Massachusetts landlord embraces marijuana tenant after suing another

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A Massachusetts shopping mall owner is doing an about-face on marijuana, and feeling some heat for it.

Raj Dhanda, owner of the Crimson Galeria in Harvard Square, is providing space for an adult-use retail shop just three years after filing a federal suit to try to expel a medical cannabis operator from the Cambridge neighborhood.

A marijuana shop organized under the name Blue Enterprises is slated to take 2,400-square-feet of space with a 120-foot façade in the mall, replacing a former Staples store, according to the Cambridge Day newspaper.

Tabasuri Moses, identified as part of the Blue Enterprises group, told the newspaper the store owners were just “grateful for the opportunity” because there was no one else in Harvard Square willing to lease space.

But the newpaper cited others in the community who believed Dhanda is hypocritical after organizing area landlords in 2017 to sue nearby MMJ operator HealthyPharms under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO.

The suit alleged that property values had fallen by $27 million, setting potential damages under RICO at $81 million.

The claims were similar to RICO suits elsewhere in the country: Marijuana businesses run afoul of federal drug laws; they produce bad smells; they attract unsavory types; they increase criminal activity.

The parties settled out of court for more than $1 million, according to Cambridge Day. Arizona-based 4Front Holdings acquired HealthyPharms in early 2019.

Dhanda didn’t comment for the Cambridge Day article.

Harvard Square, like many retail neighborhoods across the country, has been hard hit by store closures because of the coronavirus pandemic. Staples in the Crimson Galeria was one such store to close, according to a recent article in Harvard Magazine.