Congressman Richard Neal

Congressman Richard Neal
STOP "LUCIFORO" in 2012! ***************

Friday, March 17, 2017

Luciforo invested in a Pittsfield medical marijuana dispensary!



Attorney Andrea Nuciforo presented the Zoning Board of Appeals copies of the floor plans on Wednesday night.

“Medical Marijuana Dispensary On Pace To Open In Pittsfield Soon”
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff, March 16, 2017

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Construction is on pace for what could be the first medical marijuana dispensary in the county.

Khem Organics has started renovations to a building on Dalton Avenue, which currently houses Jay's Custom Muffler & Auto, Casey's Billiards, and used to house the Salvation Army store. All three businesses are vacating the facility to make way for the dispensary.

"Our goal is to be substantially complete in about six weeks and we are online for that. We've filed for a building permit and obtained a building permit. It is mostly interior renovations," said Frank DeMarinis, the Sage Engineering president and the engineer on the project.

"It is on schedule to be growing in six weeks and then in about another two months after that to go to sale."

The company filed detailed floor plans with the city and the Zoning Board of Appeals ruled that the changes to expand into additional space weren't significant enough to require another permit. The plans had evolved from originally using about 14,000 square feet of the building, taking over just the Salvation Army storefront, to using the entire building.

"We're occupying the entire building in lieu of Casey's Billiards and the muffler spot in the back," DeMarinis said.

The expanded footprint, however, doesn't come with any increases in volume, he said. The plans previously submitted were conceptual, needed spaces for break rooms, offices, and utility rooms, and it was determined that it needed more space to grow than previously anticipated.

While the company will use more space to grow the cannabis, it intends to produce the same amount per month.

"We weren't planning on increasing production. We were planning to produce the same amount," DeMarinis told the ZBA.

The move does reduce the required number of parking spaces from 54 to 45, but DeMarinis said the company is still sticking with the same plan for parking. The ZBA was particularly fond of the changes because it makes the entire building one use, and not multiple.

"I think it is a better environment not having Casey's there and having it be a one-use facility," DeMarinis said.

Casey's Billiards uses the most space in the building. But, the lease is going to be ended by Nov. 1. DeMarinis said right now the former Salvation Army space is being renovated with grow rooms and retail. After Casey's moves, the next phase of the project will unfold.

"We don't need that space right now for construction and development of the retail space," DeMarinis said. "When they are gone we will demo everything in there, clean it up into more sterile space."

Khem is just one of three medical marijuana facilities in Pittsfield to receive a provisional license. Attorney Andrea Nuciforo, an investor in Khem, said the company is currently in the "architectural review" period in which the state keeps a close eye on the floor plans and development proposals.

"That process has been exhaustive and comprehensive," Nuciforo said.

On Wednesday, the company brought those floor plans to the Zoning Board of Appeals, submitting them to the Office of Community Development. The company hopes to start growing in six weeks and then open for retail shortly after.

"We've begun construction on the facility and we've made good progress," Nuciforo said.

Two other medical marijuana projects are also in the works. Temescal Wellness, which is an offshoot of the former Manna Wellness, plans to build a new facility on Callahan Drive. Heka Health is looking to open just down the street from Khem at the former Countrywide Rentals on Dalton Avenue.

Currently, there is not a medical marijuana facility within an hour drive of the city.

Those three will also have the first crack at getting a license to sell recreationally but it isn't known if any of them are intending to pursue that.



Letter: “Pot is about the money”
The Berkshire Eagle, August 4, 2017

To the editor:

Isn't it ironic that at the same time we are trying to eradicate the use of tobacco we are legalizing the use of another substance that is probably more carcinogenic — marijuana?

I guess that's OK as long as our government can tax it.

Greg Keen,


“In a move that may jeopardize states’ legalization of marijuana, the Justice Dept. is rescinding a policy discouraging federal prosecutions”
The New York Times, January 4, 2018

The Trump administration on Thursday will free federal prosecutors to more aggressively enforce marijuana laws, effectively threatening to undermine the legalization movement that has spread to six states, most recently California.


"Sessions rescinds policy that allowed legal pot to flourish"
The Boston Globe, "This Week in Politics", Saturday, January 6, 2018

The move will leave it to US attorneys where pot is legal to decide whether to aggressively enforce federal marijuana law.


The top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts on Monday refused to rule out a crackdown on regulated marijuana companies, setting the state up as a front line in the war between President Trump’s administration and the dozens of states where cannabis is legal for recreational or medical use.

Andrew Lelling, the new US attorney for Massachusetts, said in a statement that he “cannot . . . provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune” from prosecution under federal law, which categorizes cannabis as strictly illegal.

Source: The Boston Globe, January 8, 2018.

Read the full statement from the Mass. US attorney on legal marijuana


The following is a statement issued Monday by the state’s US attorney, Andrew Lelling, on legal marijuana in Massachusetts.

“I understand that there are people and groups looking for additional guidance from this office about its approach to enforcing federal laws criminalizing marijuana cultivation and trafficking. I cannot, however, provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution.

This is a straightforward rule of law issue. Congress has unambiguously made it a federal crime to cultivate, distribute and/or possess marijuana. As a law enforcement officer in the Executive Branch, it is my sworn responsibility to enforce that law, guided by the Principles of Federal Prosecution. To do that, however, I must proceed on a case-by-case basis, assessing each matter according to those principles and deciding whether to use limited federal resources to pursue it.

Deciding, in advance, to immunize a certain category of actors from federal prosecution would be to effectively amend the laws Congress has already passed, and that I will not do. The kind of categorical relief sought by those engaged in state-level marijuana legalization efforts can only come from the legislative process.”


January 8, 2018

[Edited]: Attorney General Jeff Sessions just rescinded the "Cole Memorandum," the Obama-era guidance by the Department of Justice that has allowed states to implement their own marijuana laws with limited federal interference.

Since 2014, Congress has approved the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment to stop the Justice Department from interfering in medical marijuana states, but the Cole memo was the only thing protecting non-medical marijuana legalization.

Businesses and consumers in every state that has legalized marijuana will be at risk of harassment and prosecution by the federal government. Rescinding the Cole memo is an attack on sensible marijuana policies.

