It seemed a majority of residents who showed up to last week’s well-attended meeting regarding Tufts Tobacco wanting to convert to an adult use marijuana facility were in support of the plan.
While there was the usual opposition, mainly by those who don’t support any marijuana facilities opening in Eastie, the city was very clear that the meeting wasn’t to debate state marijuana laws.
At Monday night’s Orient Heights Neighborhood Council meeting, Tufts Tobacco owner Jimmy Sheena and a team of other Eastie residents led by attorney and former Boston City Councilor Mike Ross, pitched the idea of turning Tufts into an adult-use marijuana facility under the name Local Roots.
“Everyone on the team lives in neighborhood so we all got together and attempted to do this Local Roots business,” said Ross. “Over half of the ownership are East Boston residents or have had roots here or done business here for decades and that’s why we decided to name the company Local Roots.”
The ownership team consists of Sheena, Ross, former City Councilor Sal LaMattina, as well as Nicole Modica, (whose mother is Carla Santarpio of Santarpio’s Pizza and father is Dave Modica, who owned Ecco for many years), Lorraine Curry, Jane England and Tracy Glissman.
Ross said Tufts would cease selling tobacco products and switch over to adult use cannabis sales under the Local Roots banner.
“Jimmy (Shenna) has been running a successful and highly regulated business in the community for 25 years without incident,” said Ross. “Like his current business no one under the age of 21 would be able to step foot into the adult use facility. It’s not like a liquor store where minors can walk in to buy chips or a soda or other non-alcohol products. This would strictly be for adults, and it will be highly regulated.”
Ross explained that Tufts interior would be turned into an adult-use shop. Security measures would include a foyer between the street entrance and actual interior shop. There customers would have to produce identification showing they are adults before being let into the shop.
“There will be no flashy signs, marijuana leaves or any other signage that would advertise the business,” said Ross.
Like his current business Ross said Shenna would be instrumental keep cannabis and cannabis related products out of the hands of minors because he has been able to do so with tobacco for many many years.
Longtime residents and businesses leaders like Joe Mario came in support of the project.
“Look, I’ve never smoked marijuana but it’s coming,” said Mario who lives near the proposed shop. “I’ve known the Modica and Santarpio families for years, I’ve know Jimmy (Sheena) for years. I’d rather do business with people I know then some corporations from outside the state. If there was ever a problem they’d be a phone call away and they’ve always supported the community. I’d rather be dealing with a business that we can work with on things like improving Orient Heights and supporting youth organizations than a corporation that tells us to call the corporate office and then you never hear back.”
East Boston Chamber of Commerce President Jim Kearney also spoke in favor of the project. Kearney, a longtime educator, scoffed at the notion that an adult use facility would lead to more teen use as some suggested at the meeting.
“I’ve worked in schools for three decades and if you think marijuana is not in the schools right now or weren’t in the schools before the laws were passed you are mistaken,” said Kearney. “At least with the taxes coming in from this business we can add more education and drug prevention programs that are underfunded to keep marijuana out of the hands of teens. In the end we have to approach this like alcohol or cigarettes. It’s for adults and not for children and parents have to start having that conversation as more and more of these types of businesses open. I also agree with Joe (Mario). These families involved care about this community and have always helped, no questions asked, when it came to donations or support for local organizations.”
Former District A-7 Captain Frank Mancini was brought in as an independent party to assess Local Roots’ security plan. Mancini has no stake in the proposal but gave his honest assessment and likened the security plan to the security plans the Isreali government uses for facilities that may be prone to terrorist attacks.
“It’s by far one of the better security plans I’ve seen,” he said.
As far as crime in or around the shop LaMattina again said during a trip to Colorado when he was on the Council to get suggestions from officials there on how to regulate and zone the new industry many officials there said it actually reduced crime.
“The city councilors there who were against adult-use marijuana admitted that the shops reduced street crime and petty crime in the neighborhoods in which the shops were located,” he said.