Natick has been angling for retail adult-use marijuana shops since voters came out in support of legalizing recreational cannabis use back in 2016. The possibility of such an outlet opening this year got a boost this past week when the Select Board agreed to put in motion the processes that would allow an outfit called Cypress Tree Management to open a shop at Cloverleaf Mall, a handy spot on Speen Street for those looking to pick up some pot and then grab munchies at the new Aldi supermarket.
Cypress Tree was the top-ranked choice among a handful of contenders for up to two licenses in Natick as determined by a review group whose members include the town’s police chief and health director (recommendation and ranking document embedded below). Cypress Tree could make an appearance before the Select Board as soon as Feb. 10. Natick hasn’t had pushback from residents about this vendor’s location, which is not near single-family homes.
That pushback has been reserved for proposed shops on Rte. 9 that abut residential neighborhoods. Jennings Pond and Morses Pond neighbors have joined forces and argued that proposed shops near the Wellesley line would endanger pedestrians by increasing cut-through traffic, disrupt the neighborhood, create litter, and their list goes on. They’ve been vocal at earlier public meetings with the retail candidates.
Neighbors now have summed up their concerns about two proposed shops in a slick 14-page document that we’ve embedded below. Among their issues is that while there were public forums, neighbors weren’t part of the underlying decision-making process. Residents of Wellesley who live in the area, and whose town does not allow recreational pot shops, felt left out of the loop as well (it’s easy to envision pot shops setting up along the edges of Wellesley, as liquor stores did in the past in light of Wellesley’s ban against such stores).
Martha Paynter, speaking on behalf of the Jennings/Morses group, read a statement during the Select Board meeting that she described as an addendum to the formal report submitted by neighbors. She stated in part: “We have no way of knowing what you have absorbed or considered from our efforts, there has been little feedback or substantive dialogue or engagement with the residents of this neighborhood throughout this process…”
The Select Board members say they have heard the neighbors’ complaints, including at public forums at which retail candidates made their pitches, and are taking them seriously. They also say they’ve heard, in less public circumstances, from others in town and in those neighborhoods who look forward to easier access to cannabis products. “We always have to remind ourselves who’s not in the room,” Select Board member Michael Hickey said.
Fellow Select Board member Karen Adelman-Foster echoed this point, and said ultimately everyone will need to work together on a result that everyone will be at least “minimally comfortable with.”
Addressing concerns that Natick is purely making a revenue grab by allowing pot businesses to open, Select Board member Richard Jennett said such entities would have been here long ago if this was just about that. “This is a process,” he said, noting that multiple factors have stretched that process out.
While concerned neighbors have dodged a pot shop in their area during stage one of this process, stage two is about to begin, and the Select Board could choose to work with a second retail operator. Those contenders ranked from second to sixth during the first go around will have a chance to make fresh pitches, which Select Board members said they hope will be improved from the originals.
All of the retailers’ proposals are for locations on Rte. 9, all within seven-tenths of a mile of the Wellesley line, at locations ranging from the current 9 East Wine Emporium to the current Bernie & Phyl’s building. Their redos are due by the end of March.
We’ve reached out to Natick’s Community & Economic Development team regarding whether the retail candidates need to stick with their original Rte. 9 locations, or have the freedom to switch things up to another spot within the approved zones. Community & Economic Development Director James Freas says “we are actually considering this issue – a decision will be made by the Board on the 10th (as long as this is still on the agenda).”
The town’s decision to move forward with one proposal now, and wait a bit on the others in part is the result of a constantly changing cannabis business landscape. This includes the emergence of licenses for wholesale and courier companies that could deliver pot in Natick and beyond. Their presence could factor in to traffic conditions around retail shops, which are not allowed to handle delivery beyond their stores.
Natick has meanwhile allowed a testing lab and medical marijuana facility to open in town, and now is mulling how to proceed with those aforementioned wholesale and delivery businesses. A warrant article formalizing the approval of such companies to operate in Natick appears headed for Town Meeting in the spring, and then the real action could begin.