It was the one candidate — a Black woman — whose hearing was delayed Thursday evening that left a city councilor “disgusted.”
BROCKTON — Five applicants — four of whom are white — have been granted marijuana licenses by the Brockton City Council, but it’s the one candidate — a Black woman — who hasn’t received approval that’s left a city councilor “disgusted.”
The city council, during a special meeting Thursday evening, granted five marijuana licenses with the condition that each applicant successfully negotiate a host community agreement with the city. One applicant’s license is also dependent on receiving a provisional license from the Cannabis Control Commission.
But the sixth applicant who was originally scheduled to appear before the city council, Vanessa Jean-Baptiste, the owner of Legal Greens, did not get a chance to present her proposed business for 73 Pleasant St. as the council decided to delay her hearing until July 27.
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Councilor-at-large Winthrop Farwell said the council received a “defective” application from Jean-Baptiste that was missing financial information, site plan review and information on approval by the city’s zoning board of appeals — information that he said all other five applicants provided.
Farwell said he reached out to Jean-Baptiste’s attorney ahead of Thursday’s meeting to see if the applicant would agree to postpone the hearing to gather the missing information. He said he didn’t want to risk the council denying the application because of the missing pieces.
But Councilor-at-large Moises Rodrigues took exception with the decision to delay the hearing for Legal Greens, a proposed business that is part of the state’s economic empowerment program aimed at helping racial minorities and others disproportionately impacted by marijuana criminalization. Jean-Baptiste received a provisional license from the state in March and has a host community agreement with Brockton, signed by Rodrigues when he was appointed as mayor following the death of Bill Carpenter.
“We granted five applications — four to white candidates and one to a female candidate that’s not even from Brockton,” Rodrigues said. “Every single one of the licenses that we granted tonight was incomplete.”
One license was granted to minority- and woman-owned Green Stratus Corp., owned by 36-year-old Kinjal Patel, a 2003 Brockton High School graduate who owns two liquor stores in the city and now lives in Canton.
Rodrigues said he believes the most important approval a proposed marijuana business needs is a host community agreement with the city, which Jean-Baptiste has. He said Friday that the other five applications were “incomplete in the most egregious way” because they don’t have valid agreements, but they were still allowed to present their proposals and granted licenses by the city council contingent upon receiving future agreements.
While the other five applicants previously received host community agreements from Carpenter, they expired within a year of the date they were signed. Mayor Robert Sullivan will have to approve new agreements with each proposed pot shop in the city.
Legal Greens was the most ready of the six applicants because of its agreement with the city, Rodrigues said. The missing financial information was “minor stuff” that he said Jean-Baptiste did turn into the city clerk’s office.
“She’s the only African American, Black female applicant that applied to this body for a license and we send a beautiful message to the community that while you’re Black in this community, do not apply for anything that this city does,” Rodrigues said.
Rodrigues called the city’s entire process in granting marijuana licenses “flawed,” going back to when Carpenter issued 13 host community agreements in what Rodrigues said was a closed-door process. When he was appointed mayor, Rodrigues reopened the process for economic empowerment applicants to apply for host community agreements with the city.
“The whole process was flawed from the get-go,” Rodrigues said. “We just continue to make matters worse by our actions. All five applications that were granted were incomplete. The most important thing, whether the community wants it there, was missing. Why was it that the other five get a pass but the sixth one wasn’t given an opportunity?”
The councilor said he felt it was “offensive” to Jean-Baptiste to grant other licenses with contingencies, but to postpone her hearing.
“All I’m saying is that exemptions were made tonight for the other applicants that happened to be of a certain race. We are trying to level the playing field,” Rodrigues said. “When you make an exception to certain individuals and you’re not willing to make it across the board, this is how people start having problems in the community.”
Farwell objected to Rodrigues’ statements, calling them outrageous, and said Jean-Baptiste will be the first applicant who is able to present at the July 27 meeting.
“To suggest that anything that went on here tonight was related to someone’s race, someone’s culture, someone’s background is absolutely absurd and inappropriate,” he said.
Farwell said Friday that he felt Rodrigues injected racism when there was “absolutely none suggested.”
“This is one of those situations where no good deed goes unpunished,” he said. “I tried to help provide additional time to ensure the applicant was successful. It was an unfortunate accusation.”
Councilor-at-large Tina Cardoso said the decision to delay Legal Greens’ hearing shows that minorities face a lot of inequities and do not have a level playing field.
“It was an embarrassment to listen to any of the cases tonight if we didn’t have, this particular candidate, all of the information that we needed for her. We could have postponed all of them to the 27th. Like you said, that’s 11 days from now,” she said. “Nobody’s going to go open their pot shops tomorrow. It would have been a better, in this climate, would have served us better to hear all of them on the 27th.”
Ward 4 City Councilor Susan Nicastro said she takes Legal Greens being an economic empowerment candidate “very seriously,” but that she couldn’t have voted for the application had it gone before the council on Thursday evening without additional information.
“I felt with the things that were missing from her application — and I read all the applications, it took me about 12 hours — I felt I couldn’t have voted for it and I didn’t want to not vote for it,” she said.
Jean-Baptiste didn’t respond to a request for comment by deadline on Friday.
Senior reporter Cody Shepard can be reached by email at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @cshepard_ENT.