JPNC Hears Update on CORE Empowerment Cannabis Shop

On January 26, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) heard an update from the CORE Empowerment team about their adult-use cannabis shop set to open at 401 Centre St.

CORE Empowerment Chef Executive Officer April Arrasate said that the conversation would address “major concerns” that the JPNC had previously expressed regarding this proposal, especially plans for crowd management and parking, as well as plans for opening.

She said the team has been speaking with the Hyde Square Merchants Association and is also “working hard to revitalize the space” where the shop will be. “We’ve made a big investment in the space to bring a lot of business and sort of sophistication to that building,” Arrasate said.

The shop has passed its initial Cannabis Control Commission inspection, and is expected to be on the state agenda for February 11, Arrasate said, adding that the team is “working hard” to ensure that all portions of the Host Community Agreement are met.

Once a final inspection is completed, “it could be as short as three days or two weeks” for the shop to open, she said. Right now, the team is planning on opening in late February.

As far as crowd management, Arrasate said that the shop will have a police detail for the first month of operation, as well as an employee at the door who will check IDs.

She said that no appointment system will be used, as the team does not feel it is necessary both due to COVID-19 and the fact that there are more dispensaries open in Boston and the surrounding area.

There will be six point of sale areas as well as “roving purveyors who can help people move through the space and make sure they’re not congregating and impacting the street and sidewalk,” Arrasate said.

This location will also be home to a social justice cannabis museum, as previously reported.

Arrasate said that the team is “looking into additional security providers,” and a director of security has been hired. Only prepackaged product will be delivered to the facility, so there will be no open product on the premises at any time.

Tomas Gonzalez, CORE Empowerment’s Chief of Staff, said that the team is working with the Boston Transportation Department to change signage in the neighborhood, as well as include a pickup/drop-off location right in front of the building.

There was also some discussion around the host community agreement, which the Arrasate said is “pretty standard” across the board, and 3 percent of money made at the shop goes back to the City.

“We voluntarily said we want to donate within the first five years of operation half a million dollars to local organizations,” she said.

There was also some discussion around the billboard that is currently on top of the building, and JPNC member Max Glikman showed a billboard in Lynn for Apothca, another dispensary, that heavily advertised the marijuana shop.

He asked CORE Empowerment if they planned on doing the same thing with that billboard.

“We have not determined what to do about that yet,” Arrasate said. “We’re looking at every possible option.”

JPNC member Michael Reiskind said that he “would like you to try to commit to not using that billboard to advertise marijuana, adding that “it looks like it’s a loophole to get around the discreet signage requirement for the building per state rules.”

Arrasate said that the team “cannot commit to not using the billboard because it would just limit us in a lot of ways.” She said she agrees that the one in Lynn was “distasteful,” but she said the team “can commit to not having giant letters that say ‘marijuana establishment’” should they use the billboard. She also said that if a “tasteful billboard” is created, it would prevent other dispensaries from using the billboard for their own advertisement.

Arrasate also added that “SEED” is the DBA for the dispensary, and the “museum will hold the CORE name.”

As far as parking, Arrasate said that the team is “working hard to get signage changed and enforcement. We do not have a separate lot.”

The team had originally said they were trying to work out deals with nearby lots to provide parking for its customers, but all possibilities fell through, she said.

The team also said that the previously proposed shared valet with other businesses in the district was not feasible now because of the pandemic.

“People will be circling around the neighborhood,” said JPNC member Gert Thorn. “There was a valid parking study.”

Arrasate said that there was never a requirement for a lot or parking spaces. “Drop-off/pickup is a way to quell that situation,” she said.

JPNC member Priscilla Yang said that the shop should require appointments “from a public health perspective to keep people from congregating there.” She said, “it’s a public sidewalk and others need to be able to pass by.”

Arrasate said, “I understand completely what you’re saying,” but she said the online ordering system has been very successful for other dispensaries and she thinks that will be helpful here as well.

“There has been a movement more towards online ordering where there is no true blue customer experience,” said CORE Empowerment’s Chief Financial Officer Peri Higgins. She said people are placing online orders and are given a time window for pickup, and they pay in an express lane and leave.

“We think that that will certainly assist in not having lines and queuing,” she said.

No vote was necessary from the JPNC.

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