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Man with small ownership share in national marijuana chain says law that might benefit locally owned competitor in Hyde Park isn't fair

A national marijuana chain that wants to open a shop and cannabis-products manufacturing facility in Hyde Park tried last night to convince a skeptical president of the local neighborhood association that its place wouldn't mean the quick end to a smaller cannabis outlet proposed a few doors down by three local entrepreneurs.

First Harvest Group's local lawyer, Mike Ross, told the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association that its proposed Suns Mass. shop and plant, in the old Serino's building across from the America's Food Basket strip mall on Hyde Park Avenue, wouldn't really be competition for the proposed Evergreen Farms, because it wouldn't just sell recreational marijuana, but would also sell medicinal cannabis - and would include space where workers would created various marijuana-based products.

Besides, Ross, a former city councilor, said, Harvest is willing to help Evergreen start up by striking a deal to get it the marijuana "product" it would need to open up; he said that, as a start-up the locals would have trouble getting marijuana for a couple of years. He did allow, however, this is contingent on Evergreen signing a deal with the same union that Harvest has agreed to let represent the roughly 100 workers Harvest says its facility would employ.

Next, Dan Linskey, the company's security consultant - and former BPD superintendent-in-chief - said even if Harvest and Evergreen did compete, there's nothing wrong with that. He noted that Dunkin' Donuts franchises are piled up near each other across the Boston. When that argument fell flat, Linskey pointed to dry cleaners - including his favorite, a guy he knows as Jimmy the Cleaner, near the District E-18 police station - which are all over Hyde Park and all of which manage to do well. One of the many union members who called into the meeting and who called himself "a Fairmount boy," played the pizza card - he noted that the Domino's on Fairmount Avenue had failed to knock out his favorite pizza place, Cappy's, just on the other side of Truman Parkway.

And then Larry Mayes spoke, and addressed what he claimed was the unfairness of the state marijuana law, which is supposed to give preference to cannabis proposals by "equity" companies - companies run by people who had been harmed by older drug laws or who are members of minority groups. Two of Evergreen's principals have marijuana convictions, one is Black.

Mayes, himself a Hyde Park resident, as well as vice president of programs at the Archdiocese of Boston's Catholic Charities, is Harvest's local director of diversity and equity. He said he grew up on welfare with a single mother and questioned the fairness of being penalized just because he stayed on the straight and narrow and never ran afoul of the law. "I don't want to feel like I'm being penalized because I didn't [get convicted]," he said.

What Mayes left out is that as a Black man, he would automatically be an "equity" candidate if he were a principal owner of the company, which, however, he isn't.

When the Boston Cannabis Board approved the Evergreen proposal last September, it cited the concern's equity status. The board rejected Harvest's proposal at the same meeting, but then approved it two months later after Harvest agreed to a minimum $18.50 hourly wage.

The Zoning Board of Appeals now has to decide whether to allow two cannabis shops closer together than the half-mile separation called for by city zoning code - after which the state Cannabis Control Commission would have to decide whether to issue permits.

Members of a variety of unions on the Zoom call - who outnumbered actual association members - added that by agreeing to go union, and to pay every worker at least $18.50 an hour and provide full benefits, Harvest would be bringing back good manufacturing jobs to a neighborhood that was once noted for such jobs.

But Jim Kirker, president of the neighborhood group, who stated he fully supports unions and decent wages, remained unconvinced.

He wondered why Harvest had to put its shop about a block away from Evergreen, rather than in any of the other unoccupied spaces along Hyde Park Avenue, like down by the Grandma's of New England coffee-cake plant - he asked why Harvest couldn't use the old Serino's building just for manufacturing and put the retail operation somewhere away from Evergreen.

He said Evergreen principals Sean Berte of Roslindale and Armani White of Roxbury "got screwed by really bad drug laws, in my opinion," and now a big corporation is threatening to stamp them out.

Ross said Harvest chose the Serino's location partly because it's more easily accessible to people with disabilities but also because it's an old manufacturing building with a relatively large amount of parking - Harvest plans some 34 parking spaces. And then he repeated that the company isn't out to hurt Evergreen.

