A roomful of frustrated Newtonville residents on Thursday night again told a group proposing a medical marijuana dispensary on Washington Street in Newton that their neighborhood is not the right place to host this kind of facility.
But while this night's complaint was the Garden Remedies proposal, the general feeling among most of the 35 or so residents was that their village seems to be the butt of a bad joke.
"It's starting to feel like Newtonville is the dumping ground for experiments in urbanization for people from wealthier parts of the city," said Kathleen Kouril Grieser. "It feels like they are trying to advance an agenda to make themselves feel good at our expense."
With the announcement two weeks ago by Mayor Setti Warren that he had chosen a development partner to build a mixed-use housing and retail complex at the site of the Austin Street municipal parking lot, and recent progress on plans for a 36-unit apartment building on Court Street to be built under the state's affordable housing provisions, residents say they have reached their tipping point.
"I really don't object to this facility being here, the factor of increased crime worries me a little bit, but I just feel like we're being dumped on here," resident Bob Kavanagh said of the medical marijuana project.
Voters statewide legalized medical marijuana in a referendum in November 2012; the measure was backed in Newton by a ratio of better than 2 to 1.
The active ingredient in marijuana is used to treat patients with specific conditions, including cancer, because of its success in alleviating nausea, pain, and other symptoms.
Auburndale resident John Madfis said his son, 32, has used medicinal marijuana with a physician's prescription since college to treat Crohn's disease, an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that can make eating difficult.
"It has really alleviated some of his symptoms so he can eat," he said, "It helps him with his appetite, and has really made a difference."
But the overwhelming majority of Newton residents at Thursday's community meeting said that while they understand the facility's potential benefits, their residential neighborhood is not the right place for it.
The tone was set early, with the first question of the night: "How can we make sure this doesn't come here?"
Garden Remedies Inc. president Karen Munkacy, an anesthesiologist and cancer survivor, said she did an extensive search to find a location that met all of the state and city restrictions, and that 697 Washington St., next to Marty's Liquors, fit the requirements.
She said it is properly zoned and exceeds the distance requirements from schools, religious institutions, and places where children congregate for scheduled activities.
In addition, she reiterated, it would be a small establishment seeing just two or three patients at any given time, by appointment only, and the state Department of Public Health's extensive requirements on identifying patients would be met.
For example, she said, all patients would need to show a valid prescription from a treating physician, a state-issued photo identification card, such as a driver's license, and authorization from the state agency identifying them as a qualified medical marijuana patient before they would be allowed to enter the locked facility, going past security in the side entry lobby.
"Everything will be very highly monitored and regulated," she said.
Residents also heard from Tom Walsh, a representative from Netwatch System, an Irish company that would install security cameras around the site and monitor them 24 hours a day. The company's staff in Ireland would have direct links to the city's Police Department.
But many residents say they are still fearful for patients' safety, and the potential for a spike in crime in their neighborhood as a result of the marijuana dispensary.
"First of all, kids seeing that sign, Garden Remedies, is wrong, it's no remedy, we're trying to get kids off pot," said Anthony Pellegrini Jr.
"And with everyone knowing there are people coming out of that building with pot, someone is going to get robbed, they are going to get hit over the head and robbed, whether there's security cameras in Dublin or not," Pellegrini said.
"It's a very, very, very dangerous situation," he said.
The medicinal marijuana would be sold for $350 an ounce, and the state’s regulations allow patients to purchase the amount prescribed by their physician, up to 10 ounces at a time.
Stephen Buchbinder, a Newton lawyer representing Garden Remedies, said cash would be accepted as payment, but that the company has a “banking relationship” in place so that other forms of payment could also be accepted.
He said he could not name the bank publicly because the relationship is not yet "signed and sealed."
A traffic consultant from Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., in Watertown, said a parking count along Washington Street showed that street spaces are now filled to capacity less than 50 percent of the time during the week, and just 62 percent of the time on weekends.
For residents, however, none of the assurances were alleviating the fact that they don't want the marijuana dispensary on Washington Street.
"I appreciate you are a cancer survivor, but that does not give you a moral high ground to come here and impose this on our neighborhood," Grieser told Munkacy.
Garden Remedies received a provisional certificate from the state in January, allowing it to continue with its application to open a dispensary. It still needs approval from the Board of Aldermen, and final license approval from the state before it could open. Buchbinder said it could be as early as late fall.
A public hearing before the Board of Aldermen's Land Use Committee is scheduled for June 17 at 7 p.m.