Several city councilors say they're not opposed to medical marijuana but that Southampton Street is just the wrong place for one of the two dispensaries provisionally approved by the state because it's already in the middle of an area with large methadone clinics, a jail, trash-transfer facilities and the BU biolab.
And at a hearing today, councilors expressed major disappointment in state officials, none of whom showed up.
Councilor Bill Linehan (South Boston, South End, Chinatown) said he is convinced medical marijuana is essential for "certain patients with certain ailments, with certain diseases," but that Southampton Street is just the wrong location.
Boston Police Supt. Robert Merner said he's concerned in particular about crime in the area - he said there are roughly 320 arrests a year in the corridor from Southampton Street to Andrew Square by people going to the local methadone clinics - and by the people who prey on them.
City Councilors Michael Flaherty (at large) and Tim McCarthy (Hyde Park, Roslindale, Mattapan), said they are worried that people who are not at all ill would congregate around the dispensary and either try to get some of the pot themselves or prey on patients after they leave.
Flaherty predicted pot users and methadone patients would simply trade drugs with each other. He added he'd rather see pharmacies dispense medical marijuana, rather than letting in the disruptive dispensary industry in, but said that would require action by the federal government to re-categorize marijuana.
Councilor Tito Jackson (Roxbury) said he's concerned that the proposed location is just two blocks from the Orchard Gardens school.
Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said neither of the city's proposed dispensaries - the other would be on Boylston Street between Arlington and Berkeley - will go forward without a public hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals.
She added the city will also require three unannounced inspections a year - and home delivery of the marijuana. Home delivery should ease police concerns about theft and other crimes related to patients being allowed to grow marijuana at home. Delivery vehicles will have to have a certain level of security - almost to the level of an armored car.
Merner said BPD will conduct an intensive security audit of facilities before they open to ensure the safety of both patients and surrounding residents.
Andrew D'Angelo, executive director of Green Heart Holistic Health, which proposed the Southampton Street dispensary, said experience in Oakland shows a dispensary can actually improve a troubled neighborhood. He said the proposed location today is "an empty, almost blighted building" and that renovations and security for the new facility will "begin to shift the optics and reality of the surrounding neighborhood."
He said students at Orchard Gardens won't even know there's a marijuana dispensary there - there will be no signs or pro-pot messages outside.
He added he's getting a little frustrated with councilors and others questioning the dispensary's motives and the state process. "There are people in this city that are suffering, that are near death" and need marijuana now, he said.
Jamie Lewis, COO of Good Chemistry, which wants to open the Boylston Street dispensary, said its Denver dispensary has had no security problems in the five years it's been open. She said the facility will be open only to patients with prescriptions and that marijuana will be delivered in safes in unmarked vans.
A Good Chemistry lawyer said the non-profit is looking at identifying another location in case the neighborhood or the ZBA rejects Boylston Street. He declined to say where.
Lewis said Denver, which is roughly the same size as Boston, has roughly 180 dispensaries.