Source: Written by Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance via Bob Fertik, Unity.


“Dalton Avenue dispensary heads to Pittsfield zoning board in bid to add recreational sales”
By Amanda Drane , The Berkshire Eagle, January 16, 2018

PITTSFIELD — A medical marijuana dispensary coming soon to Dalton Avenue is asking the city to approve additions that would equip the facility to sell for recreational purposes.

Berkshire Roots, scheduled to open at 501 Dalton Ave. in March, will appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday. The company seeks to expand the shop's parking lot, upgrade utility lines and the stormwater management system, and revise the property's use to include sale of marijuana for recreational purposes.

Some 15,000 of the building's nearly 26,000 square feet will be dedicated to growing marijuana. Berkshire Roots began prepping the space — once home to a Salvation Army store, Casey's Billiards and an auto shop — about a year ago.

Berkshire Roots plans to bring the total number of parking spaces to 67, add a vinyl fence in front of the facility and bring a sidewalk in the entryway into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"We have effectively turned what used to be Casey's Billiards and the Salvation Army into a unique facility," Andy Nuciforo, one of the company's investors, said during a Community Development Board meeting on Tuesday.

Board members unanimously voted to send the special permit amendments forward with a positive recommendation.

Nuciforo explained that legislators overhauled the state's marijuana law in July, and among the "dizzying number of changes" came a provision allowing already-certified dispensaries to sell both medical and recreational marijuana in the same facility so long as the operations are separate.

"There will be a black magic marker separation between these two functions," he said.

Nuciforo said the dispensary will begin selling medical marijuana in March, and will likely begin selling recreational marijuana this summer.

Reach Amanda Drane at, @amandadrane on Twitter or at 413-496-6296.


Attorney Andrea Nuciforo, representing Berkshire Roots, outlined the plan to sell medical marijuana in March and then recreational marijuana this summer.

"Medical Marijuana Company Plans Recreational Sales in Pittsfield"
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff, January 18, 2018

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Roots is positioning itself to be a medical and a recreational marijuana dispensary when permits are issued later this year.

Berkshire Roots is finishing up a massive renovation of 501 Dalton Ave., a commercial building that formerly housed Jay's Custom Muffler & Auto, Casey's Billiards, and the Salvation Army store.

Those three previously vacated the building to make way for a medical marijuana dispensary and renovations are nearly complete.

The company received its approval to open the facility back in July 2016 and just a few months later voters approved the legalization of recreational sales. Berkshire Roots has since adapted its building and site design and this week received the local approvals needed to sell marijuana to both medical patients and recreational customers.

"We have secured the people, the equipment, we've done a build out. We have effectively turned what used to be Casey's Billards and the Salvation Army into a really unique facility devoted to this particular use," Nuciforo said.

The company intends to open for medical marijuana in March and when state permits are issued in the summer, have the ability to serve recreational. The renovations are nearly complete and a temporary certificate of occupancy has been approved to allow cultivation and processing inside the facility. The company is now waiting for the state to sign off on the location itself and issue a license to sell.

"This building has been a very substantial investment. Not just in terms of equipment and improvements but also the amount of design and compliance work we've done there," said Attorney Andrea Nuciforo, who represents the company.

Formerly known as Khem Organics, the company hoped to open last summer but working through the approval process and renovations to the building had taken longer than expected. Nuciforo said the state Department of Public Health has walked through the property multiple times, requiring multiple adjustments to the plan.

Benjamin Hildebran, a project manager with Sage Engineering, said the entire property has been renovated for this operation including a new ADA ramp on the front steps, repairing unsafe and cracking sidewalk, added additional landscaping, removed unneeded utility connections, putting on a new roof, installing a 6-foot fence, repairing damaged wall panels, and painting the exterior of the building.

"On the inside, we did a complete renovation," he added.

There is still a little bit more work to do - particularly in building out the parking lot. Parking was a particular area in which the local special permit needed to be modified. Hildebran said the rear parking lot is currently gravel and the asphalt in the front is breaking apart. The plan is to re-do the entire lot to create sufficient parking for the customers.

"I feel like this project has brought about positive change to the building, the site, and I think it can to the city of Pittsfield too," Hildebran said.

During the state permitting and construction phases, the industry changed. When Khem started the approval process, recreational marijuana wasn't legal. And now, even after a legislative delay, permits for recreational dispensaries will be accepted in April. A newly created Cannabis Control Commission will oversee both medical and recreational is has currently released draft laws guiding the industry for public comment.

Those draft laws allows for medical marijuana facility to sell recreational as well, provided there is a barrier between the two sales. While Berkshire Roots had been focusing on the medical aspect, the law would allow another establishment to do both -- limiting the market for solely a medical marijuana facility.

"Why would you stay in medical if the market is moving away from medical?" Nuciforo said.

Nuciforo said the state has asked for more information regarding the operations and facility and he hopes his response will answer all outstanding questions. From there, the company can receive the license to sell.

Once operating, the company is expected to employ a dozen or so people. Nuciforo said particularly when it comes to those doing the cultivation, "the marker for folks who are good at this is quite competitive." That leads to higher wages than other type of retail establishments.

This week the company received approvals to modify its site design from the Community Development Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals.

"This certainly will result in increased activity on the property and I believe they have made the appropriate modifications," said ZBA member Miriam Maduro before casting a vote in favor of the modification.

Benjamin Hildebran outlined the changes made to the property and building.


"Risk of federal prosecution weighing on Mass. pot industry"
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service via The Berkshire Eagle, January 18, 2018

BOSTON — The new era of heightened federal scrutiny over state-sanctioned marijuana industries has cannabis entrepreneurs worrying about the future of their businesses and employees fearful that their jobs may put them in the crosshairs of a top federal prosecutor.

The already risky marijuana business has become even more hazardous in light of shifting federal government guidance, but the industry is left with only uncertainty as it tries to discern how the change in policy will affect them moving forward and whether to apply for retail licenses beginning on April 1.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this month revoked an Obama-era policy of looking the other way in states that had legalized uses of marijuana and gave U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling and his counterparts in other states discretion over enforcing federal marijuana laws in the Bay State, where voters in 2016 legalized marijuana for adult recreational use.

