Medical marijuana dispensary seeks new site

Boylston Street proposal criticized

Matthew Huron, CEO of Good Chemistry of Massachusetts (at microphone), took a question at a City Hall hearing Tuesday.


Matthew Huron, CEO of Good Chemistry of Massachusetts (at microphone), took a question at a City Hall hearing Tuesday.

The owners of a proposed medical marijuana dispensary on Boston’s busy Boylston Street said Tuesday they are considering an alternative location, after facing a barrage of criticism from city officials and nearby residents and businesses about their plan to open in the Back Bay.

A lawyer for Good Chemistry, one of 20 dispensaries approved by state health officials for a provisional license, told the Boston City Council during a four-hour public hearing that the firm is negotiating with a landlord for another site, but that it was not prepared to disclose that location until it has reached a deal.


Attorney Jim Smith said he and company officials have already raised the possibility of an alternative Boston location with the state Department of Public Health.

Councilors at the packed City Hall meeting seemed relieved that Good Chemistry would consider another location, a disclosure they greeted as a sliver of optimistic news amid their many questions about potential problems linked to the marijuana businesses.

Council president Bill Linehan called for the hearing last month after the Globe reported that Good Chemistry provided misleading information to state regulators in its license application, erroneously claiming to have support from state legislators and the district’s city councilor. Since then, a number of problems have surfaced about misrepresentations and conflicts of interest involving several other companies approved for provisional state licenses, and state officials have acknowledged they didn’t check the veracity of applicants’ claims.

Smith said in an interview later that the new location is in the city’s central business district, but he wouldn’t be more specific. He added that the company will know within two weeks whether it will move to the new site.

A top official of a second proposed Boston dispensary, Green Heart Holistic Health & Pharmaceuticals, told councilors he is sensitive to the withering criticism about the company’s choice of Southampton Street for its proposed facility, but hopes to work with neighbors to resolve their concerns.

Residents and business owners have lined up against the facility, saying the neighborhood near Boston Medical Center already shoulders a heavy burden, with three methadone clinics in the area.

“It didn’t seem like there was much consideration [by state officials] of where these facilities were going to be placed,” Linehan said. “That they would put one next to a methadone clinic is beyond belief.”

Andrew DeAngelo, executive director of Green Heart, said his company is willing to work with the neighborhood to make his facility as safe as possible. “I will always be here. I will always be transparent. I want to form a team that can distribute this medicine safely,” DeAngelo said.

Boston Police Department officials also testified at the hearing they worry that a dispensary would increase crime in an already high-crime area.

“That area brings both people seeking drug treatment at the methadone clinics, and others to ply their wares on those who are drug addicted,” said Robert Merner, a Boston Police Superintendent.

Police are worried that drug addicts will prey on dispensary patients, who must pay for the marijuana with large sums of cash, because health insurance companies will not cover it and marijuana companies are not likely to accept credit cards.

State health officials, who are in charge of issuing state licenses to the marijuana facilities, did not attend the council hearing, though their presence was requested by the council to answer their questions. Several councilors voiced their frustration at the state being a no-show.

“Maybe they are under their desks, or maybe they didn’t get out of bed,” said at-large councilor Michael Flaherty. “It’s complete disrespect.”

Asked why state health officials did not attend, department spokesman Dave Kibbe declined to answer directly. Instead, he e-mailed a statement saying that the agency “has and will continue to work closely with municipal leaders throughout the licensing process.”

In another development Tuesday, a company that won preliminary approval for a medical marijuana dispensary in Dennis said that it removed a Colorado man from its management team last month, even before learning that his license to cultivate marijuana in that state had been revoked two years ago.

John J. Czarkowski’s contract to oversee the marijuana cultivation operation of William Noyes Webster Foundation expired at the end of January and he was notified on Feb. 6 that it wouldn’t be renewed, the company said.

The Globe reported Tuesday that Czarkowski and his wife, Diane, who were part of the management team of William Noyes Webster and two other companies planning to open dispensaries in Haverhill and Quincy, were forced to shut down their Colorado medical marijuana facility in 2012 for numerous violations.

During a brief interview with the Globe on Monday, Paul Covell, chief executive officer of William Noyes Webster, did not disclose that the company had severed ties with Czarkowski.

But during an interview Tuesday, Covell said Czarkowski was part of the company’s management team when it submitted its application for a dispensary to the state Department of Public Health. “But over the next few weeks he failed to deliver what he was supposed to deliver and was non-responsive,” Covell said.

Czarkowski, who with his wife operates Canna Advisors, a consulting firm, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

William Noyes Webster was unaware that Czarkowski’s marijuana cultivation license had been revoked in Boulder, Colo., until last month, when a candidate to succeed Czarkowski as the company’s cultivation manager disclosed it during an interview, Covell said.

The company said its contract with Czarkowski ran from September 2013 to Jan. 31 — the same day the state announced the 20 dispensaries approved for provisional licensing.

William Noyes Webster did not tell state public health officials that it cut Czarkowski from its management team, or about the revocation of his Colorado license, Covell said. He said a lawyer advised the company to wait to disclose the information during a meeting with state Department of Public Health officials slated for next Monday about their proposed dispensary.

“You’ve got to understand, every application is under the microscope,” Covell said. “We don’t want to do anything that would trigger unnecessary review of us.”

The controversy surrounding the Czarkowskis has prompted concern among Connecticut authorities, who launched an investigation of the couple after learning of the Colorado license revocation in the Globe’s Tuesday story, according to The Hartford Courant.

John Czarkowski is a manager of Advanced Grow Labs, LLC, one of four companies chosen for licenses to produce medical marijuana in Connecticut.

Kay Lazar can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar. Shelley Murphy can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Shellymurph.
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