A company about to open its first pot shop in Williamstown hopes to come to the other side of the state and turn a gardening and flower shop on American Legion Highway in Roslindale into a dispensary that would offer pot to both medicinal users and people who just want to get high.
Silver Therapeutics owners, who have a tentative 40-year lease on the City Farm property, aid they would tear down most of the current garden shop, which they described as in poor shape, but would keep part of one greenhouse for use as a training area for local residents looking to get into the marijuana business. The store itself would have roughly 3,000 square feet of space.
Most of the company's owners are out-of-towners, but one investor is Bruce Bickerstaff of Roxbury - a member of the city zoning board. It also has a local lawyer and security consultant - former City Councilor Mike Ross is handling legal issues and former BPD Superintendent Joseph Harris security matters.
At a meeting of the MHCM/American Legion Neighborhoods Association tonight, residents expressed concerns about traffic, crime, children and landscaping.
American Legion Highway is a commuter shortcut full of curb cuts for both stores and residences - with virtually non-existent MBTA bus service. Residents worried that a store that might see 350 customers a day would only exacerbate traffic and lead to customers doing stupid stuff like double parking on the busy road.
Ross said the shop would put in around 16 parking spaces in the rear - and that there is enough room in back to add more parking if required. He said the store's entrance would also be in the back - there would be no entrance in the front to attract passers by. The company hopes to hire a traffic consultant to look at traffic issues and design an entrance and exit that would minimize impacts on the roadway.
Residents expressed concern about people using their backyards to try to break into the store and rob it, and about the sort of element a pot shop would attract to the neighborhood.
Ross said Harris obviously knows from security. Company President Joshua Silver said that stores no longer have to have large amounts of cash on hand, because Massachusetts banks have begun giving accounts to marijuana companies, which lets them do many of their transactions electronically. The marijuana in the store - which would be delivered from a company growing facility in Orange - is kept in a vault, Ross said.
Capt. Joseph Gillespie of District E-18 said he had reviewed the company's initial security plan and pronounced it good.
Although some residents were convinced, others were not buying it. One said he likes being in a safe neighborhood with little crime. "This is the first time I've ever been concerned about living here," he said. Another resident, though, said he worried the shop would lead to more incidents like one in which his neighbors were tied up and robbed by home invaders who masqueraded as police.
Residents worried about people buying pot and then distributing it to local kids, which led to the next big concern:
Residents noted the proposed location is right across American Legion from the Home for Little Wanderers and down the street from the Haley School. There's also a nearby DYS facility and a Mormon church. One resident recalled how easy it was for him to get liquor once he turned 12. Even if kids are barred from the over-21 store, what's to stop customers from sharing their goods with local kids?
Ross said everything the store would sell would be in a bag with an embedded RFID chip, so in the unlikely event that happened, the store could trace the product back to the customer. and not only ban him permanently but report him to police.
American Legion Highway is, technically, a parkway whose commercial neighbors are, in theory at least, supposed to help create a "green belt" along the road.
Ross said Silver Therapeutics would be more than happy to work with residents on a landscaping plan that could include a bike lane.
The company said it would begin one-on-one discussions with direct neighbors with specific concerns - such as one who asked about possibly putting in a fence between the shop's property and his residential complex. It plans to come back to the association with more detailed security and landscaping plans.
If those meetings go well, the company would then negotiate with the mayor's office for a "host agreement" that would specify how the company would meet neighborhood concerns. If it gets such an agreement, it would then go before the Zoning Board of Appeals for its approval at a public hearing - Bickerstaff said he would recuse himself from any such hearing. Then, finally, the company would apply to the state Cannabis Control Commission for a license.