If you are looking for equity in the state’s emerging adult use marijuana business look no further than the proposal put forth by a group of East Bostonians at Monday night’s Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association meeting.
When drafting how the state would roll out adult use marijuana facilities across the state the Cannabis Commission implemented a variety of programs to actively engage people from communities of disproportionate impact and ensure their inclusion in the legal cannabis industry.
Many programs were developed in response to evidence which demonstrates that certain geographic areas and demographic populations, particularly African Americans and Latinos, have been disproportionately impacted by high rates of arrest and incarceration for cannabis and other drug crimes as a result of state and federal drug policy. Criminalization has had long-term negative effects, not only on the individuals arrested and incarcerated, but on their families and communities.
Additionally, a legislative mandate requires a study of minorities, women, and veteran business enterprises in the cannabis industry in order to give these groups a fair shot at getting into a business dominated in other state’s by big corporations and wealthy financiers.
On Monday Luis Vasco, Steven Vasco, Nick Spagnola, and Julis Soko, owners of East Boston Bloom LLC gave an informational presentation on their plans to open an adult use marijuana facility on the ground floor of a building owned by the Vasco Family in Maverick Square.
The presentation was very similar to the other five or six adult use facilities being proposed in the community. There will be top notch state of the art security, a high level of professionalism, a floor plan that ensures access to the facility is by adults 21 years or older. There will be no advertising, flashy signs or the ability to see the product being sold from the street. In fact, according to Vasco, customers will come in, place an order and the product will be retrieved from a locked vault in the back of the store.
East Boston Bloom’s proposal has gained the attention of many in the community looking for local entrepreneurs to emerge and take advantage of the new emerging business instead of outsiders with deep pockets looking to cash in on the community.
All partners in East Boston Bloom from the Vascos to Spagnola and Soko are longtime Eastie residents with Luis Vasco being a celebrated business owner for the past 15 years. Vasco and his family have run Taco Mex in the square without incident and is a popular destination for thousands of residents.
The East Boston Bloom proposal was recently mentioned in an Op-Ed by City Councilor Lydia Edwards.
“As the new industry emerges in Massachusetts, residents who know and are trusted in their neighborhoods, are best suited to open up shop,” wrote Edwards. “Enter Luis Vascos. An immigrant from Colombia, Luis has lived in East Boston for 25 years. He has a restaurant for the past 15 years with no incident. His children are born and raised here and his son is an Iraq veteran who will be his business partner. Luis has everything to lose if he does not get this right–there is no other place for him to go. He knew better than to grab the cheapest lease for two years without speaking to the operators of the methadone clinic next door. He knows about the extreme traffic woes we have in East Boston and has proposed a retail cannabis shop across the street from the MBTA Blue Line. Boston can ensure a fair and equitable roll-out of the industry that acknowledges local concerns, including reasonable public health accommodations. The city should be cautious, however, of companies that parachute in with a poor community process and without any regard for their would-be neighbors. The best entrepreneurs, people like Luis Vascos, will emerge out of the neighborhoods they hold dear.”
At the meeting there were some concerns over traffic, an increase in loitering and the message having an adult use marijuana facility sends to people living outside of Eastie and whether it will it cheapen the neighborhood profile or elevate it.
Aside from these concerns many felt East Boston Bloom’s proposed location was a lot better than other adult use facilities that were recently proposed on Meridian Street just outside Central Square and Porter Street a few doors down from the substance abuse treatment facility North Suffolk Mental Health Association.
The group will hold a second presentation this week on Wed., Jan 16 (tonight) at 6:30 p.m. at Paris Street Community Center.
Luis Vasco talks about his group East Boston Bloom LLC’s plans to open an adult use marijuana facility in Maverick Square.