Lelling's insistence that he will not rule out bringing federal charges against state-legal marijuana businesses drove most of the state's medical marijuana dispensaries back to cash-only operations, spurred state leaders who opposed marijuana legalization to publicly back the growing pot program, and threw a major new consideration into the mix for businesses and entrepreneurs looking to break into the newly legal industry.

"Anybody who was feeling a little bit comfortable or starting to feel comfortable now is no longer feeling comfortable," Shanel Lindsay, the founder and president of Ardent Cannabis and a cannabis industry consultant, said. "For cannabis businesses, that means being back in the area you're used to, which is that everything is very volatile."

Ardent Cannabis manufactures and sells decarboxylators, devices that maximize the amount of cannabinoid available in marijuana and prepares marijuana to be used in edibles, extracts or tinctures. Lindsay said her business has not been directly impacted by Sessions' announcement, but heard from others that they were concerned that Massachusetts might either stop or drastically slow down its implementation of a legal marijuana market here.

"We saw that answered pretty quickly," Lindsay said, when the Cannabis Control Commission pledged it will forge ahead undeterred and Gov. Charlie Baker suggested that Lelling's "limited resources" would be better spent going after deadly opioids like fentanyl.

Businesses that aren't exclusively cannabis-related have also noticed some changes in the wake of the attorney general's decision to adopt a new federal policy. Chuck Siegel, president and CEO of Natick-based LED grow light manufacturer BloomBoss, said his company also has not been directly affected but has heard from some clients who are afraid.

"We've noticed customers who are hydroponic stores, who are closer to the customer, are most definitely fearful and concerned about the future of legal cannabis," Siegel said. "These people have developed a business and deployed capital in a state legal system — and this is not just in Massachusetts — and now they're waking up every day saying, 'Am I going to have a bust and get raided?'"

Siegel said his company, which is not strictly a cannabis business, has received a more-than-usual amount of resumes since Sessions' announcement on Jan. 4 [2018], with many of them appearing to come from people who currently work directly with marijuana.

"The feedback we hear is that people are a bit concerned about waking up one day and going to work and having the [U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration] come in and arrest them," he said. "Some of them might be looking to come one step out away from the plant and into a more horticultural space."

Lindsay said she had been encouraged by the way ancillary businesses like banks and payment processors had begun to embrace marijuana businesses. Now that the federal picture has shifted, the already-difficult challenge of finding a bank willing to work with marijuana businesses could be even more problematic.

She said her cannabis business has never relied on traditional banks or traditional sources of financing. Her conversations with investors since the Sessions announcement, she said, revealed that while some financiers are worried that more federal scrutiny might mean a slower rollout of the legal market and therefore more time before they can see a return on their investment, others are doubling down.

"Some investors are saying, 'OK the slowdown, if there is one, would benefit the businesses that are already open as long as they're not getting raided or directly impacted,' " she said. "Where there is restriction in this business, there is always opportunity for some other people."

The state's top marijuana regulator concurred and said the abrupt shift in the federal government's approach to marijuana law enforcement means investors in the state-sanctioned Massachusetts pot market could see greater returns on their investments.

"There's a different calculation in terms of what the risk are, no question," Steven Hoffman, chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission, told WGBH's "Greater Boston" during a Jan. 9 appearance. "But there's also a different calculation in terms of what the returns are because fewer people potentially will enter the business, therefore the potential returns are greater."

Hoffman on Wednesday expanded upon his comments from "Greater Boston" — he jokingly said host Jim Bruade "forced me into it" — and added that his comments were not based on anything he's gleaned from his roughly five months helming the CCC.

"That's economics 101, which is that if people are more concerned about risks they're going to look for a higher return in exchange for those risks and if more people, because of risk, stay out of an industry there's more money to be made by the remaining participants," said Hoffman, a former Bain & Company partner. "I'm not speculating on what any individual will do. All I'm saying is if I was an investor — which I am not allowed to be — I would be looking at risk and return, and it would change based upon the risks going up."

Will Luzier, political director for the local arm of the Marijuana Policy Project, echoed a similar sentiment about the potential for investors who are willing to take a greater risk potentially setting themselves up for a greater reward.

"There's always been risk in this commerce and I think there are some people who are risk comfortable and there are other people that are risk adverse," he said. "There may be some companies that are risk adverse that don't want to participate in this commerce and that's unfortunate."

For Lindsay, the lingering uncertainty has led her to shore up her company's contingency plans. She said he expects most cannabis businesses are doing the same to try to be as prepared as possible for future changes in the industry.


January 18, 2018

Nuciforo's plan to sell both medical and recreational marijuana via a not-for-profit Pittsfield dispensary he is heavily invested in raises both legal and ethical issues.

While I am part of the resistance against the fascist Trump regime, and, while I disagree with Attorney General Jeff Session's decision to rescind the Cole Memorandum, the fact remains that Nuciforo's pot operation violates federal law! Until the U.S. Congress passes legislation allowing marijuana dispensaries, Nuciforo is openly breaking the law!

On the state and local level, Nuciforo is the Prince of Pittsfield politics. His late-father was a Pittsfield State Senator & Judge, his Uncle, a state rep., and his late-Aunt, the first woman Pittsfield Mayor and longtime BCC Professor. Nuciforo followed in his dad's footsteps by serving one decade in the Massachusetts Senate on Beacon Hill. He served one 6-year term as Pittsfield Registar of Deeds. So the issue remains whether or not he is using his connections to profit off the sale of marijuana in Pittsfield?

In closing, Nuciforo has a history of breaking the law and violating "ethics" policies in state and local government in Pittsfield politics. Nuciforo had people bully me since I was 20 years old in 1996 without leaving behind his own fingerprints/DNA. Nuciforo filed multiple "ethics" complaints against my dad when he served as a Berkshire County Commissioner. Nuciforo served as a Finance Committee Chairman in the State Senate while he also served as a corporate Attorney at a Boston law firm serving big banks and insurance companies. Nuciforo strong-armed two women named Sara Hathaway and Sharon Henault out of a state government election to anoint himself to a sinecure at the Pittsfield Registry of Deeds, Now, Nuciforo is openly breaking federal law by investing in a non-profit marijuana dispensary in Pittsfield, where he has unethical connections to make a profit selling pot.

