Caroline Pineau’s retail marijuana shop Stem is officially coming to 124 Washington St., in Haverhill’s downtown district after city councilors voted Tuesday night to grant the entrepreneur a special permit to do business.
The vote followed a three week legal battle for the 32-year-old Haverhill resident, who first expressed interest in opening a marijuana location downtown in fall 2018. As she told councilors Tuesday, Pineau is one of 120 economic empowerment applicants given priority status by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, and will now receive front-of-the-line privileges when Haverhill’s first marijuana location opens for business later this year.
Of the nine-member Council, seven voted in favor of the special permit, with Joseph J. Bevilacqua voting against and Michael S. McGonagle abstaining, given his conflict of interest as the landlord for another potential marijuana shop on Amesbury Road eyed by the Mellow Fellows.
According to Pineau, the faith the CCC has in her—along with her commitment to the Haverhill community—leaves her with a strong desire to do the right thing when bringing cannabis to the city.
“I am the only Haverhill resident and economic empowerment special permit applicant before the City Council petitioning for a special permit to open a cannabis dispensary and as such, feel a tremendous responsibility to this community to make sure that my proposed location is safe, secure and enhances the downtown landscape and culture,” Pineau said.
During her hearing, Pineau spoke of her passion and vision to open a state-of-the-art retail marijuana shop on Washington Street, where she’s also owned The Yoga Tree Studio for the last nine years.
Joined by Attorney Thomas MacMillan, security consultant and former Haverhill Police Lt. Kevin Dorr, along with supporters from across the city and state, Pineau detailed her business model. Stem, according to the CEO, plans to adopt what Pineau calls a “walk before we run” approach to opening.
One of the sticking points for councilors was scheduling, with Pineau and the panel going back and forth before settling on 20 appointments per hour for the first three days. Stem will then have the option to adjust the number based on input from Haverhill’s police and fire departments.
Attorney Scott A. Schlager spoke on behalf of opponents Lloyd Jennings, J. Bradford Brooks. During his remarks, Schlager accused Pineau of spreading “disinformation.”
“Caroline Pineau told our clients this facility would only sell oils and lotions—a seemingly innocuous combination of goods. However, the applicant is selling edibles and other cannabis products such as joints, for example. Obviously,” the attorney said.
While Mark’s Deli owner and City Council hopeful Stavros Dimakis was measured in his remarks to councilors—discussing his displeasure at the location of the shop—fellow opponent Lloyd Jennings didn’t mince words when it came to Pineau or Stem.
“This nonsense for owed money for a deck that’s in the news is nonsense,” Jennings said. “There is legal action pending but I will say it is a complete lie and we look forward to letting the courts decide who is right and who is trying to bully who with the lies, the protests and slander, again, to push their agenda.”
Pineau was embraced by Haverhill residents, including City Council hopeful Nicholas Golden, Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce President Dougan Sherwood, Paper Potpourri’s Elaine Barker, and electrical contractor Phil Rice, among others. They all spoke in support of the cannabis entrepreneur, pleading with the Council to issue her special permit.
“Caroline Pineau is exactly the type of young entrepreneur we want to support in Haverhill to continue to revitalize the city — someone with strong local ties, not a faceless corporation, a woman who works through challenges — sometimes bullying — tirelessly,” Golden, a Council hopeful himself, said Tuesday night.
Looking to the future, Pineau told WHAV she’s anxious to reinvigorate the downtown district and boost the local economy through Stem.
“I’m so appreciative for all the support from neighbors, residents, downtown business owners who showed up here tonight in support of my project on Washington Street and I look forward to being a good neighbor and running a professional cannabis dispensary in our city.”