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Angry zoning board approves downtown marijuana shop just steps from existing shop and proposed one

The Zoning Board of Appeal today approved a proposed marijuana shop at 21 Broad St. downtown, but members weren't happy about it.

The proposed Rasta Rootz at 21 Milk St. would be just 222 feet from Tito Jackson's proposed Verdant Restorative shop on State Street and just 888 feet from the existing Patriot Care shop on Milk Street, which only a few days ago added recreational marijuana to the medicinal products it had been selling.

At issue for increasingly frustrated board members is a city requirement that marijuana facilities be at least a half mile apart, a requirement that the mayor's office started ignoring a couple years ago and which other city officials, including the Boston Cannabis Board, routinely ignore as well.

Board member Mark Erlich said the board is stuck in "an impossible situation" of "shifting sands" when it comes to marijuana zoning and he's so sick of it, he abstained on the Rasta Rootz proposal. Member Jeanne Pinado went further and voted to reject the proposal. The other five members, however, voted in favor, so Rasta Rootz now goes to the state Cannabis Control Commission for the last approval it needs to open.

Earlier in the day, the board approved a marijuana bakery proposal in Roslindale Square less than half a mile from a potential competitor.

Board Chairwoman Chrstine Araujo voted for the proposed four-floor Broad Street shop, but said she completely agreed with Erlich.

"We tend to be the whipping boys, or the whipping people, for these shifting sands, where we just end up being targeted, because, really, the buck stops with us." She continued, though, that when it comes to distancing between cannabis shops, "nothing is clear, nothing is satisfactory."

She said it might make perfect sense for a dense area like downtown to have several marijuana shops near each other in a way that it wouldn't work in outlying neighborhood business districts, but the current zoning code makes no distinction, and the board gets conflicting messages from the mayor's office, the city council and now the city cannabis board. "Honestly, we're caught in the middle," she said.

Last week, City Councilor Lydia Edwards (East Boston, North End, Charlestown) proposed eliminating the zoning board from marijuana considerations, saying the board had failed completely and that the cannabis board would be better suited to judge proponents on a series of issues, including ones not having to deal with zoning, such as diversity. Part of her proposal also calls for making applicants prove to the cannabis board what special hardship makes them need to locate within a half mile of another marijuana concern.

The property manager of the neighboring 75 State Street office tower and Ari Gil, owner of the Ari Boston men's clothing shop on Broad Street, both opposed the proposal.

Araujo cut off the property manager when it appeared he would be arguing against the idea of marijuana sales completely, so he didn't really get to explain why he and his tenants don't want a pot shop next door.

Gill said he is worried about loitering on the street and in a small courtyard he shares with the proposed site. He said he and his workers already have to deal with "dozens of people" coming in and asking for directions and said he's concerned he'd start getting even more of that once the marijuana market opens.

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Comments

I hope this makes Kimball unhappy, that is all.

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Voting closed 28

But he has nothing to do with the marijuana shop on Milk Street (me, I can't stand how EVERY SINGLE RECIPE in his Globe Magazine recipe column calls for kosher salt, sometimes without even specifying how much; nothing against kosher salt per se, but, come on, there are times when just regular salt would do; and yes, I realize how petty it is to be outraged about this stupid ingredient tic of his, but he won the name suit with the Milk Street Cafe, so this is what I'm left with).

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Voting closed 39

I am hoping that he's just offended by people walking past his cafe smoking weed. He's the worst.

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… to offend him that doesn’t include offending everyone else on the street that will have to smell that shit as well.

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Canada goose hatchery? Air-horn testing site? Car alarm store?

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… to offend him that doesn’t include offending everyone else on the street that will have to smell that shit as well.

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Has there been ANY demonstrated ill effect from proximity to a dispensary? Didn't think so.

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Voting closed 49

I see a bunch of ads for delivery of marijuana. If that's becoming a common distribution method, does it matter where the dispensary is located?

At what point do dispensaries become like ghost kitchens and simply don't have public storefronts?

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It's not like there is a feeling that the concentration of liquor stores is considered to be bad.

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as far as I know, there's no law saying that liquor stores must be a certain distance apart. Are you calling for one to be established here?

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And it would appear that a lot of people would agree, but that horse has left the barn. Since we know the affect of concentration of liquor stores and we were sold legalization of recreational marijuana as being no different than alcohol, perhaps we should learn from earlier mistakes.

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to believe that overconsumption of marijuana would the same deleterious effect as the overconsumption of alcohol?

we were sold legalization of recreational marijuana as being no different than alcohol

Not sure what you saw but everything I heard (and have experienced) was that recreational marijuana was better than alcohol. Certainly I (and most other people, I'd expect) would rather hang out with someone who's smoked a bit too much vs someone who's drank a bit too much.

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Voting closed 25

… with a drinker than a smoker any day.

As far as them being under the influence, it’s about the same for me. Both tend to be bores.

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If I was king, there would be a rule for a one-to-one ratio of liquor store and pot shops to book store -can't have more liquor or pot stores than established book stores in the neighborhood. With that measure, the number of liquor stores in Dorchester would shrink dramatically, or the number of bookstores could go from 0 to a couple of dozens!

