A local group tried to convince some skeptical residents in Brighton last night that 144 Harvard Ave. would be a good place to sell medical marijuana to patients with prescriptions for the drug.
Compassionate Organics did not make the list of 20 proposed operators who have even a slight chance of getting a state dispensary license in Suffolk County, but founder Geoffrey Reilinger told the Brighton Allston Improvement Association that that was because his group didn't have a specific location when applications were due - and now it does.
And Reilinger predicted his non-profit will get onto the state list in part because, unlike the two proposed operators given provisional approval for Boston locations, his group is all local and never lied about getting approval from local residents or elected officials. He spoke last night before about 30 people at an association meeting at the Brighton Elks.
Reilinger said his local roots go deep - he went to both Boston Latin School and BU and that unlike certain other applicants he could name, he's not part of "a slick California or Colorado pot shop" concern.
Reilinger said Harvard Avenue is a good location because it is on or near bus and trolley routes and because the neighborhood voted overwhelmingly for dispensaries. And the specific 2,000-square-foot location is not within 500 feet of any facility where children congregate.
Reilinger said the marijuana would only be sold to people with prescriptions, who need the sort of relief from medical conditions they have failed to get from traditional painkillers. He said he learned the value of marijuana first hand when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1996 and nothing else really helped.
The proposed storefront, he said, would be low key and more like a quiet clinic than a traditional store. "No neon pot leaves in the windows," he said.
But skeptical residents worried area college students would easily get prescriptions from money-hungry doctors both locally and in their home towns, stock up on pot and then promptly sell it to their friends. One resident scoffed at the high turnout for dispensaries, saying college students lined up at the Jackson-Mann to vote for easier access to pot.
Others noted the area already has two clinics, one for methadone patients - an argument similar to that made by opponents to a proposed dispensary near Boston Medical Center - and asked why Compassionate Organics didn't look for a location near St. Elizabeth's and the D-14 police station.
"It's a zoo in Allston," one angry man exclaimed. "You can make billions of dollars there."
Association President Anabela Gomes called the proposed location terrible and said Reilinger was wasting the group's time last night because his concern scored so low on the state's initial rankings and that there was no immediate possibility they could get even a provisional license.
Reilinger said he is trying to get local groups behind his proposal to improve its ranking.
Some residents did support the proposal. One said marijuana's already easy to get, so it's unlikely college students would feel the need to try to get a prescription.
Neal Wigetman, owner of Basics Carpet and Furniture on Harvard Avenue, pleaded with residents to abandon their "very narrowminded point of view" that the storefront would become a place for college students to stock up to stoke up and that it would prove an asset both for residents who need the drug for medical reasons and for the street as a whole.
The dispensary would help diversify a business district that is increasingly turning into a monoculture of restaurants, bring a bit more foot traffic and help beautify the area - Reilinger vowed to help with things such as graffiti removal. And unlike other applicants, Compassionate Organics has no political ties, he said.
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