By SCOTT JACKSON
The company that has sold medical marijuana at its Quincy dispensary for the past three years could get permission from the state to start selling to recreational customers as soon as November.
Ermont hosted a community outreach meeting Wednesday night inside the Lincoln-Hancock School on its plans to begin recreational sales from its location at 216 Ricciuti Drive. About 30 residents attended the 90-minute meeting.
Ward 4 Councillor Brian Palmucci, in whose district the store is located, said state law gives Ermont priority over other applicants because the company already has a license to sell medical marijuana. That means Ermont does not have to go through a permitting process with the city, like it did when it first sought to open.
“They have priority access because they were a pre-existing medical marijuana facility, so the way in which this operation and this particular company would proceed toward becoming a retail marijuana site in Quincy will not be replicated,” Palmucci said.
“If another entity wanted to open up a retail marijuana facility in the city of Quincy, they would have to follow a different process that would be a little bit more robust in terms of the city component, because they would have to go through the Planning Board process.”
John Gates, the company’s CEO, said he plans to submit the application for the retail license to the state Cannabis Control Commission within the next week. He expects it would take four to five months for the CCC to approve the license, meaning Ermont could possibly begin recreational sales by November or December.
Ermont serves about 255 customers each day, Gates said, and he expects that number would double once recreational sales begin. He anticipates $10 million in recreational sales during the first year. Quincy would receive 3 percent of all retail sales, Gates said, per a host agreement it has reached with the city.
The city also has the option of imposing a 3 percent local tax on recreational sales; legislation to adopt the local sales tax is pending before the City Council. The 3 percent local tax would be on top of the 17 percent tax the state assesses.
Ermont would sell edibles – marijuana-infused food and beverages – to recreational customers, among other products. Chris Yang, Ermont’s director of retail, said the company would be required to follow state regulations for edibles, which include child-proof packaging and certain label requirements.
Gates said he understands the importance of not selling marijuana products to children.
“We don’t allow the sale of cannabis in any form – whether it is recreational sales or medical sales – to impact children. I’m a father of six kids…and there is research that says that cannabis affects the growing brain in a negative way. We take that responsibility very seriously,” Gates said.
“We will never market in any way, whether it is in the form it comes in, whether it is in the way that we talk about it [and] certainly when it comes to seeing minors that might try to approach the facility or try to be on site.”
The chief concern for many of the residents who spoke at the meeting was traffic along Ricciuti Drive, including its intersection with Willard Street at the bottom of the hill, which is located near an exit from Interstate 93.
“We have a major traffic problem entering and exiting Ricciuti Drive,” said Mort McGrath. “My concern is how are we going to see an improvement to our [quality] of life.”
Palmucci said Quincy studied the feasibility of installing a signal at that intersection a dozen years ago, but the traffic conditions did not warrant a signal at that time. A more recent study showed traffic conditions now warrant a signal there, Palmucci said, and the city has asked the state for permission to go ahead with that plan. The city is prepared to pay for the cost of the signal if necessary, using some of the money it would receive from Ermont.
“We will pay for all of it, if we have to, to make it better, because it needs to be done. It’s not the kind of thing that we’re going to wait for the state to pay for,” Palmucci said. “Some of the money that we would be getting in revenue from this operation would go towards offsetting that cost so it wouldn’t result in an increase in taxes.”
If Ermont receives permission for recreational sales before the intersection work takes place, Gates said the company would work with the city and state to have a police officer there to direct traffic at peak hours if not all times the store is open. The company would also consider requiring recreational customers to schedule an appointment during peak hours.
Phyllis Speen said she was concerned a signal at the intersection would not be enough to fix the traffic issue and a more substantial solution would be required. Until that time, she said Ermont should not be allowed to go ahead with recreational sales.
“I don’t have any issue with what they do,” Speen said. “I do have an issue with the added the people and volume that’s up there.”
Eric Doucette said the city should not stop a business from opening because of traffic concerns and added that revenue from the company could be used for infrastructure improvements.
“There are three liquor stores within a mile of my house – when the Patriots play, it creates traffic. When people go to church, it creates traffic. When there is a long weekend and people have barbecues, you go by Stop & Shop and there is a lot of traffic,” he said.
“If we can bring in all this extra revenue, it will be good to get more traffic lights, to get bigger crosswalks, to get better lighting.”
Councillor Anne Mahoney said the signal should be installed at the intersection before Ermont begins recreational sales.
“Although I do agree with you that if you have a Patriots game and you have certain other things going on it does create traffic in certain areas, this particular location in general…has a treacherous track record and unfortunately it is going to get worse when this opens,” Mahoney said.
Kathy Deady said she was concerned allowing recreational sales would lead to children using marijuana.
“I think it having it be recreational just says to the kid…it’s OK,” Deady said. “It’s OK to have it and it’s OK to use it – smoke it, eat it, vape it, do whatever you want with it – and those kids will get it from their older brothers and sisters. They will. They do it now, especially the vaping.”
Jeff Burke said he supported Ermont’s proposal for recreational sales.
“I think it’s really good what you’re doing. I don’t think it’s bad for the community and we’ve waited a long time for this,” he said.
Recreational sales of marijuana were approved in a 2016 statewide referendum, which 51 percent of voters in Quincy supported. Because a majority of Quincy voters approved the ballot question, the mayor and City Council cannot ban marijuana establishments outright. The city would also be required to license up to seven recreational shops – one for every five liquor stores in the city.
Mayor Thomas Koch in February 2018 introduced a zoning ordinance – still pending before the City Council – regulating where pot shops would be able open in the city. The proposed ordinance, which is similar to an approved ordinance concerning medical marijuana dispensaries, would in essence limit recreational stores to the vicinity of Quarry Hills, Crown Colony and the Fore River Shipyard.
Councillor Nina Liang, the chairwoman of the council’s ordinance committee, said she expects a vote on the zoning ordinance would take place in the fall after councillors return from their summer recess. The goal is to ensure the ordinance does not run afoul of state regulations.
“We want to make sure that everything we’re doing to protect the residents of the city are going to be able to fly and not potentially open us up to any lawsuits,” Liang said. “I would encourage folks when we reconvene in the fall to meet on this to come to the meetings.”