The board, which is currently housed in a Financial District office building on the same floor as the state Gaming Commission and shares its public hearing room, had initially confined its search to inside I-495 with the focus on several communities north and south of Boston as well as Boston itself. Worcester was added at the behest of Commission Jennifer Flanagan, a former state senator from Leominster whose district included several communities in Worcester County.
Worcester has been more welcoming to the retail marijuana industry than many communities around the state, passing zoning regulations that will allow as many as 15 pot store in the city’s business, industrial, and manufacturing districts. The city pulls in about $1 million a year in payments through host agreements for medical marijuana dispensaries and officials think retail will add even more plus the ancillary impact of the commission’s main office being located there.
City Manager Edward Augustus said the community’s acceptance of the marijuana industry likely had an effect on the commission’s decision.
“It would probably have been very awkward if we were one of those places that banned [retail marijuana],” he said. “Our approach has been it’s the will of the voters. We wanted to try to prevent any unintended consequences and then reap the benefits of an emerging industry which will create some jobs, create some benefits.”
Augustus said the decision to come to Worcester will put the agency in a central location that is easily accessible from the east by car or train and half the distance to Boston from those coming from western Massachusetts.
He said it would be “my strong suggestion” that the commission consider leasing an office in the city-owned Union Station, the one-time abandoned rail station that has been renovated into retail and office space. He said the location would be right above the train platforms and just off Interstate-290 with parking available below. He also pointed out it is a short walk to the growing downtown area.