Nuciforo never faces any consequences for his actions!

- Jonathan Melle


"3 Things I Wish Parents – and Teens – Knew About Pot"
By Christine Carter, U.S. News & World Report - Health, 1/24/2018

Many people believe that teen marijuana use is not harmful. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We live in California, where marijuana is now, as of Jan. 1, legal for recreational use. My four teens report that pot is already very easy to come by and that “everyone” uses it. More concerning to me: Many of my friends – fellow parents – believe that teen marijuana use is not harmful.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

First, the good news: Most teens don’t smoke pot or ingest edibles. That said, 41 percent of American high school seniors report having used marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids in the past year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That’s a very large minority. Do they know what they are doing? Here is what I wish all kids – and their parents – knew about pot:

Marijuana slows brain development in adolescence.

Brain development is more significant during adolescence than during any other developmental stage (except in the womb). The transition from childhood to adulthood is a critical period of brain growth, and the brain’s natural endocannabinoid system – which is affected by marijuana use – plays a very important role in this development.

The unique brain growth that we see only during adolescence is temporarily halted by marijuana use. How? Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the ingredient in marijuana that produces a high, binds with the brain’s cannabinoid, or CB1, receptors. This blocks their normal function.

It also makes kids really high. Teenagers have more CB1 receptors than adults do for THC to bind to, and THC also stays in the CB1 receptor for longer than it would in an adult. Neuroscientist Dr. Frances Jensen, author of "The Teenage Brain,” recently told Terry Gross on the NPR program "Fresh Air" that "[THC] locks on longer than in the adult brain.... For instance, if [a teen] were to get high over a weekend, the effects may [still be] there on Thursday and Friday later that week. An adult wouldn't have that same long-term effect.”

The effect I want parents and teens to understand is this: While THC is in the CB1 receptor, it blocks the process of learning and memory and slows, or stops, adolescent brain development.

Because of this, exposure to marijuana “during adolescence can dramatically alter brain maturation and cause long-lasting neurobiological changes that ultimately affect the function and behavior of the adult brain,” according to a 2014 review of research published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience examining the long-term consequences of marijuana use during adolescence, particularly the effects on cognitive functioning, emotional behavior and the risk of developing a psychiatric disorder in adulthood. The damage is irreversible. Early marijuana use has long-lasting consequences on IQ and intelligence and is “associated with a two-fold increase in the risk of developing a psychotic disorder,” like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, according to the review.

This is not an unproven theory; we understand the neuroscience behind how and why marijuana affects an adolescent brain differently than it would an adult one. Still, 71 percent of high school seniors do not view “regular marijuana usage” to be harmful to their health, based on survey data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Most wouldn’t smoke a cigarette because they understand that smoking is unhealthy; it’s time for us to be more clear with teens that marijuana use is not a healthier choice.

Marijuana today is actually very addictive, especially for teens.

Most people think marijuana is “healthier” than alcohol or tobacco in part because they believe it isn’t addictive. But pot can be very habit-forming. Surprisingly, marijuana use is associated with a higher rate of clinically significant health problems and problematic behaviors among users, such as failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school or home, as well as dependence or addiction than alcohol among users, reports the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Twenty-one percent of adult marijuana users met diagnostic criteria for addiction, according to that survey. Studies indicate that as many as one-third of users develop a diagnosable addiction, especially with strains of marijuana that have higher THC content.

Teenagers are especially susceptible to addiction – to alcohol, to social media, and yes, to marijuana. In the same way that teens learn faster than adults do, it's also easier for their brains to “learn” to become addicted. Learning stimulates and enhances the brain. Substances like marijuana do the same thing, but during adolescence, teen brains “build a reward circuit around that substance to a much stronger, harder, longer addiction,” Jensen told Terry Gross. "The effects of substances are more permanent on the teen brain,” she noted. “They have more deleterious effects and can be more toxic to the teen than the adult."

Pot today is a different drug than it was a generation or two ago.

I think a lot of parents in my generation believe that marijuana isn’t harmful or addictive because it didn’t used to be. THC concentrations have skyrocketed in recent years, and growers have bred the antipsychotic properties out of today’s marijuana.

Reports differ depending on where marijuana is sourced, but studies of THC concentration in cannabis show that before 1980, concentration of THC averaged around 1.5 percent. Potency rose to about 3 percent in the early 1980s and stayed there until about 1992, when it began to rise steadily. In the last decade, samples have averaged about 11 percent THC; and currently, specific breeding techniques are yielding strains that are 27 to 33 percent THC, according to findings published in Biological Psychiatry. Experts believe that this is likely now the norm in states where recreational marijuana is legal; higher THC concentration yields a more lucrative product.

In addition, 20 years ago marijuana had higher levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana. Although CBD has medicinal benefits, growers are breeding it out of marijuana intended for recreational use because it keeps users from getting as high as they would without the CBD.

Higher THC and lower CBD produces a higher high – and also a higher potential for overdose. A THC overdose won’t kill you, but it can produce hallucinations, panic attacks and extreme paranoia. And an overdose can cause a psychotic break and psychotic disorders that can be hard for a teenager to ever recover from.

All of this is to say that marijuana use is not harmless for kids today, by any stretch of the imagination. But as many kids see (and smell) the adults around them getting stoned at concerts, at trailheads before a hike, and now, in California, just walking down the street – they assume that marijuana use is harmless fun.

Given this, my husband and I have taken what is, in our neck of the woods, a controversial stance: We are so clear about our expectation that our teens not use marijuana that we drug test them. We aren’t doing this because we believe our children have or will use drugs, or because we don’t trust them to tell us if they do (no tests have ever turned up positive). We do it because it gives them a solid excuse to abstain; they can say to their friends, “My parents are so crazy about this issue that they drug test me.”

Drug testing is not the only thing we are doing, of course. We talk with our kids regularly about the risks that marijuana poses, and we try to do a lot of listening, too. We are keenly interested in helping our kids develop the skills they need to cope with stress and anxiety – so that they aren't tempted to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Interestingly, our kids have never protested being tested, and they seem genuinely glad that we are so black and white about all this. They know that they will be making their own choices soon, when they are adults. For now, they seem happy that we are making this choice for them.


