Dr. Cornel West Testifies as Cambridge Planning Board Approves Initial Special Permit for Proposed Adult Use Dispensary in Harvard Square
First published: 11:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time
After nearly 3 hours of public comment at tonight's Cambridge Planning Board hearing, including support from Dr. Cornel West, multiple local churches, members of the City Council, the property owner of 57 JFK Street and a wide array of members of the public (including disabled medical patients, local residents and others), Board Members voted unanimously to approve an initial special permit for a Black-owned adult use cannabis dispensary seeking to open in Harvard Square.
The Special Permit will now come up for a second Planning Board Hearing in the coming weeks before becoming final (although it is now likely that the Special Permit will issue in light of the Board's unanimous vote tonight).
Blue Enterprises HSMA, LLC (operating as "Cookies Cambridge"), was before the Planning Board asking for a Special Permit that would be needed before the company could move forward with its application and the company had a substantial amount of community support.
Dr. Cornel West, speaking in support of the proposal, noted the "legendary nobility" of the local Black family (the Moses family) involved with the application. "When we're talking about this enterprise, we've seen the details and its a good fit and it seems to me the evidence leans towards support...but then there is also the historic dimension that is very important. The Moses family, working with others in a multi-racial way, so Cambridge can say our commitment to equality and diversity went hand in hand with our vision of the honesty, as seen on display by the Moses Family, and that can be affirmed in the approval of this application."
Said Dr. West, "I stand here with great passion, with great humility and with great openness to the fact that you all will support this project."
Some voices (roughly 5 or so of the 30 public speakers) also did rise in opposition to the proposal, including one local resident who raised concerns about smoking in local parks, but on the whole community support for the proposal was strong.
Speaking in favor of the proposal, City Councillor Mark McGovern said the applicant's proposal reflects "...a good project, that meets all the requirements put in place by the Council" and thus had earned his support.
Further, McGovern was quick to point out that there has been a pattern of attacks against equity companies seeking to open in Cambridge (including, as the Councillor rightly pointed out, a white-owned dispensary attempting to sue the City over its equity priority period by claiming that priority period was "racially discriminatory") and, in turn, approving the special permit was crucial.
Also speaking at the hearing was Councillor Quinton Zondervan who was clear in his stance that any delays to the approval of the Special Permit would unduly impact the very equity applicants the City's zoning and permitting rules sought to assist.
Zondervan, speaking to this publication yesterday, also noted, "the arguments being put forth in opposition are self-interested and racist. Some of what we have seen, even before this letter, I addressed in an op-ed I wrote with some of my colleagues to talk about how racist some of this rhetoric is, in particular this notion of increased police presence or relegating a Black owned business to a basement."
Former Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title also spoke in favor of the Special Permit being issued, noting in her remarks that Cambridge has quickly become a national model for adult use licensing. Title recently announced she has accepted a position of Distinguished Cannabis Policy Practitioner in Residence at The Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law at the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.
That the first vote at the Planning Board was unanimously in favor of the application, despite months of opposition by local business groups and neighborhood associations, is an impressive testament to Cambridge's willingness to live up to those lofty national expectations
Over the coming months (perhaps years), after a second special permit hearing, the dispensary will then be able to enter the final stages of its local and state licenses and begin operations.