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Brookline Town Meeting rejects proposal to require pot shops to be appointment-only

Inside The New England Treatment Access location in Brookline on March 23.
Inside The New England Treatment Access location in Brookline on March 23. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

BROOKLINE — Town Meeting members narrowly voted Thursday night against a proposal that would have required all recreational marijuana shops in Brookline to operate on an appointment-only basis for at least two years.

The change would have shaken up the market in Greater Boston, where marijuana stores are still scarce. The members did, however, approve a measure to shorten hours for adult-use cannabis retail stores in the town by requiring them to close earlier.

“To our neighbors who have concerns, we want you to know that we want to be the best neighbors possible and that we are going to continue to work with you,” Amanda Rositano, president of New England Treatment Access, said after the vote.

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NETA, which began recreational marijuana sales in March, is the only adult-use store in Brookline.

The appointment-only proposal was defeated by a vote of 116 against and 106 in favor. Three people abstained.

Residents who brought forward both measures said the changes were necessary to ease traffic congestion, noise, trash, and the consumption of products outside the New England Treatment Access store in Brookline Village.

“If we can reduce the number of people coming into NETA at a time, we can reduce the nuisance,” resident Faith Michaels told Town Meeting.

Michaels said she has spoken with dozens of business owners who said NETA customers have disrupted their businesses and made it nearly impossible for their own customers to find parking spots.

“This will allow local shoppers a shot at a parking space,” she said.

Appointments would have also been required of other cannabis companies that open an adult-use retail store in town. Medical marijuana operations would not have been affected.

Many neighbors supported NETA Thursday night, saying they have not had the same negative experiences with the Washington Street store.

Sam Levine, who lives on White Place a few homes away from the store, said he hasn’t seen the reported disruptions. He just wants police to crack down on enforcing various parking restrictions on side streets in the area.

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“The impacts of NETA on my street have been exaggerated,” Levine told Town Meeting members. “There is no urgent crisis on White Place.”

Levine emphasized that NETA is not to blame for issues that already exist in Brookline Village, where he said other businesses and construction projects bring their own vehicle congestion and foot traffic.

A town official said later in the meeting that there are four construction projects in the area.

“Brookline Village is a busy and growing area, not a country lane,” Levine said.

NETA is the closest recreational marijuana store to Boston, where shops have not yet opened. Garden Remedies in Newton has operated by appointment since it opened in May.

NETA officials said they have taken steps to address residents’ concerns. They have posted signs in their stores and on the company’s website emphasizing their “good neighbor policy.”

But Paul Warren, a Town Meeting member who is part of the group of residents who made the appointment-only proposal, disputed NETA’s assertion that it has been a partner to the community. “Great partners do not offer to reduce hours only after the Select Board puts that reduction on their agenda,” he said. “Great partners don’t send nine-page legal letters threatening lawsuits when the town plans to exercise its right to regulate its commercial industry.”

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Rositano told Town Meeting members that the company has “established a positive, productive dialogue with many of our closest neighbors.”

She also shared concerns from customers who have enjoyed the anonymity of walking into a store, buying a marijuana product, and walking out without leaving a digital footprint.

By requiring appointments, Rositano said, there is no way to ensure anonymity.

“We acknowledge that legal cannabis is new and that we are bringing more visitors to Brookline Village. We have been listening, and NETA agreed to a 23 percent reduction in its operating hours to limit adult-use customers in the evening,” she said. “But the prospect of mandatory appointments is a serious concern for our business and our customers. It is not what the law intended.”


Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.