“State cannabis commission hires CFO, launches website”
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service, February 21, 2018

BOSTON — There is a decidedly Massachusetts Senate vibe growing at the Cannabis Control Commission.

The young commission's ranks grew to 10 on Tuesday morning with the announcement that former state Senate Ways and Means Committee Budget Director Adriana Campos had been hired to serve as the commission's first chief financial and administrative officer.

In the agency's administrative ranks Campos joins another former Senate staffer, Executive Director Shawn Collins. Collins worked as legislative and budget director, and then as chief of staff and general counsel to Senate President Pro Tempore Richard Moore.

"We are very excited to have her on board as we continue to grow as a commission and she will be a very valuable asset as we continue to grow in our current space, think about our future space and again think about our budget development process and revenue forecasting," Collins said Tuesday. "She'll be hands-on with a lot of those things and will be a valuable member of the team."

Campos, whom Chairwoman Karen Spilka said was known around the office as "AC Money," is at least the fourth CCC appointment or hire with ties to the Senate. Former Sen. Jennifer Flanagan now serves as a commissioner on the CCC and her fellow commissioner Britte McBride used to work as deputy counsel to the Senate.

Aside from the CCC's five commissioners, the agency now employs Collins, Campos, General Counsel Christine Baily, Program Manager Maryalice Gill and Executive Assistant Diane Rawding.

At full staffing, the CCC expects to employ about 40 people.

Also Tuesday, commissioners unveiled the agency's new website. Documents released by the commission, information on upcoming meetings and contact information is now available on


"Session helps inform public on medical marijuana rules, products"
By Adam Shanks, The Berkshire Eagle, March 17, 2018

PITTSFIELD — Do you have to smoke it?

That's the question Mark Ledewitz, a registered nurse in the medical cannabis field, hears most often from new patients.

Ledewitz, senior retail manager at the soon-to-open Berkshire Roots medical marijuana dispensary on Dalton Avenue, joined MedWell Health and Wellness Centers, a company that certifies qualified medical marijuana patients, for a public informational session on North Street on Saturday.

And, no, you don't have to smoke it.

"That's just one way of using it," Ledewitz explained.

Ledewitz detailed the various alternative applications of cannabis, including via tinctures, edible products like gummies and vaporizers.

But before worrying about vaporizing pens and topical treatments, the first step is becoming a medical marijuana patient.

Applying for a medical marijuana card requires that a patient have one of more than 250 qualifying conditions and becomes certified by a qualified health care provider (such as MedWell Health, which charges a $200 certification fee).

Once certified, the patient registers with the Department of Public Health, for a $50 fee, and receives the medical marijuana card.

There are 22 medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the state and 46,294 active patients, according to the DPH.

Having worked in the medical marijuana industry for two years, Ledewitz said, many of the patients he has seen are using cannabis products to reduce their reliance on commercial pharmaceuticals.

Ledewitz believes that medical marijuana dispensaries will continue to be relevant after recreational facilities open.

The Berkshire Roots staff of medical professionals, including a pharmacist and multiple registered nurses, will consult with patients and help them navigate the array of therapeutic treatments and products available.

"We're going to be working directly with patients," he said. "Everybody deserves a solid education on how to use cannabis responsibly."

Regardless of whether it's sold through a recreational or medical dispensary, Ledewitz noted the rigorous laboratory testing that each product must go through; outside the legal market, the product is not tested.

Although the treatment will be different depending on the patient, Ledewitz stresses an approach of "the smallest possible dose for the maximum therapeutic benefit."

The average starting dose of the active ingredient, he said, is from 5 and 10 milligrams.

"We encourage patients to start low and go slow," he said.

The patient is encouraged to track his or her dosage and the subsequent effects.

"You're really going to be in charge of your own self-care," said Ann Brum of MedWell Health.

That includes a choice of how much of the psychoactive properties are contained in the product that the patient chooses.

"Some patients want that feeling; some patients don't," Ledewitz said.

The event drew a small crowd of curious residents and professionals.

Sonya Bykofsky, a longtime massage therapist with an in-home practice in Lenox, said she hears questions from clients about medical marijuana and came to the event to get more information.

"A lot of people who come to me are already in some kind of chronic pain," Bykofsky said.

Bykofsky noted that she can help when it comes to many conditions, but "some things, like rheumatoid arthritis, are hard to help with."

Berkshire Roots is cultivating marijuana and plans to open to customers with a valid medical marijuana card in the coming weeks, pending final DPH approval. It has a website and social media presence through which it plans to update customers on its plans to launch.

"We hope to be open soon," Ledewitz said.

Upon its opening, Berkshire Roots will be the first medical marijuana dispensary to open in Pittsfield. The nearest dispensary, currently, is Theory Wellness in Great Barrington.

"We're receiving wonderful support from the community," Ledewitz said.

The session was hosted by MedWell Health and Wellness, which operates across the state and plans to hold weekly hours in Pittsfield to certify patients who qualify. It has not yet set specific hours.

Adam Shanks can be reached at, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


Nuciforo’s “Berkshire Roots” medical marijuana dispensary opens in Pittsfield

“Berkshire Roots medical marijuana dispensary opens in Pittsfield”
By Jeanette DeForge | | Posted on April 8, 2018

Berkshire Roots medical marijuana dispensary in Pittsfield. It is the second place to sell medical marijuana in Berkshire County and the fourth in Western Massachusetts. (photos courtesy of Berkshire Roots)

“Medical marijuana dispensary opens in Pittsfield, people wait in line to enter”
By Jeanette DeForge – The (Springfield) Republican – April 8, 2018

PITTSFIELD - People lined up outside the door to enter a new medical marijuana dispensary which opened for the first time on Saturday, April 7, 2018.

Berkshire Roots is the first medical marijuana dispensary in Pittsfield and the second in Berkshire County. It is one of at least 22 which have made it through the arduous permitting process to be allowed to open across the state, according to the state website for Marijuana Registered Dispensaries.

More than 100 people visited the dispensary, on Dalton Avenue, on its first day. It is now opened from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, said Jane Rohman, spokeswoman for the business.

"We had a line outside the door and we were serving coffee and doughnuts," she said. "We had one veteran who drove his bike 15 miles to visit us."

