UPDATE: Guy actually supports the thing.
The Board of Appeal yesterday approved a medical-marijuana dispensary at 331A-333 Newbury St., after the proposed operator agreed to not seek permission to sell recreational pot, to obtain at least 10 spaces in a nearby garage for customers and to pay for police details to go after pot smokers on the Commonwealth Avenue mall.
But Compassionate Organics' Geoffrey Reilinger could face a legal fight. Residents opposed to the measure have hired attorney and former City Councilor Lawrence DiCara to fight the proposal, which they and DiCara said would expose too many children to the idea of marijuana consumption.
At the hearing, DiCara also raised the specter of a Newbury Street gridlocked by double-parking customers - who he said would light up in the alley between Newbury and Comm. Ave. - and by fleets of armored cars delivering marijuana to the facility and driving away the cash he said patients would have to use because federally insured banks are not allowed to process credit-card transactions for marijuana dispensaries.
And then there was Oliver Curme, a retired venture capitalist who lives on Commonwealth Avenue (and not represented by DiCara), who opposed the proposed dispensary because of the icky people he said would patronize it:
It'll bring undesirable elements into the neighborhood, and just so you know what I mean, there are Army vets with PTSD and we don't want them in the neighborhood, you know, just give me a break, they can get over it.
And the second thing, is people with wheelchairs, with MS, or whatever [here board members told him to limit himself to zoning issues]. Third one is women with breast cancer. They all have that cadaverous look and they wear those ridiculous turbans, and for goodness sake, [here board members tried and failed to get him to sit down] Newbury Street is our high-end shopping district, we don't want people like that scaring off the clientele.
The city's first medical dispensary opened on Milk Street downtown in August, 2016, a year after the zoning board approved it.
At the hearing yesterday, a representative of one Back Bay doctor supported the proposal, saying it could help in the fight against opioids by giving people a way to come off opioid addiction. Margaret Huff-Rousselle, a health-policy professor who lives on Commonwealth Avenue, said she has a Harvard colleague who is still forced to turn to the black market for medical marijuana because there are too few places to buy it legally.
Ann Hochberg, attorney for the family that has owned the Newbury Street building since 1962, said the use is a good one for "the funkier end of Newbury Street," which she said is already facing empty storefronts because of competition from online retailers. Local unions representing carpenters and electricians also supported the proposal because Reilinger has agreed to hire union workers to build out the facility.
The Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay opposed the proposal. Chairman Martyn Roetter said the civic group is not opposed to the idea of a medical marijuana dispensary in the neighborhood, but said it shouldn't be on a street where people live and children congregate. Dispensaries should be in locations where children only "rarely and fleetingly in passing by" might become aware of marijuana. In contrast, the Newbury Street location means "many children" will be "permanently and inevitably exposed to its impact."
Nearby residents with children agreed. Susan Baker, who lives on Beacon Street, said her son walks by the proposed location twice a day on his way to and from school and said "hundreds of other kids will be exposed on a daily basis." She added, "We just don't want Newbury Street, because it directly abuts the residential neighborhood, to be a destination for people to come and procure marijuana."
Ross, whose council district included the Back Bay, however, retorted that's not a legal reason to block the dispensary, because state laws related to dispensaries and proximity to children are related to such things as schools, not streets on which children might walk.
He said the 300 to 325 customers a day Reilinger expects would be only a small fraction of the type of traffic a Starbucks or similar retail outlet would see on Newbury Street, and said Reilinger has an agreement with the nearby Somerset Garage to let his customers park there during their visits - and that he would pick up the tab.
But that assertion brought an angry retort from Dr. Patricia Brown, who lives on Hereford Street and who has been on the garage board of trustees for 18 years - she said she has never heard of such an agreement and said she doubted it was even possible given how little space there is there.
Ross said he had talked to somebody named Youssef at the garage, and said Reilinger did not want to commit to a formal contract before he won final permission to build. The zoning board said it didn't care where Reilinger had his patrons park, but said they would not sign off on their approval until after he shows a signed contract with some garage operator in the area for use of at least 10 spaces.
Josh Zakim, who took over Ross's seat when Ross ran for mayor four years ago, opposed the location. Kate Ball, one of his aides, said that, like NABB, Zakim believes a dispensary in the Back Bay could work in a less visible location, rather than on "arguably Boston's premier retail street."
Mayor Marty Walsh took a stand of neither opposition nor support.