An empty Boston-area storefront that is being transformed into a legal cannabis retail shop was vandalized with racist, anti-Semitic graffiti this week, shocking a community unused to witnessing such virulent hate crimes.
Jordan Avery, CEO of cannabis startup Massachusetts Green Retail, rented a storefront in the town of Lynn, about four miles north of Boston, in hopes of transforming it into a legal recreational pot store. Last Monday, however, the building's owner informed Avery that his storefront was broken into and vandalized.
The inside of the store was trashed, and the walls were spray-painted with hate speech, including “F*** the Jews” and “Jesus Failed,” next to an upside-down cross. Avery also discovered a knife hanging from the ceiling, suspended by a rope tied in a noose. The floor was reportedly littered with an unknown white powder, and dozens of empty alcohol bottles were stacked in a neat line.
"When I walked in, I was absolutely lost for words," Avery told ABC affiliate WCVB5. "It was very upsetting to see such hatred." The cannabis entrepreneur believes the messages were not random, but specifically intended for his company, as he is African-American and his business partner is Jewish. "Blacks were hung, so it's a strong message," Avery said, referencing the noose.
Julius Sokol, the building's owner, is also Jewish. “I condemn this type of hate, and there’s no place for it on the North Shore, or anywhere for that matter,” said Sokol to the Boston Globe.
Lynn Police Lieutenant Michael Kmiec said these sorts of hate crimes are not common in his town. “We’ve had nothing of this sort, anything like this, recently,” he told the Globe. Hate crimes are on the rise in the Bay State, however. Last year, Massachusetts recorded the second-highest incidence of anti-Semitic incidents ever recorded in the state. The majority of these incidents involved vandalism similar to what Avery experienced.
Avery believes that this attack may have roots in an ongoing dispute with the neighboring town of Saugus. Avery's storefront is on the border of these two towns, and while his building is officially in Lynn, its parking lot is in Saugus. Making matters worse, Lynn has chosen to opt-in to the adult-use retail market, but Saugus has banned all cannabis businesses from its jurisdiction.
This April, Saugus officials sued Avery and the Lynn City Council, arguing that the weed store is illegal based on claims that ten inches of the building extend into their jurisdiction. Saugus demanded the state Land Court invalidate the cannabis permit that Lynn has already granted to Avery. The case is not expected to be heard until next month, but it seems unlikely that the state's Cannabis Control Commission will grant Avery's state business license unless the issue is resolved in his favor.
Despite all the hurdles, Avery intends to overcome the odds and open his store. “I will NOT allow haters, racist individuals or the Town of Saugus and any of [their] tactics stop me from being a cannabis entrepreneur representing exactly what regulators want; locally-owned, small business, and a member of a demographic historically harmed by the War on Drugs,” Avery said in a recent statement, according to Leafly.
"Our vision here is to open and we're not going to let this stop us," Avery said to WCVB. "We're going to clean this mess up, get construction going, do some demo work and get our application in with the [Cannabis Control Commission]."
Police now believe that the incident happened sometime around noon on Monday, due to an eyewitness report of one individual leaving the storefront at that time. The investigation is ongoing, but police have yet to make any arrests.