Three businesses shared infomercials at a packed in-person and online Natick Select Board meeting this week in hopes of earning a chance to open a recreational marijuana shop in town, and the one with the best local story and least opposition from neighbors got the nod.
The Board voted 5-0 in favor of ReLeaf Alternatives, which aims to set up shop on Rte. 9 west at property it owns—the former Papa Gino’s site. ReLeaf outshone C3 Industries, proposing a location at 42 Worcester St., in a small strip mall, and Revolutionary Clinics, with bids at both the current Nine East Wine Emporium on the Wellesley line and Bernie & Phyl’s on Rte. 9 West.
Natick, whose residents voted in favor of legalizing adult recreational use of marijuana back in 2016, issued its first recreational pot shop license to Cypress Tree Management. The Planning Board this month okayed the general plan, but there remain issues to sort out with the specific space at Cloverleaf Mall, which the mall owner looks to share between Cypress Tree and a new self-storage business.
ReLeaf (they go by “reLeaf,” but we don’t play that marketing game) beefed up its presentation and team since an earlier round of public pitches was heard in the spring, and really played up its local presence. A “Redmen forever!” shoutout wouldn’t have been surprising. The virtues of ReLeaf were echoed by a resident who spoke on behalf of others in east Natick neighborhoods on the north and south sides of Rte. 9 nearby proposed locations.
If you parachuted into the vendor presentations unaware, you might have thought these (“esteemed”…”above and beyond”…) folks were opening a food pantry or shelter based on their earnestness and tales of community commitment they shared as part of the town’s request for information process. But no, they’re looking to sell cannabis products, both to those looking to get high or relax as well as to those self-medicating for pain, anxiety, or sleeplessness.
The Board complimented all of the presenters for their years of work during this process, and expressed confidence that any of them would run a solid operation that could meet customer need well beyond Natick while benefitting the town with a tax windfall.
The local flavor of ReLeaf’s pitch hit home with the Select Board, members of which doubled down on their localness, even pooh-poohing a letter from Wellesley’s Select Board regarding concerns of its residents nearby the Rte. 9 east proposals. ReLeaf CEO Kerry Bourne and her husband Jason launched Bourne’s Auto Center, a big dealership with 3 in-state locations and $125M-plus in annual revenue. Their Natick cannabis store’s general manager and assistant general manager grew up in town.
“Day in and day out I really focus on the local aspect of this process,” Board member Rick Jennett said. The Board needs to have someone to get ahold of if complaints arise, he said.
Board member Sue Salamoff said “I do think each presenter offers a quality operator concept. So the more I look at the situation, to me local is important…and I am leaning toward the concept of local ownership.”
On the experience front, ReLeaf’s team has already been through the recreational use shop process in Mansfield, where its business is slated to open next week. “This is a long and complicated process, and no other applicant here tonight has received a final retail adult-use license from the (Cannabis Control Commission),” Bourne said.
Rev Clinics, well aware of neighborhood opposition to its planned locations, emphasized steps it would take to ensure traffic wouldn’t flow from its locations into the neighborhoods. For example, it would only allow right turns out of the Nine East location onto Rte. 9, not back into the neighborhood. Rev Clinics also committed to appointment-only service at its shops, to help mitigate possible traffic issues.
One rep also reminded the Board that because this was a request for information and not a request for proposals, it had the option to choose whichever operator if felt would be best to run such a business in town, and nail down the location afterward.
Board members weren’t so sure about that, and consulted town counsel. His response appeared to leave them wary about going that route and possibly inviting later legal action.
Some on the Board said their decision was a struggle, with an option for a location closer to the east end of Natick an attraction in terms of possibly mitigating Rte. 9 traffic increases in Natick itself. But in the end, the ReLeaf location proved to be the least controversial, and won the day. Its roughly 3,000 sq. ft. building boasts 51 parking spaces and is nearby wetlands that likely won’t be developed.
Ahead for ReLeaf: Negotiating a host community agreement with Natick, getting the Planning Board’s blessing, and more.