California-based cannabis dispensary chain and brand Cookies is on track to open in Cambridge, Massachusetts, occupying the former Staples Inc. space in the Crimson Galeria.
The Harvard Crimson reports that the Crimson Galeria owner, Raj K. Dhanda, brought a lawsuit against Healthy Pharms Inc., a non-profit cannabis distributor based out of Massachusetts, in 2017.
Cambridge Day reports that Dhanda’s complaint argued that his businesses would be “substantially injured by a conspiracy to sell marijuana” and should receive compensation to cover these losses. He claimed that his property had decreased $27 million in value due to Healthy Pharms and was after $81 million in triple damages, further claiming that the business was an arm of a racketeering conspiracy since cannabis is still prohibited federally.
The Boston Globe recently reported that Dhanda published a public letter in which he claims his prior ideas were “based on misconceptions” and have “evolved” after speaking with local Black cannabis entrepreneurs. He claims that their struggles to become established and obtain local support are similar to his own experiences with racism operating as an Indian-American in one of the most exclusive retail districts in the state.
“We take it as a point of pride that Cambridge is committed to diversity and equity, but how many of our local businesses are minority-owned? Not many,” Dhanda’s letter explained. “The truth is that I’ve never really felt included or welcome as a person of color in certain business circles in this city.”
After seeing the light–the green light, that is–Dhanda is good to go, with plans to host Cookies at his property, located at 57 JFK Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The new proposal involves a local real estate agent and cannabis entrepreneur, Damond Hughes, teaming up with Cookies to open its first East Coast dispensary.
“They have opened my mind with regard to the importance of this emerging industry being one that is centered on the principle of lifting those that suffered worse under prohibition policies, policies that many of us, myself included, now understand to have been wrong, discriminatory, and harmful to our society,” Dhanda wrote, describing his experience speaking with Hughes’ team and reflecting on his new outlook on the cannabis industry.
“This is historic,” Hughes told The Boston Globe. “Being a Black business owner and having an opportunity to open not just in Harvard Square but on that [prominent] corner–it’s a great feeling. It motivates you to really do something special.”