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No City Council support for Allston marijuana dispensary

Following the lead of Allston-Brighton’s district councilor, Mark Ciommo, the Boston City Council opted to not endorse a locally run company’s bid to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the Allston neighborhood.

The voice vote — which appeared to be unanimous — came Wednesday at the weekly City Council meeting, two days after Ciommo held a contentious public hearing with the local company, Compassionate Organics. Ciommo favors another medical marijuana group for Allston, an out-of-state company named Mayflower Medicinals.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, legislators did approve a letter of non-opposition for a different medical marijuana dispensary in a vacant space near McClellan Highway in East Boston. With the support of the council, Happy Valley Ventures can forge ahead to other state-mandated hurdles, which include obtaining a registration certificate from the Department of Public Health and paying a $50,000 fee.

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Before the vote on the Allston dispensary, Ciommo urged his fellow councilors to not support the bid from Compassionate Organics because of outstanding zoning complications, a lack of experience from executives, and misrepresentations of support that were once listed in their proposal.

“Being a locally run business is not the same as being a well-run business,” Ciommo said during the council meeting. “In good faith, I cannot vote to offer a letter of non-opposition to Compassionate Organics while serving the best interests of the community that I have been elected to represent.”

The vote is a crushing blow for Compassionate Organics and business owner Geoffrey Reilinger, the company’s founder and chief executive. Reilinger has sparred with Ciommo on the issue for nearly four years and has accused the councilor of being unduly influenced by Mayflower Medicinals lobbyists.

Frank Perullo, a lobbyist for Mayflower Medicinals, is Ciommo’s close friend and political consultant. Though the company is run by out-of-state executives, it maintains a State Street address.

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“It’s unfortunate and disappointing,” Reilinger said of the council’s decision to not support Compassionate Organics.

Yet given the tone of this week’s public hearing, the council's decision was not surprising.

At that meeting earlier this week, Reilinger faced steep criticism from councilors as he tried to give his final pitch on why they should support Compassionate Organics’ bid to bring “a safe and professional” dispensary to the neighborhood.

After the meeting, in which Ciommo in particular grilled the executive, Compassionate Organics hand-delivered a set of letters to city councilors as a last-ditch effort to gain support.

“We have been a local group from day one and we understand the local issues and concerns,” the letter said. “We will continue to operate as a responsible and committed member of the Allston community. We urge you to consider all of the facts and the support of the community of Allston.”

In an explanation posted on his campaign website, Ciommo gave nine reasons to not support Compassionate Organics, including tasteless advertising, buffer law violations, and questionable practices to discredit competitors.

Ciommo has long contended that Reilinger has repeatedly misrepresented facts on his application, and Reilinger admitted that he wrongly claimed to have received support from law enforcement officials, including Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins.

Ciommo has also cited an April decision by the Boston Public Health Commission in not supporting Reilinger’s company.

In that decision, the commission said Reilinger’s proposed site was within 500 feet of a martial arts facility that offers youth programming, which city regulations would forbid.

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Mayflower Medicinals proposed site, 230 Harvard Ave., has not faced the same criticism from the health commission.

When reached by phone after the council vote, Reilinger said the company was going to reevaluate its business plan and “take a step back.”

Wednesday’s City Hall meeting also showed how quickly the council could support a proposed medical marijuana dispensary when a company’s application has the support of the local district councilor.

Councilor Salvatore LaMattina called the proposed location of a medical marijuana dispensary in East Boston “perfect” and urged his colleagues to support the new business, which is to be located at 220 McClellan Highway.

After his speech of support, the council approved a letter of non-opposition, paving the way for the business to move forward.


Astead W. Herndon can be reached at astead.herndon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH.