Chelsea city councillors are looking at ways
in which they can legally find a way to reserve some of the recreation
marijuana licenses for Chelsea residents.
Councillor Roy Avellaneda forwarded an order
recently to reserve at least two of the four recreational licenses for Chelsea
residents, as so many residents have been impacted by the War on Drugs and the
prosecution of marijuana possession crimes.
Avellaneda said his order is to amend the
current retail marijuana ordinance in similar fashion to Somerville and Boston.
At the state level, the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) signaled early on
that it would approve licenses quicker in communities like Chelsea that
historically have been heavily impacted by drug prosecution.
However, Avellaneda and other councillors
said they have only seen well-heeled investors from out of town turning up to
take advantage of that designation in Chelsea.
“The recent rush we have seen by well-funded
and politically connected individuals and groups to apply for the available
licenses puts those living in communities like Chelsea at a serious
disadvantage,” he said. “The goal of the legislation I have introduced is to
provide a two-year window for two of the four licenses just for Chelsea
residents or a business entity comprised of 60 percent Chelsea residents…I
think we would have better host agreements and community benefits
offered by an individual or group based from Chelsea than from someone with no
connections to this city. Should we allow the money made from these lucrative
licenses leave the city? Or should we try to keep that revenue here?”
The Council held a Committee of the Whole
meeting on Monday night, Feb. 4, to discuss the matter and try to find a
Council President Damali Vidot said she and
Avellaneda and the rest of the Council seem to be on the same page with the
idea, but may differ on how to accomplish it.
“My concern at Monday’s meeting and a
couopld of other councillor’s concerns were that we could be interfering with a
business’s right ot commerce,” she said. “If I own an adult-use shop and want
to sell it, I don’t know if we can limit who you sell it to. We don’t want to
want to enter into a place where there are so many limits on their
investment…Also, we’re only allowing the rich to get richer. If you live in
Chelsea and have the money to buy one of these, you’re obviously already rich.”
She said the marijuana licenses mimic the
regulations for liquor stores, and there are no such limits on liquor licenses.
That said, she agreed that Avellaneda has a
good idea that needs to be explored and hopefully implemented in some fashion
to help Chelsea residents – to empower those economically who have been
affected in the past.
Avellaneda said the idea is consistent with
the recent 100 percent residency requirement for all new police and fire hires,
as well as the affordable housing requirement for Chelsea residents.
“It asks that any new jobs created in
Chelsea have a priority for Chelsea residents,” he said. “I doubt Chelsea would
lose any opportunities or see a delay in applications because any outsider
looking to open in Chelsea would look to partner with a Chelsea resident rather
than risk losing a chance at a license by waiting two years.”
Western Front Moving
Quickly on Webster
The Economic Empowerment marijuana proposal
on Webster Avenue is moving quickly through the local process for a marijuana
dispensary at 121 Webster Ave.
Western Front is a minority-owned firm that
received the Economic Empowerment designation from the state last spring, and
had its community meeting shortly after. The firm plans to open a dispensary
and also employ those who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs –
particularly people from the Chelsea. The ownership of the company comes from
Boston and Cambridge though.
Western Front is scheduled to go before the
Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. It is the first ZBA hearing
in Chelsea for a marijuana proposal.