The first of two applicants unveiled its plans at the West End Museum to open a marijuana dispensary in the
neighborhood during a meeting sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services on Wednesday, Sept. 26.
Garden Remedies intends to open an adult-use, recreational and medical facility, including retail space on the ground level and storage and an employee break room in the basement, at 49 Causeway St., or 151 Merrimac St. After being selected as one of 11 out of 181 initial applications statewide, the company opened its first medical marijuana facility in Needham two years ago, and is slated to open a second medical facility in Melrose on Oct. 12.
The three locations would offers a selection of more than 50 different products, which in addition to traditional marijuana “flower,” includes topicals, edibles, vape pens and accessories, concentrates and other cannabis-infused items – all produced and packaged at Garden Remedies’ 81,000 square-foot cultivation facility in Fitchburg.
“We grow organically, and no one else [in the state] does that,” said Dr. Karen Munkacy, president and CEO of what she describes as the “only woman-physician-owned cannabis company in the state.”
A certified anesthesiologist, Dr. Munkacy was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and found marijuana helped her overcome nausea during chemotherapy. She went onto to become a major proponent of medical marijuana legalization and successfully worked to get it on the state ballot in the November of 2012 election.
“I was haunted by what I had to go through, break the law or suffer legally,” said Dr. Munkacy, adding that marijuana has also been used effectively treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, colitis and epilepsy, among other ailments.
“Education is a big part of our mission,” Dr. Munkacy said, adding that its staff aims to dissuade people from smoking marijuana by educating them on alternate, more health-conscious methods of ingestion besides combustion.
“It’s really a medicine that’s helped a tremendous amount of people, but they have to be taught how to use it properly,” Dr. Munkacy said, “and we have a medical focus, and that can’t be said of any other organization [statewide] that does this.”
Karen Hawkes, the company’s chief security officer and a Massachusetts State Trooper for 13 years, said Garden Remedies has a more comprehensive security plan than most banks, likening it to the security plan for a jewelry store, with cameras around the perimeter and throughout the site, among other measures.
Like Needham and Melrose, Hawkes said the Boston location would implement a “controlled access” system by which all would-be buyers would have to show identification three times before reaching the sales area. “It’s a layered system so entrance to one area doesn’t allow entry to the next,” she said.
The Boston location would also use the Minor Decliner age-verification scanner to ensure that all customers who enter the facility are 21 or older.
Duane Lucca, a West End resident and grandfather of two, opposes opening a marijuana facility in the neighborhood, and expressed concern that children in the neighborhood would be exposed to its open use: “What kind of message is this to send to the kids?” he asked.
And like others in attendance, Lucca said the facility should be located away from a main thoroughfare.
In contrast, W.F. Noble, also of the West End, supports the proposal and believes a marijuana facility would be less of a nuisance than the public consumption of alcohol, which he said is a pervasive problem throughout the neighborhood.
“I think people ought to give you a chance and let you do your thing,” Noble said to Garden Remedies representatives. “It would be much easier that way.”
Another applicant – Ascend Cannabis – presented its plans to open a retail marijuana shop on Friend Street during a meeting at the West End Museum on Oct. 4. Andrea Cabral, the state’s former secretary of public safety, is chief executive officer of the company, which is reportedly proposing a cultivation facility in Athol.