People complimented the owners on the variety of products available, especially for a new business. The company sells 10 flower strains of medical marijuana and a combination of concentrates, edibles, tinctures and topicals, she said.

"There were different people from every walk of life at our opening," she said.

In the week before its opening day, Berkshire Roots did some trial runs by allowing people to come in by appointment mainly to find and solve any glitches before opening day. Most of the people who were invited to make an appointment were on an electronic mailing list, Rohman said.

Employees will continue to take appointments for people who hold a medical marijuana card and may want more information on available products and the product that is best for them, she said.

The first application for the business, owned by Albert Wojtkowski, was filed with the state in September 2015. Berkshire Roots received its final permit to open in March, according to state records.

The business measures about 26,000 square feet and more than 90 percent of that space is preserved for the cultivation facility. "To ensure its products meet the state's rigorous purity standards...Berkshire Roots has everything tested by an independent lab," a written statement said.

The cannabis is grown indoors using natural methods and tested for pesticides and contaminants such as mold and bacteria. They are also tested for potency, quality and cleanliness, the statement said.

The company is following strict procedures to ensure all state regulations are followed. Cameras are set up outside and before being allowed in the door, people must show a medical marijuana prescription card from Massachusetts and a government identification card proving they are at least 21 to the camera. Once inside the lobby area people must fill out sign-in forms before being allowed to enter the locked dispensary, Rohman said.

"We had about 20 people who wanted to buy recreational marijuana but we can't sell that yet," she said.

Wojtkowski does plan to apply for a license to sell recreational marijuana along with many other growers, Rohman said.

Hoping to assuage fears that medical marijuana patients could find their medicine in short supply when dispensaries begin selling to the newly-legal retail market, state pot regulators on Tuesday agreed to a policy that will require dispensaries to hold some marijuana aside for medical patients.

The state Cannabis Control Commission has set regulations and plans to allow recreational shops to be opened in July.

Currently there are medical marijuana dispensaries in Easthampton, Northampton and Great Barrington in Western Massachusetts. Applications have been submitted for ones in Hampden County in Chicopee and Springfield.


“Pittsfield City Council OKs pot regulations - including cap of 35 retail licenses”
By Amanda DraneThe Berkshire Eagle, April 11, 2018

PITTSFIELD — The city will allow up to 35 retail marijuana licenses, but those businesses must be at least 500 feet away from places where children congregate.

The City Council on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a zoning amendment regulating the marijuana industry in Pittsfield. At 35, the limit on the number of allowed marijuana licenses matches the number of liquor licenses permitted in the city.

Councilors set the cap high enough to accommodate robust interest in opening marijuana facilities in Pittsfield.

"The level of interest has been pretty high," said Nate Joyner, permitting coordinator for the Department of Community Development, who said he has heard from a dozen potential applicants.

The state this month began accepting license applications for businesses interested in opening retail marijuana operations under the November 2016 ballot referendum legalizing recreational use by adults. Retail sales could begin as early as July.

Berkshire Roots, a medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation facility that opened last weekend, became the first marijuana business in the city. It is expected to apply for a retail license, as well as two other companies.

The limit of 35 licenses represents a middle ground between two earlier versions of the regulations: The Community Development Board last month approved a limit of 10 licenses, but the council's Ordinances and Rules Committee last week recommended that no cap be set.

Councilors were persuaded to set some limits in response to concerns expressed by Board of Health members and leaders of the Berkshire Family YMCA and Boys & Girls Club of the Berkshires. Those leaders, Randy Kinnas and Joe McGovern, respectively, also argued in favor of maintaining the 500-foot buffer for marijuana facilities. They were concerned about exposing the city's youth to marijuana.

Kinnas asked councilors to put themselves in the parents' shoes.

"If they have a visual of a marijuana facility how would you feel?" he asked. "That your son or daughter is exposed to a risk factor such as that?"

It might be what American society does with alcohol, he said, "but we don't want to duplicate that."

The council voted in favor of a 500-foot buffer for playgrounds, day care facilities and other locations where children congregate.

The decision made it impossible for a group wanting to buy a former church at 40 Melville St. and turn it into a cultivation facility. Though the group promised discretion given the proximity to downtown children's organizations, the council agreed that some level of separation from places like the Boys & Girls Club would be appropriate.

"We don't put these in neighborhoods," said Councilor At Large Earl Persip. "For the kids that go to the Boys & Girls Club, that's their home. That's their neighborhood."

Still, company reps said they remain interested in Pittsfield and will set out in search of similar buildings for their future indoor cultivation facility.

"We're hoping to find someplace that's happy to have us," said Steven Goldman, noting he and his colleagues are intent on settling in the Berkshires. "I hope Pittsfield's the place."

Amanda Drane can be reached at, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


Over the past year, construction crews have turned the nondescript former home of the Salvation Army Family Store, beside Ken's Bowl in Pittsfield, into Berkshire Roots - poised to become Berkshire County's most lucrative farming address. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

Mark Ledewitz, sales manager of Berkshire Roots, explains the function of a vapor device used to consume cannabis oil. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

Cannabis flower is packaged for sale at Berkshire Roots.This week, the new dispensary's retail staff has been seeing customers by appointment, testing their computer systems and complying with the state Department of Public Health's "virtual gateway" ahead of a full opening in the days ahead. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

A cannabis flower matures under grow lamps at Berkshire Roots. The company's cannabis will be grown in Pittsfield. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

Berkshire Roots, at 501 Dalton Ave. in Pittsfield, becomes Berkshire County's second medical marijuana dispensary since voters approved them in 2012. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

Come July, Berkshire Roots, at 501 Dalton Ave. in Pittsfield, hopes to be among the first outlets to sell cannabis to the adult-use recreational market. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

“Harvest time at Berkshire County's first legal cannabis farm”
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle, March 31, 2018

PITTSFIELD — From the street, only a fresh sign and a dolled-up entry hint at the multimillion-dollar transformation inside.

But make no mistake. It's flower power time at 501 Dalton Ave. in Pittsfield.

Over the past year, construction crews have turned the nondescript former home of the Salvation Army Family Store, beside Ken's Bowl, into what's poised to become Berkshire County's most lucrative farming address.

