Where's the weed?

In 2016 Happy Valley Compassionate Care was denied a permit to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the long blighted eye sore of the former KFC building on East Street.  Now, two years later iBerkshires.com reports that Heka Health is picking up where they left off, this time with a plan for a medical and recreational facility, and have been meet with the same resistance.

An engineer from SK Designs walked the Community Development Board through plans to completely redesign the properties at 737 and 745 East Street in Pittsfield, the home of a former KFC Restaurant and the Taylor Events building. New plans include the demolition of the former fast food building to use that space for parking, and a complete renovation of the rental business building into the actual facility.  A new entrance would face west, towards the new parking lot, not facing the busy roadway. The new parking lot would include eight lights for safety and security as well as new landscaping.

In September 2016, when the board denied a special permit at the same property they sided with some community members who argued at the time that the proposed dispensary would be too close to Pittsfield High School, Gymfest, Chin Bo Kok Marital Arts Academy for children, Kids Zone Day Care Center, parks and doctors offices perhaps "detrimental to the character of the neighborhood." However legally all of those businesses and the High School are well outside the 200 foot buffer outlined in the Commonwealth's new laws.

Michael O'Keefe, neighbor to the proposed site voiced his descent two years ago and showed up Tuesday night to continue the discussion.  He reiterated his concern over  the proximity of "all these places geared towards kids" adding that children and teens are walking the area going to Belanger Park or elsewhere.  The East Street resident added that the city has seen high demand for recreational marijuana and "we have enough of them already."

Are these the arguments we're still making? The blatant hypocrisy in the treatment of proposed marijuana shops versus liquor stores in Pittsfield is just wild to me. In this case, you have East Street Video and Variety a stones throw away, in a building that literally abuts Gymfest and guess what, sells beer and wine. You have George's Package Store even closer to Pittsfield High School, and Teddy's Pizza a restaurant that high school students frequent for off campus lunch that has a full liquor license.  Kids are inside that establishment daily, but guess what, they aren't getting drunk at lunch. Children could be walking by to Belanger Park? Please! Deming Park on Newell shares land with Palmer's. It's up to these establishment's, both marijuana and alcohol, to obey laws and take their roll to sell safely in the community seriously. It's also up to parents and youth leaders to talk to kids about the ramifications of drug and alcohol use.

The bottom line is under age citizens will have no more access to marijuana than they do alcohol. In fact it would be easy to make the argument their exposure to alcohol is far greater.  In a city that houses more than 20 stores that sell some variety of beer, wine of liquor, that fact that five tentatively approved pot shops have people some saying "we have enough already" is just silly. Everyone wants the revenue recreational and medical marijuana will bring to the city, but once again, the not in my back yard mentality prevails

Ultimately the Zoning Board of Appeals did approve the site the next day, pending state licensing approval. But with many other locations waiting for approval, surely the date will continue.