Chelsea city councillors are looking at ways in which they can legally find a way to reserve some of the recreation marijuana licenses for Chelsea residents.
Councillor Roy Avellaneda forwarded an order recently to reserve at least two of the four recreational licenses for Chelsea residents, as so many residents have been impacted by the War on Drugs and the prosecution of marijuana possession crimes.
Avellaneda said his order is to amend the current retail marijuana ordinance in similar fashion to Somerville and Boston. At the state level, the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) signaled early on that it would approve licenses quicker in communities like Chelsea that historically have been heavily impacted by drug prosecution.
However, Avellaneda and other councillors said they have only seen well-heeled investors from out of town turning up to take advantage of that designation in Chelsea.
“The recent rush we have seen by well-funded and politically connected individuals and groups to apply for the available licenses puts those living in communities like Chelsea at a serious disadvantage,” he said. “The goal of the legislation I have introduced is to provide a two-year window for two of the four licenses just for Chelsea residents or a business entity comprised of 60 percent Chelsea residents…I think we would have better host agreements and community benefits offered by an individual or group based from Chelsea than from someone with no connections to this city. Should we allow the money made from these lucrative licenses leave the city? Or should we try to keep that revenue here?”
The Council held a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday night, Feb. 4, to discuss the matter and try to find a solution.
Council President Damali Vidot said she and Avellaneda and the rest of the Council seem to be on the same page with the idea, but may differ on how to accomplish it.
“My concern at Monday’s meeting and a couopld of other councillor’s concerns were that we could be interfering with a business’s right ot commerce,” she said. “If I own an adult-use shop and want to sell it, I don’t know if we can limit who you sell it to. We don’t want to cut people off at the knees. That will effect investors because they may not want to enter into a place where there are so many limits on their investment…Also, we’re only allowing the rich to get richer. If you live in Chelsea and have the money to buy one of these, you’re obviously already rich.”
She said the marijuana licenses mimic the regulations for liquor stores, and there are no such limits on liquor licenses.
That said, she agreed that Avellaneda has a good idea that needs to be explored and hopefully implemented in some fashion to help Chelsea residents – to empower those economically who have been affected in the past.
Avellaneda said the idea is consistent with the recent 100 percent residency requirement for all new police and fire hires, as well as the affordable housing requirement for Chelsea residents.
“It asks that any new jobs created in Chelsea have a priority for Chelsea residents,” he said. “I doubt Chelsea would lose any opportunities or see a delay in applications because any outsider looking to open in Chelsea would look to partner with a Chelsea resident rather than risk losing a chance at a license by waiting two years.”
Western Front Moving Quickly on Webster
The Economic Empowerment marijuana proposal on Webster Avenue is moving quickly through the local process for a marijuana dispensary at 121 Webster Ave.
Western Front is a minority-owned firm that received the Economic Empowerment designation from the state last spring, and had its community meeting shortly after. The firm plans to open a dispensary and also employ those who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs – particularly people from the Chelsea. The ownership of the company comes from Boston and Cambridge though. Western Front is scheduled to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. It is the first ZBA hearing in Chelsea for a marijuana proposal.