In February, the first clusters of cannabis flowers were snipped from laden stems in one of Berkshire Roots' three massive indoor grow rooms — a third of an acre, in all, of heavily regulated photosynthesis.

And one morning thisweek, the company's cultivation manager, Dennis Gibbons, had the next harvest in mind as he stood at the controls of a complex irrigation system and pumps sipped from barrels of nutrients near a 5,500-gallon emergency water supply.

Just months ago, store workers under this roof were sorting through castoff clothing.

Today, after a roughly $5 million investment, securing local and state approvals and working through a mini-Greylock of paperwork, cannabis flowers and products are reaching customers who hold state-issued medical marijuana cards.

This week, the new dispensary's retail staff has been seeing customers by appointment, testing their computer systems and complyingwith the state Department of Public Health's "virtual gateway" ahead of a full opening in the days ahead.

In a surprise move Friday, the company's board changed staffing at the top, ousting its chief executive officer, John E. Mullen IV.

A spokeswoman, Jane Rohman, said interim management is in place. That staff includes Dennis Depaolo, its chief operating officer and former director of cultivation for Maine Organic Therapy Inc. She declined to say why Mullen no longer is with the company and said Berkshire Roots continues its countdown to opening at 11 a.m. April 7.

Mullen said that before commenting on the circumstances of his departure, he planned to get legal advice.

The BR Inc. board has selected a new CEO, Rohman said, but must obtain DPH approval. She declined to name that new leader.

Berkshire Roots becomes the county's second medical marijuana dispensary since voters approved them in 2012, joining the Theory Wellness outlet in Great Barrington.

While all Berkshire Roots cannabis will be grown in Pittsfield, Theory Wellness brings its inventory from its Bridgewater headquarters.

Come July, both dispensaries hope to be among the first outlets to sell cannabis to the adult-use recreational market. Given that they are "priority" applicants and will be allowed by the Cannabis Control Commission to shift marijuana from medical to recreational use, little stands in their way.

After nearly three years of preparations, Berkshire Roots' investors and leaders come to market just as the state begins taking applications for adult-use retail licenses.

Before leaving his position Friday, Mullen took The Eagle through the facility.

He called getting the facility up and running "a massive undertaking."

When it secured its provisional license in July 2016, Berkshire Roots was known as Khem Organics. Mullen's father, one of the investors, suggested a different name.

According to state Department of Public Health filings, early top investors were Matthew C. Feeney, Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. and Albert S. Wojtkowski.

More recent DPH filings show that Feeney contributed $1,083,989 in initial capital and an entity known as KO Resources LLC controlled by Wojtkowski provided $1,028,193.

The company notified the state in September that it was entering into a "master services agreement" with KO Resources.

Along with its new name, Berkshire Roots just underwent a purge of longtime directors. As of February, the following were listed as officers and directors in the Secretary of State's database: Mullen, as board president, treasurer and clerk; and Amy K. Peckham of Katonah, N.Y., Janelle T. Cornwell of Cherry Valley, John Bianco of Blandford, Amy N. Sanders of Boston, David R. Buchanan of Amherst and Kevin F. Tierney of Needham as directors.

All are gone. In a change Mullen submitted to the Secretary of State's Office in March, Wojtkowski is listed as president, treasurer, secretary and sole director.

The building is owned by Wojtkowski Bros. Inc.

`Spa' feel

For dozens of the nonprofit's employees, the first duty this year is to meet the needs of medical marijuana patients.They have been working out the kinks by seeing patients by appointment only. (To schedule a visit, email

The first thing patients see, after coming in under a new "BR" sign on the building's facade and being greeted by the odor of cannabis, is an outer lobby where they must show their state-issued cards to a worker behind a glass divider.

It takes one more door to get into the actual "dispensary."

The design inside, by William Caligari Interiors of Great Barrington, needs only stacks of towels and an urn of cucumber water to resemble the waiting room of a pricey spa. Instead, it's a retail outlet the likes of which Pittsfield never has seen after years of marijuana prohibition.

Once inside the dispensary, a little sign shows where to line up to buy. But the mood here is soft-sell, in a room that resembles a boutique hotel lobby: dark tile flooring, clusters of comfortable orange chairs on carpeting, and walls decorated with frames of dried and plastic plants. On two sides, a "blued steel" counter holds a half-dozen computer stations.

That's where employees will complete transactions. Patients will be handed menus listing some of the company's nine available cannabis strains, including four unique to Berkshire Roots: Silver Fox, Poet's Walk, Old School and Chalice CBD.

The breeder who developed those strains, and provided them to Berkshire Roots in seed form, has agreed not to release them to other producers.

A private consultation room, reached beyond a sliding barn-style wooden door, offers a place for the retail staff to hear more about the health benefits that patients hope to get from purchases.

A low, glass-enclosed case near the middle of the space will display products, but a bigger story of what goes on in this building will be told in photos and videos on 10 flat-screen TVs that adorn three walls. Those images largely will be the work of John Bianco, a freelance photographer and videographer who has been documenting the company's steps toward opening.

That story takes place on the other side of the dispensary's back wall, in the tightly controlled production area that includes 15,000 square feet of growing area as well as trimming, drying and curing rooms and other spaces devoted to packaging products. That side of the business is overseen by Joe Baillargeon, the director of production.

Near the back of the building, a new second floor rises within the space and is home to an extraction lab and a high-tech kitchen where chocolate bars and chocolate chip cookies lay this week on metal racks, waiting for test results to come back before being packaged.

In the lab, a brownish solution containing cannabis oil swirled in a large mechanized beaker, allowing ethanols used to extract the psychoactive ingredient to be removed.

Brian Dubs, who is in charge of extraction and infusion, reached into a cabinet and pulled out a finished container of gelled cannabis oil. A nearby rack held, on parchment paper, a thin layer of "shatter" — one of the extracts popular among customers who use vaping devices to ingest cannabis without burning actual flowers.

`Mother' plants

But it is back down a wide metal staircase, on the sprawling first floor, where Berkshire Roots digs in.

The company started its initial plants from seed, as the state requires. Seeds were germinated in September.

The other day, Gibbons, the cultivation manager, stood watching a computerized Agricare monitor attached to the system steer precise mixes of nutrients through what looked to be miles of pipes and tubes.

