Pubdate: Tue, 23 Aug 2016
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2016 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Meghan E. Irons
IN ALLSTON, A BATTLE IS BREWING OVER A MARIJUANA DISPENSARY
Boston City Councilor Mark Ciommo is again facing criticism this week for not backing a locally run company that wants to open a medical marijuana dispensary in his Allston neighborhood.
Instead of supporting Compassionate Organics, Ciommo is steadfast in his backing of rival Mayflower Medicinals, a company that has hired the councilor’s political consultant and close friend Frank Perullo.
At a City Council hearing Monday, Geoffrey Reilinger, who founded Compassionate Organics, tried to convince councilors that he would bring a safe and professional dispensary to the neighborhood.
But he faced blistering questions from Ciommo, who challenged Reilinger’s credentials in delivering health care services. He asked Reilinger about the veracity of an application claiming support from law enforcement and elected officials. And he quizzed Reilinger about whether the proposed site – on Harvard Avenue – violates state and federal buffer zone rules.
In the end, Ciommo never wavered on his stance.
“I have serious concerns about this application,” Ciommo said at the hearing. “I don’t think those concerns have been addressed here today.”
Ciommo’s stance against Compassionate Organics has rankled many in Allston who say they are frustrated that he would instead give his blessings to Mayflower Medicinals, an out-of-town company they say emerged in January, long after Compassionate Organics had won over much of the neighborhood. Mayflower also has a State Street address.
Ciommo’s critics said he turned his back on the local guy – Reilinger – – who lives in the Back Bay and grew up in Boston. Forty-one businesses owners and more than 150 residents have signed a petition voicing their support for Reilinger’s group.
Residents and business leaders point to Ciommo’s loyalty to Perullo, who does public relations for Mayflower Medicinals and is a political consultant and friend to the councilor.
Ciommo paid Perullo’s company, Sage Systems LLC, nearly $100,000 for political consulting from 2012 to 2015, state records show. Perullo was the president of Sage Systems from November 2002 to April 2015, according to LinkedIn.
Neither Perullo nor Mayflower Medicinals would comment on the process.
While refusing to address the Perullo link, Ciommo said Reilinger’s application had too many red flags to win his support.
Reilinger described Ciommo’s line of questioning as an indication of his “clear bias” on this matter. But he said he was buoyed by the show of support from members of the community.
“That tactic was really a lot of showmanship and it fell short, because the community is so hopeful in their support,” Reilinger said.
Massachusetts voters approved marijuana for medical use more than three years ago, creating a fledging market. State officials said 170 applicants are seeking to open a dispensary across the state. So far, six such dispensaries, including one in Brookline, have been approved.
Companies seeking a medical marijuana dispensary must provide a letter of support or “non-opposition” from the municipality where they intend to locate.
Compassionate Organics is seeking to open at 144 Harvard Ave., in the heart of Allston’s business district. Mayflower Medicinals wants to open at 230 Harvard Ave.
While Reilinger’s application has stalled, Mayflower Medicinals’ has been forging ahead.
In June, at Ciommo’s urging, the council voted unanimously to give a letter of support or “non-opposition” to Mayflower Medicinals’ proposed dispensary. A month later, the Zoning Board of Appeals gave its approval. And on Aug. 12, the state granted Mayflower a provisional certificate of registration to operate, which means it can begin building a cultivation facility.
With Mayflower Medicinals clearing a crucial hurdle, prospects seem uncertain for Compassionate Organics.
At the hearing Monday, Reilinger urged the council to support his company. He laid out his vision to provide full access to quality medical marijuana for all registered patients.
“I grew up in Boston,” he told councilors. “This is my home, my family resides in Boston and that is why I am committed to doing what I can to ensure that Boston patients many whom I know personally – have access to safe, high-quality medical marijuana.”
On Wednesday, the council is expected to vote on whether to also give a letter of support for Compassionate Organics.
The firm’s supporters said it was clear to them that Ciommo had an agenda and that he was quizzing Reilinger about mistakes in an earlier application. They said the group would have an experienced team to run a safe and quality operation.
Paul Berkeley, president of the Allston Civic Association, said his group spent the past three years examining the issue. They determined Compassionate Organics would be an ideal retailer in a key part of town.
“This is where it belongs,” he said.
Neal Wigetman, a Harvard Avenue businessman who has been in the neighborhood for 35 years, said Compassionate Organics would boost foot traffic during the day on a stretch of Harvard Avenue that comes alive at night.
“Foot traffic is basically dying,” he said, making the case for Compassionate Organics. “If they are there, they will bring the flow of people into the area.”
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom