A Dorchester man who won approval to open a cannabis shop on Harvard Avenue in Allston yesterday sued the Zoning Board of Appeal for approving a Mattapan woman's proposal to open her own cannabis shop on the same block.
In his suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, Eric Lawrence, owner of the proposed Marijuana United for Social Equity at 116 Harvard Ave., said there was no true hardship that required the zoning board to grant a variance from the city's half-mile marijuana buffer zone to Leah Zamura's proposed Dr. Greenthumb's shop at 144 Harvard Ave.
If both win state approval, they could be the second and third cannabis shops on Harvard Avenue - a third applicant is hoping to expand a medical-marijuana dispensary to offer "adult use" cannabis at 230 Harvard Ave., on the other side of Comm. Ave.
Lawrence was joined in his suit by the owner of Basics Carpet & Furniture, across Harvard Avenue from the proposed Dr. Greenthumb's and the owner and one resident of an apartment building at 124 Glenville Ave., who argue the new shop would cause traffic and parking problems in the area.
The zoning board approved the proposed Dr. Greenthumb's at a hearing last month, granting a variance to let the outlet open less than a half mile from another cannabis shop - a condition set in an ordinance passed by the City Council in 2016 to prevent any neighborhoods from turning into Kevin-style "green miles" with one pot shop after another.
Lawrence, though his Mass Greenwoods, LLC, which would operate the 116 Harvard Ave. shop, argues that Zamura's application failed to prove a need for a variance - there is nothing unusual about her proposed location's lot size or shape and there are other businesses that could operate there without needing a variance. The suit alleges Zamura's company paid "one or more members of the public" to testify on its behalf at public hearings.
The suit asks a judge to annul the board's approval of her project.
Despite the ordinance, the mayor's office initially and then the Boston Cannabis Board have repeatedly approved cannabis concerns way closer to each other than a half mile. The zoning board has often gone along, but sometimes angrily, saying the mayor's office and the cannabis board had put it in a tenuous position.
At the hearing on Dr. Greenthumb's however, Paul Sullivan, an aide to City Councilor Michael Flaherty (at large), who sponsored that ordinance, said the goal was never to absolutely block all pot shops within a half mile of each other, but to ensure that additional eyes, through such as the zoning board, made sure that any proposed shops would not unduly burden a neighborhood. "Adult-use cannabis has come a long way" since 2016, Sullivan said, noting that marijuana legalization got 84% of the vote the precinct the shop would be in. And so Flaherty was in "non-opposition" to Dr. Greenthumb's, he said.
State Reps. Mike Moran and Kevin Honan also supported the proposal, noting that Zamura, as a black woman, was an "equity applicant" who should get special attention as a member of a group that historically suffered more than others from the war on drugs. Lawrence, a black man, is also an "equity applicant," while the proposal on the other side of Comm. Ave. is by a company that is not.
Tony D'Isidoro, president of the Allston Civic Association, noted there is actually a fourth proposed marijuana mart on Cambridge Street, but said it was just past the half-mile buffer. He said his group took no stand on the Dr. Greenthumb's proposal, deciding instead to leave the issue up to the zoning board.
Board member Mark Erlich, who has typically been the board's most vocal member in complaining about dueling applications under the buffer ordinance, moved without comment to approve the proposed Dr. Greenthumb's. The board approved it 6-1.