The Boston Cannabis Board has approved two new marijuana retailers hoping to open in the city, including one run by former city councilor and mayoral candidate Tito Jackson, marking the reboot of a permitting process that had been stalled since October.
At a virtual meeting Wednesday, the newly convened five-member agency voted unanimously to issue initial recreational pot permits to Verdant Medical in Mattapan and Massachusetts Citizens for Social Equity in Roxbury.
To open for business, the companies still need to negotiate a host community agreement with the administration of Mayor Martin J. Walsh and receive approval from the Zoning Board of Appeal and state Cannabis Control Commission. Currently, just two recreational marijuana stores are open in Boston: Pure Oasis in Grove Hall and Berkshire Roots in East Boston.
Verdant, run by Jackson, received pushback from the nearby Mattapan Community Health Center. The center’s leaders have long held that the marijuana store would worsen traffic in Mattapan Square and tempt their patients who are recovering from substance-use disorders.
However, board commissioners said Wednesday that Jackson had made good-faith efforts to address the concerns and noted the presence of several nearby liquor stores. They also praised Verdant’s plans to hire people with criminal records and support other social equity businesses in the cannabis space.
“I truly appreciate the support of the amazing Mattapan community,” Jackson said in a brief statement following the vote. “I look forward to hiring from Mattapan and supporting businesses in Mattapan.”
Verdant’s ownership has been the subject of scrutiny, with a 2019 Spotlight Team report finding the entity was tightly intertwined with multi-state marijuana operator TILT Holdings. However, under pressure from state cannabis regulators, TILT has since backed off the onerous “affiliate” contracts it signed with Verdant and other smaller applicants.
Jackson said Verdant no longer has any ties to TILT, and that he will become the sole owner of Verdant when the state cannabis commission approves its application to convert from a nonprofit to a for-profit.
Meanwhile, the city cannabis board deferred action Wednesday on an application by Patriot Care to begin recreational sales at the company’s existing downtown medical dispensary, with commissioners saying the firm’s required diversity and inclusion plan — which counts for 25 of the 100 possible points applicants can earn under the city’s new evaluation criteria — was too vague and needed to be redrafted.
In a statement, a spokesman for Patriot Care said the company was “taking today’s feedback from the Boston Cannabis Board to heart and will spend the coming days redefining and emboldening our commitments to diversity and inclusion.”
Patriot Care had promised neighbors and the city that it would not seek a recreational license at its Milk Street medical dispensary, but the company later changed course, citing market conditions.
During the meeting, cannabis board commissioners said Patriot Care and a key neighborhood group that criticized the about-face had agreed to a list of conditions the company would follow, including banning sales of pre-rolled joints and purchases under $35 to discourage public pot consumption in the area.
The commissioners also strongly suggested that they would give equity applicants special permission to open marijuana businesses in the dense downtown area surrounding Patriot Care’s dispensary, despite a city rule mandating a half-mile buffer between all licensed cannabis facilities.
“I don’t want to see this neighborhood locked down” by a single marijuana company, Cannabis Board chair Kathleen Joyce said. “This is a very highly sought-after location in the city of Boston and that is not lost on us.”