The city recently signed host agreements with five recreational marijuana companies, including Core Empowerment, which plans on opening a 6,000-plus sq. ft. commercial business on Centre Street.
Tomas Gonzalez, one of the co-owners of Core Empowerment, answered Jamaica Plain News' questions about parking, when the business plans on opening, security, the company's Good Neighbor Agreement and local organizations Core Empowerment will be supporting with donations.
Q: What stage is Core Empowerment in the application process for opening a recreational marijuana dispensary in Jamaica Plain?
Gonzalez: We are in the final stages of the city process. We had our city sponsored meeting, as required by both the city and state. We signed a Host Community Agreement (HCA) with the city of Boston which allows us to now apply to the state’s Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). We also have a hearing before the Boston Zoning Board of Appeal on March 12.
Q: Do you have an estimated timeline of when you hope to open for business?
Gonzalez: We would like to open in September or October of 2019. However, we would need final approval from the CCC in order to open our doors in early fall.
Q: Being that recreational marijuana is a brand new industry that involves a drug, people are nervous about different aspects. Tell us about the safety and security plans for Core Empowerment.
Gonzalez: We take safety and security very seriously. As a result, we hired Daniel Linskey of Kroll Security as our security consultant. Daniel and Kroll have extensive experience securing cannabis dispensary locations, as well as, military and pharmaceutical plants around the world. As the former Superintendent-in-Chief and a 27-year veteran with BPD, Daniel understands each neighborhood’s concerns around safety.
We will have a secure location with 24/7 security monitoring cameras both inside and outside the dispensary, a Boston Police detail outside the dispensary to assist in the launch of the business, and a security team inside the dispensary.
Preventing diversion is also a major part of our security plan. Any person entering the dispensary will have their government issued ID scanned twice; if they are not 21 years of age, they will not be able to enter. Additionally all products are tracked with a unique identifier that can be traced back to the dispensary.
Q: There are also concerns about parking issues, especially because it's already hard to find a parking space in that area, and there are often vehicles double-parked. How will Core Empowerment avoid creating more parking issues? Has your traffic study been conducted at high traffic times of the day?
Gonzalez: We recognize the neighborhood’s concerns regarding the current traffic and parking issues around Hyde Square. We retained the firm of Howard Stein Hudson to provide a detailed traffic and parking analysis of the area during peak times. We met with the Boston Transportation Department commissioner regarding the community’s existing concerns. In response, we designed a parking and traffic management to comprehensively address the situation. The key elements are:
- Work with the Hyde Square businesses to request city enforcement of parking and improve signage before the store opens
- Retain a Boston Police detail upon commencement of dispensary operations to manage initial traffic and double parking concerns
- Create a drop-off/pickup zone in front of the dispensary
- Encourage staff and customers to take public transportation
Q: How many customers will Core Empowerment going to see per hour? Will it be by appointment only?
Gonzalez: We hope to see 30 customers per hour. We will utilize an appointment system as demand necessitates.
Q: Where is Core Empowerment getting its marijuana from?
Gonzalez: We will purchase the product from the current wholesalers in the Massachusetts market.
Q: Who and/or what is providing the funding for Core Empowerment?
Gonzalez: One-hundred percent of our funding came from local investors, several who live within a mile of our dispensary. The majority of those investors are minorities. Core Empowerment is 96 percent owned by women and people of color.
Q: Every customer must sign a Good Neighbor Agreement saying they understand the consequences of their actions, correct? What is that agreement, as it sounds like an invasion of privacy?
Gonzalez: The Good Neighbor Policy is an element of our security program. The document outlines the best practices for safe consumption of cannabis, including information related to dosage, storage, and safe consumption. It also explains the rights and responsibilities of the consumer which include the relevant laws regarding cannabis in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Q: There are only a handful of recreational marijuana dispensaries open in Massachusetts, with only a few on the horizon, and none open in Boston. The dispensaries that are currently open have seen very long lines, with customers waiting multiple hours and even having to park elsewhere and be bussed in. How is Core Empowerment going to avoid having long lines?
Gonzalez: We anticipate that there will be many more dispensaries open when we launch therefore consumers will be more evenly distributed. Additionally, we are required to provide an opening day operational plan to the city of Boston which will deal primarily with the flow of customers, traffic and parking. We will also work with the Hyde Square businesses, community groups and the city to mitigate the impact and keep the business district vibrant.
Q: Core Empowerment has agreed to pay 3 percent of its annual gross sales to the city of Boston as part of its host agreement. Is that on top of other city and state taxes?
Gonzalez: As part of the Host Community Agreement with the city of Boston, Core Empowerment has agreed to provide 3 percent of our gross revenue to the city of Boston. Additionally, there is a 20 percent sales tax at the point of sale. Of which, 17 percent goes to the state and 3 percent goes to the city of Boston.
Q: And Core Empowerment is also donating $500,000 during the first five years to charitable organizations? What types of organizations do you envision receiving donations?
Gonzalez: We will support groups like the Hyde Square Task Force, Spontaneous Celebrations, JP Partners at Mildred Hailey/Bromley Heath, and the Regan Youth League. We will also support local community and cultural events such as the Wake Up the Earth Festival, JP Music Fest, the Latin Quarter World’s Fair (currently in planning stages), and the Dominican, Caribbean and Puerto Rican Festivals.
Q: What else would you like to say about any concerns that you may have heard at meetings, from residents, elected officials or anyone else?
Gonzalez: The main community concerns were parking and traffic which we have put a lot of time and resources into understanding and addressing. More than concerns, what we experienced from the community was a tremendous outpouring of support and we really want to say thank you to all of the residents, community groups and business owners who came out in favor of our proposal. We feel there is a genuine excitement around the project and we look forward to opening the doors and engaging with our neighbors.