Haverhill Council Grants Marijuana Shop CNA Stores Special Permit to Open on River Street

CNA Stores CEO Rob DiFazio won approval from the Haverhill City Council to open his marijuana shop at 558 River St. during a special permit hearing on July 9, 2019. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Veteran-owned and operated CNA Stores is the third retail marijuana shop to receive a special permit from Haverhill’s City Council, with the River Street location winning approval 7-1 Tuesday night to do business in the city.

As in previous marijuana-related Council votes, Michael S. McGonagle abstained from the vote, as he owns the Amesbury Road property being eyed by the Mellow Fellows for their shop. Joseph J. Bevilacqua cast the lone no vote for CNA’s effort.

CEO Robert DiFazio unveiled plans for CNA’s 1,800 sq. ft. shop at 558 River St. during the hearing alongside attorney Michael Migliori and security consultant Michael Allen, assuring councilors they would adhere to an appointment-only schedule for as long as necessary.

“Our goal has always been to make a positive impact and we’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen,” DiFazio told WHAV after the meeting, adding that he maintains an open line of contact with his shop’s neighbors, speaking to them regularly over the last five months since his first community outreach meeting.

CNA Stores plans to do business Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturdays.

Former Rochester, N.H. police chief Allen—who also consults for Plaistow Road shop Full Harvest Moonz—said CNA will have uniformed, unarmed security guards on the premises at all times during business hours. Appointments will be issued to 16 customers per hour, DiFazio said, with appointment holders the only ones allowed access onto the 31-space parking lot. Pre-orders will also be accepted online.

While DiFazio and business partner Billie Haggard’s plan was generally well received by councilors, neighbors expressed fears over everything from parking to illegal drug trafficking during Tuesday’s public hearing.

Maxwell Street neighbor Jessica Winiecki fought back tears as she summed up her concerns. “Approving the special permit is neither wise nor understanding. It’s not wise to sell drugs on the waterfront. Druggies are going to buy, then park facing the water to get high,” she said. “It’s not understanding for this Council to put a pot shop literally next to families’ homes.”

In an effort to alleviate neighbor concerns, DiFazio agreed—at the request of councilor Melinda E. Barrett—to install security cameras that face Margin and Florence Streets.

Attorney Migliori said DiFazio and the CNA team is committed to being good corporate neighbors and business partners to the City of Haverhill.

“A lot of those issues the neighbors brought to you tonight are going to be improved because of this facility: There’s going to be better enforcement and observation of the drug dealing that goes on in the neighborhood,” Migliori said. “It’s going to be a true plus for this neighborhood.”

CNA is the city’s latest shop to receive a special permit. Full Harvest Moonz and Stem on Washington Street won approval to move forward with their proposals. Two other businesses—Mellow Fellows and Haverwell Market—are interested in opening on Amesbury Road, though no special permit hearing dates have been set yet.

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