Saturday, July 13, 2024

Revolutionary Clinics’ Central Square medicinal marijuana dispensary. (Photo: Marc Levy)

As city councillors prepared to debate extending a two-year head start for recreational pot shops owned by “economic empowerment” applicants that delays competition from medical marijuana dispensaries, one of Cambridge’s dispensaries released a plan Monday that amounted to a counterargument: Let the ban expire and we’ll hire 50 full-time employees.

Revolutionary Clinics, which has storefronts in Central Square and Alewife, as well as one in Somerville, said starting pay would be $19.23 an hour and time-and-a-half for working holidays and Sundays, and that there would be a healthy set of benefits that includes three weeks of paid time off. The company would “seek to hire” local and minority candidates for at least 65 percent of the positions, while 70 percent of current Cambridge locations’ employees identify as a minority or as women – economic empowerment categories.

The press release about hirings was written and scheduled before company executives became aware of the Monday agenda item, the company said, but they had since become aware of City Council discussions due to take place a few hours later on extending the ban. A representative of the company planned to speak during public comment to oppose an extension.

The two-year period is set toexpire Sept. 23 without a single economic empowerment business opening to take advantage of a field free of corporate competition. The model was intended to favor the disadvantaged, mainly people of color who were penalized disproportionately during the nation’s long war on drugs.

Councillor Quinton Zondervan wrote a proposed extension that is cosponsored by Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and councillors Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler and Dennis Carlone. They hope for a hearing on the proposal no later than Aug. 15.

A council order points to one big argument for an extension: “The Covid-19 pandemic largely overlapped with this two-year preferential period,” the order says, “causing significant delay for economic empowerment applicants.”

Businesses must also make it through a series of municipal hearings, sign a host agreement (in which the city might include anything from spelling out how many employees must be city residents to demanding participation in drug abuse prevention programs), build and satisfy city inspectors.

Cambridge’s Cannabis Business Permitting law was voted in with its head start 7-2 by city councillors Sept. 23, 2019. Voters statewide had approved recreational marijuana in November 2016, with Cambridge voters approving it at a higher rate – but more than four and a half years later, the nearest adult-use cannabis sales are in Watertown or across the river in Boston or Brookline.

Vona Hill, chief strategy officer and board member at Revolutionary Clinics, made the company’s arguments in a Monday press release.

“Jobs are greatly needed in Cambridge,” Hill said. “We want to help those seeking employment find work close to home and to invest in Cambridge [and] we are excited to bring a huge boost in foot traffic to Central Square that will directly benefit neighboring businesses upon the addition of adult-use sales.”

The company said it planned to host a job fair in September.