Patriot Care, the medical marijuana dispensary approved for Boston, may be smoked out if influential board members at the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) get their way.
BID is a private nonprofit corporation that aims to improve the neighborhood to their liking. A few years ago, for example, they moved to expel pushcarts, which they believed were eyesores, until then-Mayor Tom Menino came to the carts’ rescue. Think Whitey Bulger in a suit and tie, and with economic sway rather than firepower. The BID board is a who’s who of privileged developers like David Epstein of The Abbey Group and Joseph Larkin of Millennium Partners, and this time their micromanagement entails barring access to Patriot Care, and as a result to its patients. From a BID statement on the matter: “The proposed medical marijuana dispensary at 21 Milk Street is broadly viewed as a business activity that will not advance the neighborhood’s positive momentum.”
David Ertischek, the BID’s communications manager, declined an opportunity to explain how his organization arrived at its conclusion. He also refused to answer questions about the numerous liquor licenses in the neighborhood, and about whether his group has considered studies that disprove the myth that dispensaries have a negative impact on municipalities.
“When Patriot Care presented to the Midtown Cultural District Residents’ Association, the president of the Boston BID, Rosemarie Sansone, had arrived with a decision made prior to the meeting, declaring that the businesses did not want a registered marijuana dispensary at 21 Milk Street,” says Nichole Snow, executive director of Mass Patients Advocacy Alliance. For her and others (including myself), it’s hard not to take such prejudiced positioning personally. Snow continues:
“Had the BID met with the representatives from Patriot Care or waited for a vote after participating in the presentation, I could say otherwise. But for now, it is clear that the Boston BID’s decision to oppose the Patriot Care dispensary has nothing to do with the specific proposal. It is opposition to medical marijuana in spirit, a stance clearly forbidden by the attorney general’s interpretation of the medical marijuana law … What is upsetting about this is that Patriot Care’s proposal to locate its dispensary at 21 Milk Street could possibly be denied based on arguments not grounded in fact. The truth is that the medical marijuana program in Massachusetts is the most highly regulated in the country, including measures that will prevent any unintended consequences feared by opponents.”
Patriot Care representative Dennis Kunian of The Kunian Group, addressed his frustration in dealing with the BID. “It’s been difficult,” he says. “They would not meet as a group; six or seven of them did meet with us out of the 34 board members and 26 advisors. There wasn’t any concern for patients expressed. One of their board members, a major developer who I won’t name, thought it was a big joke. Do you think the BID thinks about [somebody] who wants his medicine? No. The BID never mentions patients in their press release. What do they care? They don’t live in the neighborhood, most of them drive home to the suburbs every night. It’s sad because we know the citizens of Boston voted for and want this dispensary to open.”
Adds Kunian, who already has a dispensary operating in Washington, DC, where Patriot Care has yet to turn the neighborhood to fire and brimstone: “We chose this location because it is a crossroads for patients. It was carefully chosen for those that need a location close to public transportation.”
The BID claims, “for such an important issue we have found a lack of guidance, information and transparency from the state and organizations tasked with informing the public about medical marijuana, leaving the public with little opportunity to be heard.”
Meanwhile, Kunian believes that his plan would help improve the Downtown Crossing area. But like BID members, those in a position to facilitate his enterprise at City Hall are not likely to hear his ideas either, as the stubbornness shown by board members is buttressed by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who, just as this week’s DigBoston went to print, emerged as the potential self-appointed face of opposition to marijuana legalization in Mass.
It’s disappointing that the BID cannot be bothered to offer any basis for their decisions, or even a meeting with those who wish to open in their fiefdom. It’s no surprise though in a downtown climate in which the mayor himself, who is dedicated to assisting substance abusers, is not even willing to get informed about the use of cannabis to help opiate addicts.