What’s next for adult-use marijuana in Brookline

Brookline Police guard the front entrance of New England Treatment Access on Sunday, Feb. 10, located at 160 Washington Ave. in Brookline. (Photo by Sofia Saric/BU News Service)

By Sofia Saric
BU News Service

BOSTON — Brookline residents continue to have mixed reactions about the town’s first adult-use marijuana storefront, which received a final license from the state Cannabis Control Commission on March 7. There are three additional licenses that can be distributed in Brookline.

Amanda Rositano, director of Operational Compliance for New England Treatment Access (NETA), which is planning to open in March, said they have kept the community involved in the process.

“We engaged the community heavily for our medical opening and while there was some pushback from residents at the time, we feel that we have since proven we are a responsible operator and neighbor,” Rositano said. “As such, the process for adult-use licensing garnered much less concern.”

Residents have voiced concerns about traffic congestion and parking issues.

NETA had special permit and Select Board licensing as of late 2018, but is awaiting authorization from the Cannabis Control Commission to commence operations.

Their team presented an opening plan during a Brookline Select Board meeting Feb. 12.

Neil Wishinsky, Select Board chairman, said during the meeting that NETA will be the first or one of the first adult-use cannabis retailers inside Route 128.

“From my perspective sitting up here the entire time, NETA has been very responsive to concerns and issues that have come up,” he said to a small group at the meeting.

NETA has been open as a medical marijuana supplier at 160 Washington St. in Brookline since February 2016. The company opened one of the first adult-use stores in Massachusetts last year in Northampton.

Stephanie Pazos, 36, is a Brookline resident who lives near the NETA location.

“It’s akin to having a glass of wine at the end of the day to unwind,” Pazos said. “I think a majority of the town is for it, but those that are against it are certainly vocal about it.”

Voter-approved zoning measures

The number of recreational marijuana stores that are allowed to open in Brookline is 20 percent of the total number of the town’s liquor licenses for package stores, which sell alcohol for off-premises consumption, according to the Brookline Marijuana-Related Warrant Article 18.

Brookline’s Economic Developer Trevor Johnson said that up to three more recreational marijuana shops could potentially open in addition to NETA — if they’re approved. Ultimately, he said, the town could have a total of five cannabis shops if it grants more packaged liquor store licenses.

“There is a robust and relatively time-intensive review process, but this is a new use,” Johnson said. “People are unsure of what it will mean for their community, so we want to make sure that there is an appropriate level of review, and that we are really doing due diligence to understand what the impacts might be.”

Although there are no applications for permits processing at this time, Johnson said the town’s zoning also allows for other operations such as cultivation, lab testing, delivery services and social lounges.

“In general, as the town voted, we are interested and open to new kinds of marijuana-related industries,” Johnson said.

In November 2016, nearly 60 percent of Brookline residents voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana.

Paul Greenberg, 56, a health economist who lives in Washington Square, said he voted in favor of legalizing cannabis even though he doesn’t use it.

“It’s just not something we should be creating another version of Prohibition around,” Greenberg said. “As someone who studies health effects and issues of that sort it is not like I think highly of the use of the product — but I don’t think highly of the criminalization of it, either.”

Other potential locations

There are three adult-use marijuana establishment proposals in Brookline in addition to NETA: Sanctuary Medicinals at 1351 Beacon St.; Comm. Ave. Canna, Inc at 1030 Commonwealth Ave.; and Mission Mass. at 1022-1024 Commonwealth Ave. Ascend Mass. recently withdrew its application to open for retail sales at 1032 Beacon St.

Karen Bloom, 56, a resident near the proposed location for Sanctuary Medicinals in Coolidge Corner, said people are going to use marijuana recreationally regardless of legality, so having legal access seems safer.

“I’ve noticed on social media that there tends to be a lot of concerns, but it’s generally from parents of teenagers who are concerned about their teenagers having easy access to marijuana,” Bloom said.

Sanctuary Medicinals is the farthest along in the application process. The company applied for state licensing in November 2018 following a host community agreement and has received official reports from three major divisions: Engineering & Transportation, Fire, and Health & Human Services.

Beatka Zakrzewski, a Brookline resident located on Park Street, said she is against adult-use marijuana being sold in Brookline, but if the town must have adult-use facilities she would support a limited number opening on a timed basis.

“As a parent of two young children, I am very worried about the effect of having such establishments in our community,” Zakrzewski said. “We feel safe in our neighborhood today; I worry that that feeling will quickly disappear once we have marijuana retailers on our corners.”

In accordance with state laws, an adult may possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana on your person if you are at least 21 years of age and not more than 5 grams of that marijuana may be in concentrate form.

NETA allows adult-use consumers to purchase up to 1 ounce of flower or up to 5 grams of concentrate or a combination of the two.

Adult use marijuana has a state sales tax of 6.25 percent, a state excise tax of 10.75 percent, and an optional local tax of up to 3 percent. Brookline imposed the maximum 3 percent local sales tax.

Sofia Saric is a Boston University journalism student writing as part of a collaboration between the Brookline TAB and BU News Service.

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