Which dispensaries will open their doors this year?
Where will they be located?
What about priority applicants?
Of the zillion questions swirling around recreational cannabis in Mass, those three top the list. They also spur discussions that Holistic Health Group, which is building a cultivation center in Middleboro plus dispensaries in Dorchester and Worcester, should be front and center in.
The composition of the company alone makes HHG unique. Namely, it boasts that in addition to being “a registered marijuana dispensary priority applicant under the state’s [Cannabis Control Commission] regulations”—a designation it earned by way of prior provisional approval as a Registered Medical Dispensary (RMD)—“a majority of its owners are also individuals who qualify under the State’s economic empowerment priority application guidelines.”
One of those owners, Colonel Boothe, qualified as a person of color. Another, Tim McNamara, had been arrested for possession, which also afforded him a spot toward the front of the line. Such prime placement is just one piece of a labyrinthine puzzle, though, and for this pair it is just the latest step in a process that’s already consumed years and has no certain end in sight.
“You start with the application of intent, you throw your hat in the ring, and you realize how big of a thing you’re getting into,” McNamara told DigBoston.
With Holistic Health Group working overtime to set up shop in Fields Corner, and in the middle of a complex zoning variance process as well as commencing community outreach efforts, we asked Boothe and McNamara about their plans for the neighborhood.
On choosing Dorchester…
TM: We have been looking at Dorchester for about a year and a half. I spent time in Fields Corner myself as a child, our CEO was raised in Dorchester, and we knew that areas like that had been disproportionately impacted [by the War on Drugs]. … We believe the area is in line with a lot of the goals that we have.
CB: Essentially, given that urban areas have been more negatively affected by the War on Drugs, we chose to be the group that focuses on trying to open cannabis businesses within urban areas where we can provide economic opportunities. We’re really focused on places like Worcester and Dorchester that have been hit hard. … A lot of people of color in those areas haven’t really had the opportunity to even get into the cannabis industry, so we’re looking to Fields Corner, where we can work with a community [where people have] been through years and years of harassment for smoking cannabis.
TM: Dorchester also has some pretty unique commuter rail access to Middleboro [where their cultivation facility is located]. Even if somebody doesn’t have their own vehicle, [they can get to Middleboro using MBTA trains].
On the breadth of opportunities they hope to offer…
TM: There’s the retail aspect of the industry, and there’s definitely skill to listening to what people are looking for and making suggestions. But in Massachusetts, which is a medical hub, we want to offer people who are in places like Dorchester a chance to not just work at the dispensary but to understand the whole business and be able to, number one, explain what goes into the growth and process of the product, and number two, if they have the motivation and a certain type of skill, that they have an opportunity to perhaps work in a different field within our company or industry that would match their goals. That’s the building up of the knowledge base.
On next steps…
TM: We’re really looking for support from folks who understand the industry and those who see this as an opportunity.
CB: As we spend more time in [Dorchester and Worcester], we’ve been meeting and talking with older folks, a lot of whom were very averse to cannabis, and I’m finding that the more time you spend educating them on the benefits of cannabis, the more they’re showing interest. We do anticipate some apprehension from the older community, but we know that there are people in that age bracket that are open-minded.
Anyone interested in employment is encouraged to attend HHG’s open house taking place at 1548 Dorchester Ave. in Dorchester on Thu, Aug 16 from 5 to 7pm.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.