Guest columnist Wendy Foxmyn: Not here: Concerns about planned cannabis shop in Florence

  • Leslie Chalmers and Michael Goyda stand near the Pizza Factory in Florence late last month. The location is being proposed for a new cannabis shop. A community meeting is scheduled to take place Monday night about the proposal. Gazette file photo

Published: 8/12/2022 5:48:32 PM
Modified: 8/12/2022 5:45:17 PM

Thank you to reporter Brian Steele and the Gazette for the expansive July 30 story about the big changes in Florence center. No, this story wasn’t about the city’s well-planned Florence center redesign project underway at this time, but about ongoing gentrification.

Case in point: Florence/Northampton residents have voiced concerns over plans by new building owners to evict — via an unaffordable rent increase — the Pizza Factory, and to replace it with a retail cannabis store called Euphorium.

The article was likely the first time most readers had heard about this project. As proposed, Euphorium would be owned by father and son Marco and Richard Aranzullo of Connecticut.

A legally-required community outreach meeting was originally scheduled to be held on Aug. 1 at JJ’s Tavern, a bar. The location prompted an outcry from the Florence recovery community.

As a result, Euphorium’s community outreach meeting has been rescheduled and relocated. It will take place on Monday, Aug. 15, in the parking lot behind the Pizza Factory, 143 North Maple St., at 6:30 p.m. There will be a virtual Zoom option for participation via this link:

Local cannabis entrepreneur Ezra Parzybok is managing this process. Parzybok is a consultant in the burgeoning cannabis industry who has numerous clients in New England, New York, and beyond. He also owns cannabis delivery businesses. Parzybok’s website claims he is on a “first name basis with numerous licensing and inspections agents. Yes, they answer my phone calls.”

Both medicinal and adult-use cannabis is legal and regulated in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission approves and licenses cannabis businesses. Individual cities and towns negotiate host community agreements with cannabis businesses, and have zoning ordinances or by-laws for siting and related issues. Each community can negotiate fees with these businesses and tax income goes to both the state and host municipality.

The variety of concerns I’ve heard from Florence/Northampton residents against Euphorium include:

■Not here on this corner. It is not what makes sense for the center of Florence, especially as it displaces a local family’s longtime popular take-out restaurant.

■Not here, too close to numerous service agencies assisting clients who have substance abuse and addiction and other mental health challenges, many of whom live in this vicinity.

■Not here, where middle-school students gather after school.

■Not here, including all of Northampton, because having welcomed this industry without a cap on the number of cannabis businesses, the city is now oversaturated with these shops. Small, locally-owned cannabis businesses are challenged to compete with big operators, who have the deepest pockets.

■Not here, because being the retail “cannabis capital of Massachusetts,” as described in a number of print and social media sources, may no longer be in Northampton’s best interests, as our once diverse downtown retail and entertainment environment is struggling to regain its balance and attractiveness as a travel destination.

Both the Cannabis Control Commission and city officials (mayor and city councilors) are obligated to consider the perspectives of the community.

Wendy Foxmyn lives in Leeds.
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