Among the many cities and municipalities around Massachusetts that we’ve kept a close eye on since residents approved medical marijuana, Cambridge has received a significant amount of our attention. Though some Dig coverage has been critical, for the most part the People’s Republic has been acting as a role model. At least recently. So in our continuing dispatches on everything from permitting to seed to sale, I found myself back watching politics unfold in Central Square.
After efforts by community members to let Cambridge officials know they welcome a dispensary, on the night of Tuesday, June 16, the city’s planning board unanimously recommended that the City Council extend the current zoning overlay district to allow the Greeneway Wellness Foundation to open at their newly-leased 61 Mooney Street location. The request, which was backed by a petition signed by 20 Cambridge Highlands neighbors, was hard-fought for, with Greeneway Wellness CEO John Greene going door-to-door answering questions and gaining support.
According to the testimony of two Highlands neighbors who spoke up for the facility, this is an opportunity for someone – in this case Greene – to transform a vacant and blighted industrial lot into an attractive space. “I feel that Mr. Greene is sincere in wanting to be a good neighbor,” said one of the speakers. “I believe he will be an asset to our neighborhood.”
Of course, there’s still work to be done. In order to alleviate traffic concerns, Greene is looking for a way to offer free shuttle service for patients from Alewife Station. As for the critical zoning adjustment, the City Council is expected to approve it. To outsiders, this might seem obvious, as Cambridge is a well-known progressive and collegiate hotbed. In reality, considering the early hurdles and general impotency of city government here, it’s a welcome surprise.
Which brings me to another point … at this stage, it seems the real hurdle for Greeneway – and for patients still holding on, but without access – is the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Greeneway is one of 20 dispensaries with a provisional license from the DPH. That’s kind of the medical pot equivalent of a learner’s permit; so long as they follow the rules, operators were supposed to be behind the wheel by now. Or at least soon. Meanwhile, since the selection process was rocked by scandal and lawsuits, the timeline has been slowed yet again, with neither Governor Patrick nor the DPH showing concern for the patients they’re neglecting to serve.
Here’s how they can change that: The DPH should expedite licenses to any first-round provisional contenders that miraculously receive local approval.
Around here, it’s no secret that Democrats, and only Democrats – the governor, the speaker, whoever – can make that happen. If it doesn’t, they should expect it to become an issue in the current race for governor. If they can’t give voters what they want, then maybe someone from another party will.