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Community hears aims for Heights marijuana store

CEO foresees $10M in sales

UPDATED, June 18: For the estimated 20 people who attended the community outreach at Swifty's, potential site of the town's first recreational-marijuana store, the concerns were less about pot use in the neighborhood and more about immediate issues.

Heights business logo

Would the fence at the rear of the longtime print shop be fixed? Would a security light shine into a neighbor's bedroom?

On Thursday, June 13, Joseph Lekach, CEO of Apothca, answered these and larger questions.

The fence would be repaired, and the light would be pointed downward.

In a little over an hour, residents also learned that the marijuana shop, once it opens in six months to a year, could draw sales of $10 million to $15 million a year. If that happens, the town's share would be 3 percent, or $300,000 to $450,000.

Apothca plans to move its established medical-marijuana business, which opened last October, to the Heights, where it also hopes to open an adult-use, recreational-marijuana shop. The Select Board has also given an initial approval to Eskar in East Arlington.

Required meeting

Lekach spent the first 20 minutes of the meeting, required under Apothca's town application, outlining many of the issues expected to arise.

Seeking a safe, welcoming environment, the shop faces a number of regulatory hurdles, including approvals from the Redevelopment Board and Board of Health, before it opens.

Before residents asked, Lekach addressed parking. He noted with a sympathetic chuckle that traffic jams accompanying openings of two near shops in central Mass. last November, have died down. "Those were the first two to open east of the Mississippi," he said, referring to pent-up demand.

He estimated a less-than 1-percent increase in street traffic, adding that the expects the average time for a customer to be in the store at 15 to 20 minutes.

The parking in the rear of the store, now angled, will be reshaped into 13 vertical spaces. Employees will not be permitted to park there, and the number will accommodate 33 cars an hour, he said.

Rules to follow

Among the rules Apothca says it will observe:

  • Only those 21 and older can make purchases for adult use (the limit for medical is 18 and older);
  • Smoking on or outside the premises is forbidden;
  • All transactions are tracked;
  • All products sold are from Apothca or partners.

As for access, Lekach said of the former bank, "You're not going to find a more secure building." The building will have numerous cameras and key-card access. Swifty's large windows will be frosted.

Apothca grows its weed on a 26-acre former Bayer property near Fitchburg. It plans to open its first recreational-marijuana store in Massachusetts along the Lynnway in July. Another is coming to Jamaica Plain. Its first was in Oregon.

Audience questions

Here are some of the questions residents asked and the responses:

  • Hours: 10-8 (9-8 permitted), seven days a week.
  • Security officers: They will be on premises, but not identifiable.
  • Own or lease? David Wooldridge bought Swifty's in 2017 from longtime owners Chuck and Nancy Pappas. "When they move in," Wooldridge said of Apothca, "we move out." Apothca will lease. Wooldridge said he has not yet found a new location, which he hopes to be in town.
  • Police details may be present at first; high-demand times, such as April 20, national weed day, will call for details.
  • Bierbrier contact: Lekach said he has been in touch with the Lexington developer who owns a a row of shops in the block.
  • What if someone drops a container, and a child picks it up? Lekach said it should be caught on a security camera, and store personnel can follow up.
  • What is the cost? $16 a gram plus tax.
  • Effect of property values: Lekach said studies show a "slight appreciation." 

After all, it's the Heights ...


May 22, 2019: Two marijuana-shop proposals get go-ahead
March 12, 2019: Second marijuana applicant seeks Heights outlet
March 9, 2019: Plan would put town's first recreational-marijuana shop in Heights
Dec. 6, 2018: Special Town Meeting supports 3 recreational-marijuana stores

This news announcement was published Wednesday, June 5, 2019, ands updated to a news summary June 18. 

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