Let me begin by saying that I approached the idea of a dispensary in Dudley Square with caution, neither for or against it.
Admittedly, I am pro-legalization of marijuana. Having personal experience with it, I can give simple witness to the mildness of it’s effects, lack of harmful addictive qualities, and overall “meh” in terms of it’s impact on society. The fact that people go to jail for possession of marijuana is, in my opinion, ridiculous.
However, whether marijuana is a good thing or a bad thing is not the question. Rather, the question is would opening a dispensary in Dudley Square be a good thing or a bad thing for our community.
There are precious few studies on the potential impacts that medical marijuana dispensaries might have on our neighborhood. The Rand Corp., a not-for-profit research and analysis organization, found that crime actually decreased around dispensaries in Colorado and California, due to the amount of added security.
However, I checked with a friend of mine living in Los Angeles. His impression was overwhelmingly negative. “Think of a liquor store times ten,” he told me. “I have a dispensary down the end of my block and a clerk was murdered there three months ago.”
While “asking a friend” is admittedly less scientific, personal witness to the potential effects on a neighborhood are valuable, and in this case, served to check my enthusiasm for a new business opening in our neighborhood.
A few weeks of personal research left me with the impression that a dispensary, like a lot of things in the grown-up world, could be a good thing for Dudley Square...if handled correctly.
I don’t mean just for those people who are suffering from chronic pain, who would be the customer base. I mean for the neighborhood itself, since that steady, repeat customer base, who would have otherwise no reason to come here, might well also be having lunch at places like the Haley House, and picking up some groceries at Tropical Foods.
The caveat being that a dispensary Mr. Napoli might open would have to meet stringent security regulations, equal to or exceeding the security in a bank, or face immediate shut down.
The dispensary would also have to meet and exceed every law enforcement precaution to ensure only those with prescriptions from certified doctors could get the drug. In this case, similar to any drug from a pharmacy.
I am a fan of Mr. Napoli’s other business in Dudley Square, the Boston Gardener. I’ve also been in The Hempest, a high end clothing store on Newbury Street, selling hemp-related clothing and accessories, that he owns as well. Mr. Napoli strikes me as a man with flair for business and isn’t just in it for a buck. He cares about his stores, what they sell, and he wants to do right by the community.
And that gives me optimism.
During his presentation to the Dudley Vision Task Force, one of the committee members (who was clearly against the idea) argued that opening a dispensary would define Dudley Square as “the weed district.”
I fail to see how opening one store would “define” Dudley Square as anything. By that logic, Dudley Square would be an epic shoe district, because we have two shoe stores.
It also presupposes that dispensaries have an existing negative image, which I don’t believe to be the case. These are places where people who are in chronic pain come for relief. Dispensaries are not “drug clinics” and patients with prescriptions would not smoke or ingest anywhere in or around the store (that’s not how weed works, folks). We can thank Colorado and California for providing examples of public safety.
Cambridge and Framingham will soon be getting dispensaries. I think that Dudley Square would be missing out if such organizations such as the Dudley Vision Advisory Task Force failed to support Mr. Napoli in this venture.