With its thriving biotech incubator culture and socially progressive label, Cambridge seems like it would be an easy place to open a medical weed dispensary. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the case.
After winning state approval for a proposed operation on First Street in East Cambridge, the Greeneway Wellness Foundation was opposed by a cranky condo association, and also ran afoul of the Cambridge City Council, which approved a marijuana zoning district that left them 60 feet out of bounds. The city may bend over backwards for Big Pharma and the like, but for pot dispensaries, it’s been a battle every inch of the way.
“When we learned that our proposed location was outside of the appropriate zone, we instantly embarked on a search for property that fit the conditions set forth by the city of Cambridge,” says Greeneway CEO John Greene. “Throughout the past months, we’ve been working with the surrounding community, the city administration, and elected officials to find a suitable location within the zone for our dispensary. We’re leaving no stone unturned.”
So why is it so difficult? For one, as Greene recently told the Cambridge Wicked Local outlet, “The state’s 500-foot buffer from any location where ‘children typically congregate’–coupled with the overlay zones–make finding a suitable location tricky.” As such, Greeneway has yet to find an adequate replacement location.
Enter Cambridge city councilor and Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Leland Cheung. The only councilor to respond to Blunt Truth inquiries for this story, he writes, “I’m working with [the Greeneway] attorney to help them secure a space that is within the zoning approved by the Council. I don’t think there are any roadblocks so I hope you wouldn’t paint the Council as obstructionist in any way. We’ve been very proactive to provide a sound framework to provide medication to those in desperate need while at the same time following complex state rules and local ordinance and zoning.”
Greene doesn’t disagree. Of Cheung, he says: “I think he’s a smart man, a visionary. I think he could be the next lieutenant governor … The smartest thing we can do as a community is to support him.”
Still, even with Cheung’s support, Greeneway faces incredible odds. “Miracles have happened every step of the way for Greeneway to get to this point,” Greene says. “Belief is a powerful force, we do have that. It’s going to take a huge push to get this through. I don’t think people really understand [that] we need your support … I appreciate that you [Mike Cann] wrote the Cambridge city council as a resident and columnist. I hope more patients and citizens will take a minute to do the same. It makes a difference for patients … I’m doing this for my father, who passed of cancer, and I do want people to hear that side of my story.”
With Greene’s side of the story noted, I also asked some local marijuana patients who would benefit from having close proximity to a dispensaries in Boston, Cambridge, and every other place they’re not coming soon enough. Steve Saling, a Chelsea resident who worked on the ballot campaign for medical pot, says he’s “pretty desperate for the dispensaries to open.” He continues: “Like most medical marijuana patients, I need access to consistent medicine that is a strain that targets my symptoms. But I especially need the dispensaries because I live in a nursing home. The administration here supports the law but they cannot allow their employees to assist with black market cannabis … Without medicine, the severe spasticity I experience because of my ALS makes my whole body ache. Paralysis is not so bad if you’re not in agony. The dispensaries will guarantee that I can be comfortable every day.”
Adds Danilo Yore, another patient in waiting: “Marijuana is a gateway drug. For me it’s a gateway to a better life free from affliction of epilepsy. I don’t live in fear of hospitals or going outside in public. It’s been awhile since my last hospitalization, and I owe it all to cannabis. Thank you.”