A long-planned marijuana store opened Monday in East Boston, becoming the second recreational cannabis retailer in the city.
Berkshire Roots, which also operates a dispensary in Pittsfield, quietly began operations at its new East Boston location at 253 Meridian St. around 11 a.m. — part of a “soft open” meant to ease the shop’s systems and employees into action. The company said Monday afternoon that about 100 to 150 customers were expected the first day.
The store will typically serve customers from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., except on Sundays, when it will open at 11 a.m. and close at 6 p.m.
For now, sales are by preorder only, with shoppers required to reserve cannabis products ahead of time and pick them up during a specific appointment window.
“The store is ready,” Berkshire Roots chief executive James Winokur said in a statement. “We have great neighbors, and it’s really a special place in Boston, given the mix of cultures, language and history.”
Berkshire Roots faced a complex path to opening: The store became mixed up in a zoning dispute last year, after city officials mistakenly recommended approval of both the Berkshire Roots location and another proposed pot shop nearby — even though the two cannabis businesses were not separated by at least a half-mile, as mandated under city regulations.
Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeal eventually approved both shops. But the incident sparked an unusual public fight between the Walsh administration and the City Council, which briefly held up Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s appointments to the zoning board over his handling of the buffer issue, even as its chair warned the move could halt development across Boston.
The first marijuana store in Boston, Pure Oasis in Grove Hall, opened in March — more than three years after voters legalized cannabis, and following a long struggle through the state’s wending application process.
However, the business was quickly forced to shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. Then, just days after reopening in May, the shop was looted by thieves during racial justice protests on the other side of the city.
Pure Oasis was the first Black-owned marijuana business to open in Massachusetts, and was licensed under the Cannabis Control Commission’s “economic empowerment” program, which gives priority to businesses that are led by, employ, or benefit members of communities hit hardest by high rates of drug arrests.
A new local marijuana business permitting system in Boston, being implemented this summer by the city’s new Cannabis Board, is intended to further prioritize such companies.
“In [its] application process, Berkshire Roots confirmed its commitment to providing benefits to the local community, including hiring local staff and providing mentoring, professional, and technical services for disproportionately-impacted individuals that are facing systemic barriers,” Alexis Tkachuk, Boston’s director of emerging industries in the Walsh administration, said in a statement.
An additional 10 marijuana facilities proposed for the city are awaiting approval by the state cannabis commission.