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Voting closed 39

Of course they approved Tito Jackson’s spot. Him and every other former politician pot shop gets approved if you haven’t noticed.

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Rooted in Roxbury (A small black owned business) was approved by the Boston Cannabis Board but rejected by the ZBA over arbitrary reasons… as the shop wasn’t in violation of zoning code.

Yet the ZBA is approving multiple downtown establishments that literally break zoning law??

This is why they need to be removed from the process entirely, let Lydia Edwards proposals The ZBA is bad at this and they’re open about them being bad at it.

The Rooted in Roxbury rejection sealed the deal for me

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Voting closed 43

The half-mile rule is non-sensical, puritanic b.s. that never should've been approved. If it were actually enforced in a city like Boston, there'd be what, 3 shops total?

Somehow, cities in Colorado lacking similar caps seem to survive without the stoned barbarian hordes running rampant.

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But the other councilors managed to talk him down from that.

They actually had a proposed maximum number of marijuana shops that would allow in Boston. 21 sticks in my head, but I apologize if some marijuana zoning or topology expert tells me I'm wrong.

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A half mile in West Roxbury is different from a half mile in Downtown Crossing.

An improvement would be to define the desired spacing in terms of density: for example, "you can't open a weed shop within the circle that's centered on an existing weed shop and is large enough to have 5,000 people living in it.

While that's a step less idiotic than physical distance, it still doesn't account for the difference between commercial districts and residential districts, with the latter being arguably more able to absorb a higher density of weed shops.

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Voting closed 19

A half mile in West Roxbury is different from a half mile in Downtown Crossing.

An improvement would be to define the desired spacing in terms of density: for example, "you can't open a weed shop within the circle that's centered on an existing weed shop and is large enough to have 5,000 people living in it.

While that's a step less idiotic than physical distance, it still doesn't account for the difference between commercial districts and residential districts, with the latter being arguably more able to absorb a higher density of weed shops.

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Every third young Bostonian seems to be leaving for Denver, obviously no ones bothered by it. When I was in Denver they were every other block and it didn’t matter other business were around no I saw virtually no lines.

Delivery is available now… can we finally repeal this stupid amendment that was always going to be repealed anyway? Is there anyone who still cares about “the dangers” of weed?

Half the MA marijuana laws were to appease rando old fogeys in various towns. I honestly believe they were just control measures/stops that were always meant to be peeled back and only enforced when convenient for monied parties, if not repealed completely. Because that’s how Mass. does things

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Voting closed 37

Is there anyone who still cares about “the dangers” of weed?

Oh don't you worry, there's still people out there who will come out of the woodwork when these laws try to change. You think they are gone.. nah, they just are waiting for the right moment to take off the pink slippers, put on some real shoes, slip those pearls that will be clutched and head over to the local bitch fest meeting erm I mean Public Meeting to discuss the merits of removing such law.

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Anyone in proximity to a smoker, regardless what they are smoking is in danger. Secondhand smoke is a health hazard. It’s also offensive to many. Something that some smokers, no matter what they are smoking, like to ignore.

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there was some way to enjoy cannabis without lighting it on fire...

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Secondhand smoke is awful but it doesn't work as an excuse to ban pot shops.

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Why should ANY type of business be zoned with these separation buffers?

The city should identify the places that make sense for certain types of businesses, and encourage them to cluster there.

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The idea that one might have to travel less than 3/8 of a mile to purchase a ration of cannabis, it’s just too decadent to imagine.

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He said he and his workers already have to deal with "dozens of people" coming in and asking for directions and said he's concerned he'd start getting even more of that once the marijuana market opens.

That's a weird reason to oppose a pot shop. Inadequate signage.

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Then why don't they quit? Imagine needing $80-$100K that badly.

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Who said telling people to quit is a "typical loser response".

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Is that I'm paying them to be miserable.

I see you still haven't grasped nuance since getting your handle nuked.

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The same ZBA that hands out variances to developers like Halloween candy, and is still recovering from a major bribery scandal, is crying about being stuck in an undesirable situation because other city departments are ignoring the written rules?

Cry me a river.

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Why hasn't anyone mashed up the two hottest biz dev fads in town and proposed the "High-Life Sciences Labs" yet?

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"Caught in the middle" is a poor excuse. Read the requirements for a variance Christine, and apply the standards, beginning with evidence of a hardship. If the Mayor, the City Council, the BPDA or any other group want to amend the Zoning Code then follow the procedure in the Enabling Act. Doing it by fiat is a violation of the law, but apparently what everyone in City Hall believes to be perfectly good policy and practice.

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Marijuana shops don't require a variance. They're considered a conditional use, which means the assumption is that they should be approved, only with, well, conditions, and that the applicant doesn't have to prove some particular hardship to get.

And part of that is the whole buffer-zone thing, which the board has the power to ignore, which they have, for the most part.

But in all, "conditional" is a bit more nebulous than "variance" and when you've got the city council - and the mayor - approving a half-mile buffer zone and then the mayor and the cannabis board completely ignoring that, yeah, I can see why it might be more of an issue for the zoning board.

But my apologies for not making that clear in my stories on this; I'll be sure to add an explanatory paragraph going forward.

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In ten years weed shops will be as ubiquitous as liquor stores.

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