the other place,” McNamara said, “and we really like it because it still has the same convenience; it’s farther away from the school, and it’s just across from a police station.”

The new location sits across the street from the Doherty-Gibson Playground and the All Dorchester Sports & Leadership building. Boston Police District C-11’s station is a block away. The site is part of a building that has four units. Their new place, roughly 1,000 feet of ground floor space, used to be a tattoo parlor and is next door to a physical therapy office.

According to preliminary site plans reviewed by the Reporter, if the permit is granted, customers will enter HHG’s building from Dorchester Avenue into a waiting room. From there, they will be buzzed in through an electric door and onto the sales floor. The building has a rear exit, and both egresses will be monitored by exterior security cameras. Fisheye cameras will be placed throughout the shop.

“I know there are some security concerns,” McNamara said, “but I think that what people don’t tend to realize about these locations is that they’re usually, in Massachusetts anyways, a net positive in terms of adding security, in terms of monitoring the area, and based on all the state requirements for security, for alarms and cameras, and all of that.”

Along with their Dorchester dispensary application and another in Worcester, the team is building a cultivation center in Middleborough. As they navigate municipality-specific regulations and bylaws, McNamara said, they hear many of the same neighborhood worries with regard to the budding industry.

“Mainly, everybody’s concerned when you locate in an area, especially in a state where people are just not familiar with this type of business,” he added. “We don’t really see it as being any more of a security threat than a liquor store or a CVS, but we have much more stringent requirements for it.”

If approved, the shop will be recreational, but it will also be vertically integrated to sell medical marijuana. Another proposed dispensary, Natural Selections, was okayed by the city to start development on its Clapp Street site as a medical marijuana shop that may transition to recreational after a year of operation, or 2020.

“Our plan has always been to serve both markets,” McNamara said, “and we have actual specific plans on how to develop the medical market beyond what it is today, and that’s the subjects of future conversations.” They hope to be able to sell medical marijuana without taxes under state guidelines in Dorchester and Middleborough.

In an effort to compensate for disproportionate impacts from prior marijuana laws on communities of color and other vulnerable groups, state guidelines give priority to members of those groups when it comes to licensing. As part of the ownership team, Boothe and McNamara – the former a person of color and the latter having been arrested for possession – enhance their dispensary’s priority when it comes to permitting, Dig Boston noted in a conversation with them earlier this month. So does the shop’s earlier provisional approval as a registered medical dispensary.

But first HHG has to submit plans to the city’s Inspectional Services Department, where they will be automatically denied permission because of a change of use. This will bring them back to the community for public meetings.

“In Dorchester, at least, we’ve already been involved in reaching out to the community in various ways informally and we’re just waiting on the formal process,” McNamara said. “It may be possible to have a more expedited process in the city based on the resources that the city has compared to other towns.”