By Miranda Suarez
BU News Service
BOSTON – Residents criticized downtown medical marijuana dispensary Patriot Care at a public hearing last night for breaking its agreement with the city never to sell recreational marijuana at that location.
About 30 people attended the community outreach hearing on Federal St. hosted by Patriot Care CEO, Bob Mayerson. Holding a public outreach hearing is the first step in applying for a recreational marijuana license, according to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission.
The dispensary at 21 Milk St., five minutes away from the meeting, was the city’s first registered medical marijuana dispensary when it opened in 2016.
The agreement has changed because it was made over a year before voters approved Question 4, the ballot initiative that legalized recreational marijuana, Mayerson said at the hearing.
“Based on the facts on the ground at that time, it was made with the sincere intent to deliver,” he said.
Mayerson predicted the opening of dozens more dispensaries in Boston will spread out demand.
“It won’t all fall disproportionately on one location,” he said.
Patriot Care opposed Question 4, said Dennis Kunian, a spokesperson for the company, but then Question 4 won in Boston with 62 percent of the vote.
“The city and state put us in the position where we had to do this,” Kunian said.
Patriot Care would not have made the promise if they did not see legalization as a possibility, said Rishi R. Shukla, a member of the Downton Boston Residents’ Association who attended the hearing.
“What you’re asking for is a complete 180,” Shukla said, “and, in my opinion, it’s not because there’s new information on the table.”
Kunian stressed the company’s focus is still medical. Patriot Care plans to offer recreational marijuana as a cheaper alternative for medical marijuana patients.
Getting a medical marijuana certification costs $245, according to Greenway Massachusetts, an online resource for patients applying for medical marijuana certifications.
Some patients might prefer to pay the 20 percent recreational marijuana tax instead and leave the medical marijuana program, Mayerson said.
“It really depends on how much you consume in a year,” Mayerson said. “People who are at the lower end of that are going to drop out.”
Although their marketing will stay the same, Patriot Care cannot ensure that all their customers are using marijuana for medicinal purposes, Kunian said.
Jeremiah MacKinnon, a Peabody resident and medical marijuana advocate, uses the marijuana he buys at Patriot Care to manage chronic muscle pain caused by scoliosis. He doesn’t see recreational marijuana being cheaper than what patients buy using their medical marijuana certification.
“The tax [on recreational marijuana] is going to add up,” he said.
Certified medical marijuana patients benefit from price cuts such as state-mandated hardship discounts and coupons, MacKinnon said.
Downtown Boston resident Faith Arter condemned Patriot Care for breaking its promise.
“The rest of this is a total slap in the face to this neighborhood,” Arter said.
Arter said she worried selling recreational marijuana could bring large, disruptive crowds to Downtown Boston.
“You have no way of controlling your crowds coming in there because all they have to show is they’re 21,” Arter said.
Businesses applying for a recreational marijuana licenses must hold an informational meeting for the community at least six months before filing their application, according to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission.
The Cannabis Control Commission does not yet know how many public outreach hearings have been held, a spokesperson wrote in an email. The commission will only start tracking data once applicants have registered with the licensing system.
Existing medical marijuana businesses like Patriot Care applying for recreational licenses will get priority, according to a press release from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. Priority applications open on April 16.
Patriot Care also plans to apply for recreational licenses at its two other locations: their main dispensary in Lowell and their upcoming dispensary in Greenfield.
Mayerson and Kunian stressed the store will run like it always has. There will be extra security and separate lines for recreational and medical marijuana users.