Two neighboring civic associations are continuing to assess proposals for two different types of marijuana businesses in their villages. Reactions after meetings during the fall have been decidedly mixed.
A plan for a recreational and medical pot shop met with both approval and consternation in Field's Corner; a push for a cannabis manufacturing site earned a positive reception in Clam Point.
In late October, about 100 people attended a Field’s Corner Civic Association session to discuss Holistic Health Group’s plan to open a recreational shop at 1548 Dorchester Ave.
Steve and Debbie Sousa, members of the civic group, said that the meeting featured conflicting viewpoints. “You had the camp that were really supportive of cannabis usage,” Debbie Sousa said, and “a whole bunch of people” were supportive of medical use. “They said, ‘we want to know what the prices are and we want to buy it legally and safely.’
Others, Steve said, were impassioned in saying “we do not want you here.”
Annie Le, of the Vietnamese Community of Massachusetts, told the Reporter that “the community, as an organization, is against it,” seeing it as mostly a location issue. “It’s directly across the street from the playground. If they just move it somewhere a little bit further away,” Le said.
Debbie Sousa said meeting feedback also echoed Le’s mention of location as a problem. “We know that it’s legal here, and whether you’re supportive or not, the problem is its location and being across the street from the park,” she said.
Additionally, its proximity to the All Dorchester Sports and Leadership field house in the park was very much an issue, Debbie Sousa said, as were concerns that it would cause additional work for the nearby C-11 police district.
In September, the Clam Point Civic Association took up a proposal from Suns Mass Inc. to build the manufacturing facility at 43 Freeport St. Margaret LeBlanc, who leads the civic group, told the Reporter that the presentation was given a positive reception.
“They were very organized, very articulate, very cohesive in their presentation, very professional, and I think people were surprised and received it well,” said LeBlanc. “I think people just have these fantasies about it being a drug den or something.”
Valerio Romano, a lawyer focused on land use and municipal law around cannabis operations, made the proposal to the association, LeBlanc said.
The company wants to bring in plants from their grower outside of Worcester, then process and manufacture the product and distribute it to shops from Freeport Street.
“There will be no business happening, no retail space there,” LeBlanc said. “They promise that for at least three years, there will be no retail space, so there won’t be traffic. It’s more of a biotech space.”
In 2016, a proposal by Bay Cove to open a detox facility at that site was firmly rejected by neighbors and city officials.
There has been no vote yet by the Clam Point group and the approval process through state and city is long and winding, but LeBlanc noted a few potential perks for the community at this point.
The team committed to only hire locally, pay at a “higher rate,” and bring on 15 employees to start, she said.
Allowing this site to open comes with another protection, she added, as no licensed marijuana facility can operate within a half mile of any other one in Boston. If Suns Mass gets approvals over the next year or two to open at Freeport Street, she said, “we wouldn’t be dealing with any other pot shops, so we would be sort of set with that.”
Dorchester is seeing a boom in marijuana-based proposals, said city councillor Frank Baker, noting that six or seven have come before his office.
"I always wanted to see the one that was permitted first open up first," he said. "I am concerned about District 3 being a place where a lot of the business is. It needs to really be spread out across the city and spread out very incrementally, I think."
For some civic members, particularly in areas that voted to legalize recreational marijuana, this means they now have to decide where the best spots would be in their home neighborhoods.
Will Cole-French, the Hancock Street Civic Association president, said in a conversation with the Reporter in July that the proposal in Uphams Corner “caught us very much by surprise.” He had transportation equity, housing, and a few other topics on his mind for the coming civic season, but marijuana was not one of them.
“It’s open season,” he acknowledged, with recreational legalized by a hefty margin last year, “so we really need to be thinking about it and researching it.”
A kind of stigma still follows the idea of cannabis consumption. Proprietors describe their shops as akin to a craft beer and wine store, but some neighbors worry that it will look more like loitering outside of corner liquor stores.
“From our perspective, we want to make sure it doesn’t exacerbate an existing loitering problem,” said Steve Sousa said of the Field's Corner location.
Some Field's Corner civic members attended the Clam Point meeting, LeBlanc said, prepared to argue against the siting there but ending up being impressed by the manufacturing proposal.
While the manufacturing site on Freeport Street would stave off any potential discussions of a retail shop for a few years, “the reality is, marijuana is a real thing,” LeBlanc said. “It’s really happening, so I think having this sort of establishment in our neighborhood, it kind of comes with some security and it’s scientific. It seems more like it will bring us into the 21st century, and it seems appropriate for that spot.”