WORCESTER — Former Suffolk County sheriff Andrea Cabral cleared a key hurdle Thursday in her bid to open a recreational marijuana shop in Boston, as the business received a provisional license from state cannabis regulators.
Ascend Mass LLC, for which Cabral is the chief executive, is seeking to open an adult-use marijuana dispensary at 272 Friend St., near North Station and TD Garden. It received approval from Boston zoning officials to start construction on the store in January.
Before the store can open, it will still need a final license from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission and then a “commence operations” notice that will allow it to open after three calendar days. The final two steps of that process have taken companies four to five months on average.
“Every time you achieve a state or a level of licensure in Massachusetts, it’s very significant because the process is long, and the standards are very high,” said Cabral, who is also a member of the state’s Cannabis Advisory Board. “I’m pleased about being able to achieve the first one for downtown Boston because I live here, and I’ve been here for years. Making history in Boston is always a good thing.”
Ascend was initially expected to receive its provisional license at a meeting on Dec. 19 that abruptly ended after a local entrepreneur interrupted the proceedings to voice concerns about the state’s licensing process.
The business owner, Leah Cooke Daniels, had accused the commission of ignoring her status as an economic empowerment applicant, a designation given to applicants who have been disproportionately harmed by the prohibition of marijuana or who vow to help those communities. Cooke Daniels again attended Thursday’s meeting with a handful of other people, raising similar concerns.
The commission approved Cabral’s provisional license in a single vote with 30 other licenses before Cooke Daniels and others began protesting, many yelling and holding signs. She and her wife, Jacinth Cooke Daniels, said they intended to disrupt the meeting before the commissioners voted on the licenses, but the voting happened too fast.
Approving the provisional licenses in one fell swoop, rather than having individual conversations about each company, is unusual, commission Chairman Steven Hoffman said after the meeting, but the commissioners wanted to ensure that the companies would be able to move along in the process.
“This was for the sake of the 31 applicants who had, through no fault of their own now, been pushed back [three] weeks in the process,” he said.
Cabral said she is empathetic to the issues that Cooke Daniels and other economic empowerment applicants are facing, and she hopes, with the Cannabis Advisory Board, to help improve communication with applicants and facilitate discussions about their concerns.
“I think cannabis operators as a group should be more organized to have a more impactful voice so that it’s not each individual operator taking up their individual cause,” she said. “There are some issues that are collective issues.”
Cabral’s company is the third Boston store to get its provisional license. Pure Oasis, co-owned by real estate agent Kobie Evans and his business partner Kevin Hart, received its provisional license for a Dorchester shop in July 2019. It was the first license granted to an applicant in the economic empowerment program.
Berkshire Roots, which plans to open a store on Meridian Street in East Boston, has also received a provisional license.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh had indicated that Cabral’s store could be the first to open in Boston. Just weeks after Massachusetts’ first pot shops opened in November 2018, Walsh said the city’s first store would probably be “around the North Station area.”
He said in that 2018 interview that the store could be open as soon as “early next year,” referring to 2019.