The largest grower of cannabis in Western Massachusetts wants to plant its retail marijuana flag in Eastie.
Berkshire Roots, Inc. is the largest grower of cannabis in the Berkshires and was the first medical marijuana dispensary to open in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
At last month’s Eagle Hill Civic Association meeting and a subsequent community meeting last week sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, Berkshire Roots’s attorney Andrea Nucifero said his client is intending to use and redevelop the retail space at 253 Meridian Street into a marijuana retail dispensary.
“This company currently operates in the medical marijuana sphere and has a location in Pittsfield, where they expect to expand to retail by the end of the year,” said Nucifero.
The proposal for the Meridian Street pot shop includes transforming the 1,400 sq. ft. retail space on the first floor of the building into sleek and stylish dispensary with façade improvement and subtle and understated signage.
Nucifero said there would be no cultivation, processing, or packaging on site. There would also be no product consumption on site.
“All employees will be thoroughly vetted, including enhanced background checks, and will be badged at all times while working in the dispensary,” said Nuceifero. “This space would be for retail sales only and there will be intense security protocols onsite.”
However, some are not convinced that the location is ideal. At the two meetings Berkshire Roots has held in the community, residents have expressed concern that the Meridian Street location is too close to places like the East Boston Social Centers, North Suffolk Mental Health (NSMH) and the Central Square shopping district.
The street is also the main thoroughfare for children and families heading to school or to the stores, restaurants and shops that line the square.
City Councilor Lydia Edwards thought the company should have done more research and reached out to more agencies like NSMH before deciding on a location. For her, opening a retail marijuana shop in close proximity to an agency like NSMH that helps people in recovery was a key concern.
“I wouldn’t support a liquor store opening up near North Suffolk so I have the same issue with a retail marijuana shop being in such close proximity,” she said.
In response to the meeting Edwards called for a hearing to discuss potential policy changes affecting the siting of enterprises serving cannabis as well as alcohol in the immediate vicinity of substance abuse treatment facilities. Currently, the City of Boston regulates the distance between cannabis establishments at one-half mile and creates a 500-foot buffer between such businesses and K-12 schools. The City also regulates businesses that serve or sell alcohol through licensing and zoning, but has not enacted a similar distance-based buffer.
Zoning changes typically do not impact existing enterprises but would apply to new development and could potentially apply to substantially renovated buildings. The hearing will explore whether such a buffer should be created, potential impacts and how to create parity between industries.