The state of pot in Dot: moving down the Ave

Just months after a medical marijuana company got the green light to open on Clapp Street, a separate recreational cannabis business is looking to launch a location in the Fields Corner area.

Colonel Boothe said his Holistic Health Group is negotiating with the owner of 1490 Dorchester Ave., which sits in a block of retail stores, to open an adult use cannabis store at the location.

Boothe, a Jamaican immigrant who lives in Worcester, said he sees parallels between his home community and Dorchester both in diversity and potential benefits from a thriving, locally staffed marijuana industry.

“One of the critical components of the company is hiring folks who have been negatively affected by the War on Drugs, especially urban communities,” he said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I know first hand the obstacles that people of color face in America. This industry specifically had been developed in way that doesn’t offer opportunities to people of color or women.”

If granted approval, Boothe said, he plans to hire local residents, and that makes its Dorchester Avenue placement key. “We want a site somewhere on Dorchester Avenue or nearby to be conducive to people who travel by public transit. We don’t want to be so far off that potential employees in the area can’t access the work.”

Boothe’s company trades in both medical and recreational cannabis and has been engaged in the “painstaking and slow” process for about two years. They have a 30,000-square foot cultivation and processing facility in Middleborough and a medical cannabis dispensary there is in the final permitting stage before construction, he said, and slated to be up and functional in 8 to 12 months.

The Dorchester location would be “essentially recreational,” he said. He describes himself as “very community-focused,” and wants “to be looked at as a person who gives minorities and women opportunities in the cannabis industry… so people from Dorchester can come into our display and see a diverse makeup of staff that represents the neighborhood.”

The Holistic Health Group has begun reaching out to local elected officials and civic groups to start the community approval process. The spring civic calendar is winding down across Dorchester and Boothe’s company did not make the Fields Corner Civic Association’s packed agenda in June before its summer break.

City Council President Andrea Campbell, whose District 4 includes the proposed location, said she is watching the growing industry closely and working to make sure that all community stakeholders have a chance to weigh in.

“I’ve been telling folks, especially as I navigate these questions, that, regardless of how you feel about the industry, both medical and recreational marijuana are legal and these industries are only going to grow, and I want to make sure that anybody who applies to the city of Boston has the opportunity to go through a fair and transparent community process,” Campbell told the Reporter.

Campbell took note of an uncomfortable irony in the legalization: While communities of color are still viscerally feeling the damage from low-level possession arrests and imprisonment, with many still in custody for marijuana-related offenses, voters are choosing overwhelmingly to legalize the drug in Boston, by 63 to 37 percent.

“We need to make sure that communities of color benefit from it, as they should in any industry as owners and operators,” the councillor said. In an email, Boothe noted his business partner has familial ties to Dorchester.

City Councillor Ayanna Pressley, a vocal advocate for equity in liquor licensing and the burgeoning cannabis industry, said she was encouraged by the stated local hiring goals of Boothe’s company.

“Dorchester, like many other communities, was disproportionately impacted by the so-called War on Drugs,” she said. “These intentional hiring practices are exactly what the Equitable Opportunities NOW coalition and others had in mind when equity was built in at every stage of creating this new industry. Massachusetts can be a leader in inclusion for this billion dollar industry, and this is a great start of the licensing process right here in Boston.”

Meanwhile, up in the Polish Triangle, a medical marijuana dispensary at 50 Clapp St. is grinding through the architectural approval process.

Natural Selections, which would be Boston’s fourth medical marijuana location, had mayoral and council backing when it received the go-ahead in late February from the Zoning Board of Appeal for a change of use and interior work.

The potential Dorchester Avenue location is about 1.6 miles from 50 Clapp St., well outside the half-mile buffer radius between dispensaries of any kind . Theoretically, that leaves room for at least one more licensed site in the stretch between them.

Natural Selections owner Aidan O’Donovan said on Tuesday that “we’re itching to get building, but need to have all our ducks in a row.” Their financing is in place, he added, but “we are working our way through the architectural review and building process with our architect firm, and ultimately ISD and the Building Department of the city of Boston.”

His 6,000-square foot building on Clapp Street would be a medical-only facility for now. Part of the negotiations with local civic groups involved a promise to delay seeking a recreational marijuana component until at least 2020.

Also part of the approval agreement to stave off any possible abuse from those with drug addictions in the Newmarket area is a minimum purchase price of $40 for the cannabis.

At a city council hearing, after which the council issued a letter of non-objection to the project, Natural Selections also pledged annual contributions to local programs, including 1.5 percent of annual revenue to be split between three neighborhood groups.

O’Donovan said his business model is the same; the only hold-up is design approvals. “We’re feeling good about it,” he said. “I feel like it’s still a great location and we’re very excited.”

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