Marijuana dispensary pulls out of 1st St. location

Originally published Feb. 18, 2014 in the Cambridge Chronicle.

Related: State approves proposed Cambridge marijuana facility

After facing possible legal action from residents who were shocked to learn their building was listed as the proposed location for a medical marijuana dispensary, operators of the facility announced they will seek another location.

John Greene, founder of Greeneway Wellness Foundation, said he didn’t anticipate the proposal to site the dispensary at 11 First St. would elicit this kind of resistance from residents. The One First Street complex includes several hundred condominiums, but residents enter the building about a block from the Finagle a Bagel store, where Greene was hoping to locate.

“We want to be accepted by the community we’re in,” Greene said. “But, we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure we still educate that community about this business regardless of the fact that we’re not moving in.”

In a letter to the One First Street Condominium Association dated Feb. 11, Greene said the foundation never intended to circumvent the community process. Details of the proposed location emerged on Jan. 31 after the state Department of Public Health published approved licensees’ applications on their website.

Hannelore Lyasoff, president of the condo association told the Chronicle last week that the lack of outreach before the application was submitted constituted a “non-starter” in any conversation about siting the dispensary in the building. She did not return the Chronicle’s most recent request for comment.

“Unfortunately, the premature publication of our proposed location didn’t allow the Greeneway the opportunity to properly introduce ourselves and provide the residents of One First with the information necessary to make a fair and informed decision about the compatibility of the Greeneway dispensary at 11 First St.,” Greene said in the letter. “Although we regret how our non-profit has been introduced to the residents of One First, we are committed to opening a medical marijuana dispensary in Cambridge and view any opportunity to educate residents about our foundation as an opening to promote this much needed alternative medical treatment.”

Greene said the experience has been an important teaching lesson about how to do business in Cambridge. Education is still his primary goal, he said.

“Our first step will be to reach out to community residents and leaders both adjacent to any potential future location and to the broader Cambridge community as a whole,” Greene said in an email to the Chronicle. “Our primary goals are to educate about the benefits and uses of medical marijuana, engage in an open dialogue and create a process for responding to community needs and concerns. Most importantly, we want to create a partnership with the neighborhood as we move forward.”

City officials, including staff members and councilors, had said they supported the idea of a dispensary in general, but not the proposed location, which was just outside of the medical marijuana overlay district approved by the City Council last December. Greene said past attempts to locate within the district had been unsuccessful. The state’s 500-foot buffer from any location where “children typically congregate” coupled with the overlay zones make finding a suitable location tricky, he said.

But, Greene said he’s confident they will be able to locate in Cambridge.

“We’re trying to handle it in a way that’s responsible and sensitive to the community,” Greene said. “We want to be welcome here.”

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