The adult-use cannabis dispensary proposed for Orient Heights Square is one step closer to becoming a reality after it was approved by the Boston Cannabis Commission (BCC).
Following a hearing last month with the owners of Local Roots, the BCC voted to greenlight the proposal. Local Roots will now enter into a Host Community Agreement with the city and seek final approval from the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals.
Local Roots ownership team consists of current Tufts Tobacco owner Jimmy Sheena, former City Councilors Michael Ross and Sal LaMattina, as well as Nicole Modica, (the daughter of Carla Santarpio of Santarpio’s Pizza Dave Modica, who owned Ecco for many years), Lorraine Curry, Jane England and Tracy Glissman.
“Everyone on the team lives in the neighborhood so we all got together and are attempting 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.”
Local Roots plans to take over Tufts Tobacco on Bennington Street in Orient Heights Square– a business owned by Sheena for over 25 years.
At the hearing Ross said Sheena has experience running a successful and highly regulated business in the community. Like Tufts Tobacco, no one under the age of 21 would be able to step foot into the adult use facility once it is operational, so Ross said it made sense to have Sheena on the Local Roots ownership team.
At the hearing representatives from the offices of City Councilors Lydia Edwards and Anissa Essaibi George, Rep. Adrian Madaro and Sen. Joseph Boncore, as well as the Mayor’s Office, all went on record to support the proposal.
The proposal also received backing by well known local residents and community leaders like Joe Mario, Mary Berninger and Nancy LoConte–who all testified in favor of the proposal at the BCC hearing.
Other residents, like Orient Heights Neighborhood Council President Toni Noble, used to live above Tufts Tobacco and said Sheena was a great neighbor and the Modicas, who owns the building, were a responsive landlord.
“I am here to voice my personal support for this proposed recreational marijuana facility,” said Noble. “I actually used to live directly above Tufts Tobacco and the Modicas were always very responsive landlords–not just to my own concerns as a tenant–but if I had any questions about the community at all. I also grew to know Jimmy (Sheena) and in my time living there he, as owner of Tufts Tobacco, was always very responsive, kind and cared not only for the building but his neighbors and the entire Orient Heights community.”
Berninger testified while she wasn’t initially thrilled about having an adult-use cannabis facility in her neighborhood she has grown to support the proposal.
“I’m a member of the Oregon Heights Neighborhood Council and I’ve observed a great deal of community outreach from the applicants,” said Berninger. “I didn’t vote for the law but it has since been settled in Massachusetts. It’s time to bring these businesses online to bring job opportunities in the community. The pandemic only heightened the need for more economic development and good paying job opportunities in East Boston.” Only one resident spoke in opposition to the project because she felt the propoent’s plan for parking was not adequate enough and feared customers to the dispensary would double park on Bennington Street. However, according to officials, this has not been a problem with the first dispensary that opened in Eastie on Meridian Street.