Kirker said he also remains concerned about state action against Harvest in Ohio. Ross said he couldn't really talk about that, in part because he wasn't the lawyer involved, but then said there are facts that Kirker doesn't know, that any company that operates in seven states like Harvest is bound to run into some issues but that, in any case, the company did not pay a fine for whatever it was that happened.

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Comments

is quite excellent at finding new ways to make Bostonians loathe him

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Whenever he represents someone, there's never any doubt that one must automatically oppose whatever sketchy, greedy, terrible plan they have.

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Than a man who spent nearly seven years as a BPD drug detective, before which he spent time as a patrolman doing, among other things, undercover drug investigations?

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There is overwhelming support from residents for the jobs and the salaries that will be brought to Hyde Park.

The jobs will be Hyde Park jobs and help the Hyde Park neighborhood and its community, which the writer conveniently didn't add.

It seems like Jim and this writer are more interested in supporting their buddy than benefiting the entire community as a whole. Very sad to see and read.

Will

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But will now: He has yet to talk to a single Hyde Park resident who actually supports the Harvest proposal.

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It’s just a business. This is all, ultimately, silly.

Neither store is going to have any shortage of traffic. Let’s not feed into this with yet another industry and keep the neighborhood feudalism to a minimum.

I’m a minority and I understand the concerns here but I just don’t think it’s warranted. There’s so much pent up demand, and clustering might help in addition to this there’s a shopping plaza and a frequent bus line right there, with just a little ingenuity these both crews should be all set. They already approved a waiver in East Boston.

Get rid of the waiver it’s opened the door for subjective politicking and it’s ugly and exactly what we should be using this new opportunity to avoid.

What the alternative? Let the building sit vacant? Why? When does Boston grow the hell up?

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First let me congratulate Jim Kirker. This is exactly the way community groups like our Hyde Park N.A. are meant to hold people accountable. Closely scrutinizing proposals by businesses and asking them to explain their intentions, explain how they will conduct their business, and explain how they will devote resources to the local community is imperative.

But in the case of these two neighboring cannabis businesses, the basis for comparison is unfair. It does not come close to comparing apples with apples. The scope and size of the concessions that the Boston Cannabis Board, the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, as well as other community groups have negotiated from Harvest guarantees that Harvest will be accountable to do so much more good for local people of color and local families. The ripple effect of the hundreds of good paying jobs will be vastly more impactful to Hyde Park families over the coming decades. Hundreds, and ultimately thousands of people of color in Hyde Park will be presented with a clear pathway to professional, sustainable, and profitable manufacturing careers in this industry.

And regardless of how you measure wealth, the owners of Evergreen Farms will still get rich selling marijuana in Hyde Park, but the Massachusetts cannabis legislation was not just meant to help TWO disproportionately impacted owners like Amari and Sean. The legalization of this industry, and the intent of the Boston Cannabis Board was to begin repairs to the damage done in ENTIRE disproportionately impacted neighborhoods and for ENTIRE generations of disproportionately impacted peoples.

With the proper guidance from us and groups we already trust, Harvest will be held accountable for hundreds and hundreds of Hyde Park families to ensure they realize the promises made by legalization.

This is a real opportunity to do much much good.

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Drugs, Inc. Big money to be made. Legalize cocaine and investors would be even wealthier. It all comes from a plant from the good earth.

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I am a neighbor of this project. I couldn’t find why Boston grants variances to zoning but in general “the variance request is justified only if special conditions exist on the lot that create a hardship making it too difficult to comply with the code's normal requirements. Likewise, a request for a variance on a normal lot with no special conditions could judiciously be denied. The special conditions or hardship typically must arise from some physical configuration of the lot or its structures. The financial or personal situation of the applicant normally cannot be taken into consideration. Under most codes governing variances, approval of the variance must not result in a public health or safety hazard and must not grant special privilege to the property owner. In other words, when a variance is granted, any other property owner with similar site conditions should be able to obtain a similar variance; this criterion is often addressed by citing precedent.

I would love to see a layout of their 37 spaces. Are they eliminating use of the loading docks? How many employees will there be? With the city looking to install bike lanes and bus lanes on Hyde Park Avenue how will the traffic be impacted as this location.

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