By Devyani Chhetri
BU News Service
CAMBRIDGE – Peppered with murals depicting the city’s multicultural and multinational inflections and filled with stores for the tastebuds of a vagabond, anyone who lives near Central Square knows that the heart of Cambridge is always busy.
It’s here where Revolutionary Clinics, a medical marijuana dispensary, opened its third store last week and hosted its grand opening Thursday.
Streams of medical marjiuana users and veterans walked through the doors of the store and circled the room to look at different variants of the flower.
One of them was Lynn Julian, a Boston Marathon bombing survivor and an invited speaker for the store’s grand opening.
Julian was one of the spectators on the sides of the 2013 marathon when the bombs went off.
“The pain was out of my control,” Julian said while recounting the aftermath of the bombings.
She suffered a brain injury that led to debilitating migraines and severe post traumatic stress that kept her confined to her house.
“I would just pray all night, cry and pray again for God to take the pain away, or just take me away,” Julian said.
Like many trauma survivors, Julian relied on cannabis to relieve pain and avoid the use of opioids and muscle relaxers. For her, another store in Massachusetts meant the state was helping patients like her alleviate pain.
“Ideally we need a dispensary in every neighborhood,” she said. “There are people suffering with severe levels of anxiety and are not able to take public transportation to get to a dispensary outside of their neighborhood.”
At this point, Revolutionary Clinics only runs a medical marijuana dispensary. Along with Sira Naturals and other medical dispensaries, the company has been trying to move into the recreational use market. But its biggest challenger is the Cambridge City Council.
The council passed an measure in 2019 banning existing medical marijuana industries from transitioning into the recreational use market for two years. They argued that smaller businesses run by social equity applicants would benefit if a two year berth was given to them.
Revolutionary Clinics filed and won a lawsuit against the city arguing that the council cannot legally block their participation in the recreational industry. But the city has appealed the decision.
“We wanted to work with the city on an alternative plan where other industry players joined us to put together a fund that amounted to $7.5 million as a grant fund for aspiring minority players,” Cooper said.
Cooper said the biggest challenge in the industry was the lack of money when setting up a store.
“We’ve been working on [setting up the store] for two years,” Cooper said. “That’s millions of dollars spent in paying rent, construction and licenses. So an ordinary person walking down the street would find this very difficult to do.”
Cooper said that the grant fund could’ve aided that process.
But critics have argued that the city’s decision to place a two-year ban is essential because minority businesses would for once get the opportunity to be first in line. Cooper disagreed.
“We did not ask for money in that lawsuit,” Cooper said. “We did not ask for the lawsuit to slow anybody else down. This isn’t about us versus them. It’s about all players holding the ends and being shoulder to shoulder moving forward.”
The company first opened its Somerville store in 2017 and expanded to Cambridge’s Fawcett Street for a second store in 2018. In Somerville, the store has embedded itself into the community.
“We’re a company that believes in being a good neighbor,” said Tom Schneider, chief marketing officer of Revolutionary Clinics. “Citizens of the neighborhood and business owners meet quarterly in meetings held by the Somerville Community Advisory and we make collective decisions on who we’re going to support.”
Schneider said the company also works on issues that the community might face due to the store’s operations, but the response till now has been positive.
“We have a very tight operation. As far as security and cleanliness goes, our cameras have also helped the community in dealing with crime,” he said, adding that the company wanted to replicate the same involvement in Cambridge.
Meanwhile in Worcester, the Cannabis Control Commission, which has been keeping an eye on the ongoing lawsuit between Cambridge and Revolutionary Clinics, unanimously voted Thursday to consult the Attorney General’s office about filing a letter or brief detailing its regulatory intent and regulations regarding medical dispensaries and equity applicants instead of intervening as a third party in this issue.
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