Brookline Town Meeting members are expected to vote on a proposal this week that would require all adult-use marijuana stores to operate with appointments for at least two years, taking away the only walk-up-friendly pot shop in metro Boston.
The proposal follows complaints from some residents that customers of New England Treatment Access in Brookline Village have been causing traffic congestion on local roads, leaving trash on the ground, and consuming outside.
The plan — which would require customers to either make appointments to buy products or reserve products ahead of time and make an appointment to pick them up — is one of three dealing with marijuana. The others would shorten the number of hours a dispensary can be open and create a committee to study Brookline’s marijuana policies.
“The warrant articles are intended to really bring immediate relief to the neighborhood,” said Paul Warren, one of 10 co-petitioners who brought forward the warrant articles.
The Town Meeting is expected to vote on the articles during a meeting that starts Tuesday night and will likely continue on Thursday night. If passed, all three policy changes would be in effect until June 2022.
The new rules not only would affect NETA, Brookline’s first and only recreational marijuana shop, which opened to adult-use customers in March. They also would apply to any cannabis company that opens in Brookline, including Sanctuary Medicinals, which hopes to open a recreational store in Coolidge Corner next year. Under the proposal, companies would not be required to be appointment-only for medical marijuana patients.
Out of nearly three dozen adult-use stores now open in Massachusetts, the metro Boston area has just two: NETA in Brookline and Garden Remedies in Newton, the latter of which is already appointment-only.
Warren, who is also a Town Meeting member, said traffic congestion and haphazard parking have been the biggest problems in Brookline Village since NETA’s opening, describing the situation like trying to stuff two pounds of flour into a one-pound bag.
“It’s going to spill over in various ways,” he said.
Residents have also debated whether other issues in the neighborhood can be pinned on NETA. While some complain about littering, public consumption, and public urination, others say they’ve never seen any of those things firsthand.
Sam Levine, who lives on White Place, just a few houses away from NETA, said he spends a lot of time at his house — he usually works from home — and he’s never seen anyone consuming or urinating in public.
But traffic has been a significant issue in the area, he said, and he’s particularly bothered that police haven’t seemed to enforce parking restrictions by ticketing customers who park in no-parking zones or block the entrances to side streets.
Dan Saltzman, another White Place resident and one of the co-petitioners for the three articles, said he supported marijuana legalization in 2016, but the onslaught of marijuana customers in Brookline Village has left the neighborhood dazed. NETA officials say they serve an average of 2,500 customers a day in Brookline.
“We don’t have a problem with the people at NETA, the customers,” he said. “It’s probably a tiny, tiny percentage of the customer base that’s doing these bad things.”
But, he added, “it’s not OK. We’ve got little kids.”
Meanwhile, leaders at NETA say they’ve put renewed emphasis on their “good neighbor policy,” which encourages the company’s employees and customers alike to be sensitive about their own behavior in the neighborhood.
In addition to adding reminders online and in the store about being a good neighbor, the company also launched a “green team,” which goes out once a week to collect trash in Brookline Village. NETA also put a trash can on the corner of Washington Street and White Place that they manage themselves.
“It’s a new thing in Massachusetts. It’s a new thing for Brookline, and for some of the residents here in town, I think there’s still an adjustment to be had,” said NETA president Amanda Rositano. “We’re doing what we can to meet our neighbors where they are.”
Rositano said forcing the company to go appointment-only would severely limit the access that most adult-use customers in the Boston area currently have to marijuana products.
She also said Brookline should use funds from the 3 percent community impact fee that all cannabis companies pay — specifically intended to mitigate the costs of having a marijuana company in town — before restricting the way NETA operates.
“It’s time for the town to spend that money,” she said.
Both NETA and Sanctuary Medicinals already have offered to change their hours in accordance with one of the warrant articles.
Jason Sidman, CEO of Sanctuary Medicinals, said their Gardner store started on an appointment-only basis when it opened in March, and many customers were concerned about the lack of privacy.
It’s a concern Rositano has also heard from Brookline customers who are hearing about the appointment-only proposal. They don’t want to give their names or be forced to register. They wanted to just buy marijuana without strings attached — like any other product.
Sidman said once more stores open in the Boston area, the demand on each store will lessen and the congestion will decrease along with it.
It’s just going to take time, he said.
“An appointment-only system is going to hurt us all,” he said. “Brookline would be at an extreme disadvantage that is really an undue hardship.”