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Recreational dispensary proposed for Newbury Street

The Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services held a meeting Tuesday to discuss the proposed establishment of a new recreational cannabis dispensary at 331-335A Newbury St. in the Back Bay.

Cannabis plant growing in a greenhouse
Boston residents discussed Rooted in Roxbury’s proposed Newbury Street cannabis establishment in a virtual community meeting Tuesday. VIVIAN MYRON/ DFP FILE

The proposal comes from Rooted in Roxbury, a local minority-owned cannabis company that was formed in March 2019. Although Newbury Street hosts tobacco and pipe retailers, there are currently no dispensaries on the strip.

“About five years ago, as we realized that legal cannabis was on its way to Massachusetts and the city of Boston, we came together to develop a plan that could prevent Big Pharma and out of state corporations from coming into our neighborhoods to profit from legalization,” said Brian Keith, co-founder and co-owner of Rooted in Roxbury, during his presentation.

He added that the company was founded with the goal of giving people of color “a seat at the table” in the cannabis industry.

Keith said capital investments in the business were offered starting at $1,200, and the company capped the investment level at $62,000 to prevent wealthy investors from buying disproportionately high numbers of shares.

“I think the toughest part about this industry, especially when you’re a small company like us,” Keith said, “is putting together the finances to actually purchase your own property that can control yourself.”

Despite that investment cap, Rooted in Roxbury has raised $700,000 entirely from Boston investors of color, according to the company’s website.

He added that the company met several times with the Back Bay community before Tuesday’s formal, public meeting.

Keith said during the public meeting the company plans to donate three percent of its revenue to a city-directed fund and create a separate community benefit fund that will be overseen by a resident advisory board.

Joanne Keith, a co-owner, said they plan to create a profit-sharing program, in which employees are rewarded monetarily for the location’s financial success. She added the company plans to hire a workforce that is at least 80 percent Boston residents, 51 percent people of color and 51 percent women.

Brian Keith said the next step for Rooted in Roxbury is to go before the Boston Cannabis Board before requesting zoning approval from the City.

He added that the company hopes to open its Newbury Street location in 12-18 months.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, Meg Mainzer-Cohen, president of the Back Bay Association, said the Keiths’ proposal was the “strongest Newbury Street proposal that I’ve seen.”

“I love the interactive nature of how you want to be involved in the community but also bring in a lot of different people into your business,” she said. “You guys are the real deal.”

Another community leader, Chair of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay Elliott Laffer, also spoke at the meeting.

Laffer said he was concerned about the potential influx of dispensaries in the area — another proposal down Newbury Street was considered at a January meeting of the Boston Cannabis Board. But, he said the company made a strong pitch and he hopes there can be a solution.

“You are clearly the people that this process was meant to help,” Laffer said.

William Swearengin, a 44-year-old North End resident, said he approved of the new dispensary, citing the safety of marijuana over harder drugs.

“Marijuana don’t have you nodding out on the streets,” Swearengin said, “it don’t get you addicted to nothing but food.”

Swearengin said he did not mind the prospect of adding even more dispensaries on Newbury Street.

“They got two liquor stores right next to each other,” Swearengin said. “Why can’t they have two marijuana stores?”

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