A national marijuana chain that wants to open a shop and cannabis-products manufacturing facility in Hyde Park tried last night to convince a skeptical president of the local neighborhood association that its place wouldn't mean the quick end to a smaller cannabis outlet proposed a few doors down by three local entrepreneurs.
First Harvest Group's local lawyer, Mike Ross, told the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association that its proposed Suns Mass. shop and plant, in the old Serino's building across from the America's Food Basket strip mall on Hyde Park Avenue, wouldn't really be competition for the proposed Evergreen Farms, because it wouldn't just sell recreational marijuana, but would also sell medicinal cannabis - and would include space where workers would created various marijuana-based products.
Besides, Ross, a former city councilor, said, Harvest is willing to help Evergreen start up by striking a deal to get it the marijuana "product" it would need to open up; he said that, as a start-up the locals would have trouble getting marijuana for a couple of years. He did allow, however, this is contingent on Evergreen signing a deal with the same union that Harvest has agreed to let represent the roughly 100 workers Harvest says its facility would employ.
Next, Dan Linskey, the company's security consultant - and former BPD superintendent-in-chief - said even if Harvest and Evergreen did compete, there's nothing wrong with that. He noted that Dunkin' Donuts franchises are piled up near each other across the Boston. When that argument fell flat, Linskey pointed to dry cleaners - including his favorite, a guy he knows as Jimmy the Cleaner, near the District E-18 police station - which are all over Hyde Park and all of which manage to do well. One of the many union members who called into the meeting and who called himself "a Fairmount boy," played the pizza card - he noted that the Domino's on Fairmount Avenue had failed to knock out his favorite pizza place, Cappy's, just on the other side of Truman Parkway.
And then Larry Mayes spoke, and addressed what he claimed was the unfairness of the state marijuana law, which is supposed to give preference to cannabis proposals by "equity" companies - companies run by people who had been harmed by older drug laws or who are members of minority groups. Two of Evergreen's principals have marijuana convictions, one is Black.
Mayes, himself a Hyde Park resident, as well as vice president of programs at the Archdiocese of Boston's Catholic Charities, is Harvest's local director of diversity and equity. He said he grew up on welfare with a single mother and questioned the fairness of being penalized just because he stayed on the straight and narrow and never ran afoul of the law. "I don't want to feel like I'm being penalized because I didn't [get convicted]," he said.
What Mayes left out is that as a Black man, he would automatically be an "equity" candidate if he were a principal owner of the company, which, however, he isn't.
When the Boston Cannabis Board approved the Evergreen proposal last September, it cited the concern's equity status. The board rejected Harvest's proposal at the same meeting, but then approved it two months later after Harvest agreed to a minimum $18.50 hourly wage.
The Zoning Board of Appeals now has to decide whether to allow two cannabis shops closer together than the half-mile separation called for by city zoning code - after which the state Cannabis Control Commission would have to decide whether to issue permits.
Members of a variety of unions on the Zoom call - who outnumbered actual association members - added that by agreeing to go union, and to pay every worker at least $18.50 an hour and provide full benefits, Harvest would be bringing back good manufacturing jobs to a neighborhood that was once noted for such jobs.
But Jim Kirker, president of the neighborhood group, who stated he fully supports unions and decent wages, remained unconvinced.
He wondered why Harvest had to put its shop about a block away from Evergreen, rather than in any of the other unoccupied spaces along Hyde Park Avenue, like down by the Grandma's of New England coffee-cake plant - he asked why Harvest couldn't use the old Serino's building just for manufacturing and put the retail operation somewhere away from Evergreen.
He said Evergreen principals Sean Berte of Roslindale and Armani White of Roxbury "got screwed by really bad drug laws, in my opinion," and now a big corporation is threatening to stamp them out.
Ross said Harvest chose the Serino's location partly because it's more easily accessible to people with disabilities but also because it's an old manufacturing building with a relatively large amount of parking - Harvest plans some 34 parking spaces. And then he repeated that the company isn't out to hurt Evergreen.
Kirker said he also remains concerned about state action against Harvest in Ohio. Ross said he couldn't really talk about that, in part because he wasn't the lawyer involved, but then said there are facts that Kirker doesn't know, that any company that operates in seven states like Harvest is bound to run into some issues but that, in any case, the company did not pay a fine for whatever it was that happened.