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Neighbors need a voice in approval process for Boston marijuana shops

The storefront of the Pure Oasis marijuana shop in Grove Hall.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Re “Smoothing the way for more marijuana shops” (Editorial, Sept. 12): You assume that all neighborhood groups oppose all nearby marijuana shops and, further, that the process of approval is unique to that type of facility. Certainly in the case of the Back Bay, neither of those statements is correct, and both go to the heart of why the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay has raised concerns about the Wu administration’s proposal to concentrate the process under the Boston Cannabis Board.

Back Bay is a place where residential and business areas are interwoven. Because of this, many uses, including all restaurants, are conditional; new restaurant locations must be approved by both the Licensing Board and the Zoning Board of Appeal, a similar process to that in place for cannabis dispensaries.


Our association appeared before both the Cannabis Board and the ZBA and did not oppose two applicants, one each on Boylston and Newbury streets and within the half-mile buffer zone, when the applicants worked with us to design their operations to minimize any negative impacts on nearby residents.

We did oppose a second applicant on Newbury Street that was in a building that shared a party wall and fire escapes with an apartment building whose residents were opposed. Despite these site-specific concerns, the Cannabis Board voted to approve the application. The application was subsequently denied at the ZBA.

I am sympathetic to concerns about the length of time the process takes, but there are probably other ways to get at that issue, including operating both processes in parallel. One of Boston’s long-term strengths is that it has always had a substantial residential presence in the downtown areas. The residents of these areas have long worked to have a say in what happens here. We want a diverse and successful business district and have spent countless hours of volunteer time to help make Back Bay the successful neighborhood it is for both residents and businesses. Our concerns should not simply be dismissed as a NIMBY effort to send a use that we voted for to another area.


Elliott Laffer


Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay