CAMH rejects proposed Terrace St. cannabis dispensary

At its May 19 meeting, the Community Alliance of Mission Hill (CAMH) rejected a proposed cannabis dispensary on Terrace St. Roughly 33 members of the public attended the meeting.

Raices on the Hill at 123 Terrace Street originally appeared before CAMH in 2019. It aims to set itself apart from other dispensaries by paying a liveable wage, hiring those who have been impacted by the “war on drugs”, and investing 10 percent of its profits into the local community.

“We want this to be a great place to work,” said presenter Jeffrey Sanchez.

The business has received support from organizations including the Mission Main Tenant Task Force and the Mildred C. Hailey Tenant Organization, elected officials such as State Rep. Nika Elugardo and City Councilor Kenzie Bok, and over 100 abutters and community members.

One of the abutters is the Diablo Glass School at the same address. The hallway leading to the dispensary, which will eliminate outdoor queues, will feature a window into the glass-blowing studio.

“My intention is to grow the business,” said Diablo owner Matthew O’Hara. “Sharing a space with Raices can be a big part of that.”

However, what was supposed to be a discussion on the Raices business plan devolved into an often-tense debate over cannabis legalization itself.

Some meeting attendees expressed concern about the proposed site’s proximity to area schools. Resident Andrew Bloniarz noted that schools in Boston are ubiquitous, stating, “You won’t go five steps in Boston without bumping into a school.”

Fenway High School teacher Bet Regan worried that customers could resell Raices’ product to her students. In response, Bloniarz alluded to the town’s already robust black market for cannabis: “People who want to access marijuana will access it, with or without a dispensary in the neighborhood.”

Kara Verrochi suggested that the presence of a dispensary would increase “bad behavior” among the college student population, but she didn’t specify what that behavior would include. Michael Balboni, a Harvard Medical School instructor, echoed that “pot” was “just as destructive [as alcohol]” and “linked to criminal behavior.”

Presenter Mike Ross encouraged opponents of legalization to examine the “years worth of data” contradicting these claims.

“People don’t get hopped up on pot and cause chaos,” he said.

Toni Komst criticized BPS school committee chairwoman Alexandra Oliver-Davila for becoming an investor in Raices.

“What will happen when the kids that [Oliver-Davila] works with find out she’s the owner of a pot shop?” she asked.

Oliver-Davila replied that she’s always been transparent with her students, and that a majority of them view cannabis legalization as a “way to stop the school-to-prison pipeline,” which disproportionately impacts young males of color. She explained that possession and distribution of cannabis is how many Black and Latino youths enter the criminal justice system.

“I have an issue with playing the race card to get support,” said Komst.

When the matter was brought to a vote, CAMH members voted 13-7 against the project. 

Because Boston voted to legalize recreational cannabis in 2016, the city must provide a total of 52 dispensary licenses, roughly 20 percent of its liquor licenses. The locations must be dispersed evenly throughout the neighborhoods.

Raices does not require CAMH support in order to move forward.

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