This arterial network reaches all the way, through increasingly small pipes and hoses, to individual plants in the facility's plant nursery (its "veg" room) and three spacious halls packed with high-tech lighting and ventilation systems.

Gibbons was dialing in just the right amount of water and nutrients to plants in one of three grow rooms. Those cannabis strains were winding down ahead of a harvest, he explained, and soon would be fed only on water, so that any residual nutrients could be flushed away.

Near the big backup water tank, a grinder sat ready to chop up "fan" leaves trimmed from plants. Under state DPH rules, that plant matter would be mixed with soil, rendering it safe to dispose. Wastes must be logged. In terms of record-keeping, all activities inside the plant are documented by ever-present security cameras.

But the leaves contained little of medicinal or other value.

The water and nutrients pumped into the grow rooms are just one ingredient here. Above, banks of high-pressure sodium lights rich in the red spectrum shine 18 hours a day in the veg room, where newly cloned plants develop root systems. Higher up still, ducts move air through the rooms, controlling for temperature and humidity.

Inside them, ultraviolet light units purify the air by killing any unwanted microorganisms.

Once moved to grow rooms, the plants receive less light each day, triggering them to begin to produce flowers. They sit in individual containers atop tables that can be rolled, like library stacks, to allow workers access to specific rows.

As the plants grow, propelled by the photosynthesis occurring in their leaves, workers remove lower leaves to promote air circulation. They're also on the lookout for signs of any male cannabis plants, since this is a "no boys allowed" zone.

"We have to do a lot of scouting to catch any males," Gibbons said. "I think there's a little bit of an art to it."

But science plays a big part. One area in a flower-growing room is home today to a small forest of "mother" plants deemed to possess the most desirable phenotypes of different strains.

Instead of growing subsequent plants from seed, the company, like most producers, takes cuttings from the mother plants, induces rooting to begin and uses them to create clones with the same genetic qualities.

Those clones grow for about three weeks before spending a month in the veg room, then moving to roughly nine weeks in a flower room. From there, it takes about another month for trimmed flowers to be sorted, further trimmed, dried and cured. Along the way, every bit of cannabis is tracked on software known as the MJ Freeway, part of the state's required "seed to sale" monitoring.

Then it's on to packaging, or to the lab for extraction, if the flowers are to provide materials for edibles or other products.

Big investment

At the end of the process, Berkshire Roots' agricultural product will be, based on its farm footprint, the most valuable in the county.

By a long shot.

According to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture survey, the average Berkshire County farm measures 117 acres and produces crops worth $42,797 a year. That's less income than expenses, which average $53,991 — leaving farm economics upside down.

As farms go, Berkshire Roots' expenses are high, including a 30-employee payroll that is expected to grow as production ramps up.

For electricity alone, it pays about $32,000 a month.

That's not even close to the top expense. Rent on the roughly 26,000-square-foot building is $89,333 a month, according to a lease on file with the DPH.

That works out to $1,072,000 a year, but stood to be even more. The initial base rent as of September was $151,866 a month, DPH records show. That sum was lowered in an amendment signed in January.

A rule of thumb for the industry holds that it takes $10 million to $20 million to enter the business. Investment so far is less than that.

"It will still take some time to become profitable," Mullen said Friday, hours before getting word that he was being dismissed. "It's a massive undertaking, both financially and in terms of time."

The key to success, he said, is providing what patients now — and adult-use buyers this summer, perhaps — want from the company.

At the start, customers will find those nine strains of flower, eight types of concentrates and a list of infused products, from tinctures and grapeseed oil for cooking to chewables, caramels, bars and cookies.

Other strains from the initial grow will be cloned and brought into the lineup.

Then there is the "X" factor of the cannabis trade.

"There's this stigma still with this product," Mullen said. "It's going away fast. It's about the science behind the plant, not the misinformation people like to use."

Larry Parnass can be reached at, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


And “Berkshire Roots” in Pittsfield, which recently opened [on Saturday, April 7th, 2018] as the [Berkshire] county's second medical marijuana dispensary, continues to accept debit cards and has not been affected by banking issues, a spokeswoman said.

It is not the first time the federal government's stance against cannabis has tripped up business activity in Massachusetts.

Source: “[Citizens] Bank clampdown on weed-related firms renews concerns” By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle, April 13, 2018.


Julia Germaine, left, chief operating officer of Temescal Wellness, and Amy DiSciullo, assistant manager of retail, held a community meeting Friday at the Berkshire Athenaeum. Amanda Drane - The Berkshire Eagle

“Details, priorities aired on future Pittsfield marijuana shop”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, April 15, 2018

PITTSFIELD — Leaders behind what will likely be the city's second marijuana shop are focused on youth diversion and uplifting Pittsfield.

Temescal Wellness, which is applying for a recreational retail license at its future facility at 10 Callahan Drive, made a presentation Friday before a sparsely attended community meeting. Chief Operating Officer Julia Germaine said the company broke ground at the site last week under its medical license.

As required under the permitting process, Germaine and one of her colleagues walked through the security measures they'll take at the new Pittsfield facility, and what the company will do to prevent youth consumption.

But they also talked about the good things they expect the industry to do for Pittsfield. Germaine, who lived in Pittsfield for several years and has family in Becket, said she feels the industry can draw young people back to the Berkshires.

Germaine has an undergraduate degree in plant biology, and has long been passionate in the plant's ability to reduce stress and ease pain.

"We're hoping for a happier, better-rested, more empathetic society," she said.

If a recreational retail license is granted by the state, Temescal Wellness would be the second marijuana operation in Pittsfield. Berkshire Roots, a medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation facility, opened on Dalton Avenue last weekend. It is expected to apply for a retail license as well.

Retail sales of marijuana for recreational use could begin as early as July under the November 2016 ballot referendum that legalized the drug for adult use.

Temescal's 3,000-square-foot facility will employ about 10 people, she said, promising to hire locally with an eye toward minorities negatively impacted by the war on drugs. The retail-only shop will offer marijuana in bud form, vapor cartridges, capsules, tinctures, infused sugars, oils, gummies and chocolate bars. It won't offer much in the way of edibles, Germaine said, but will have infused coconut and olive oils so customers can cook and bake with it at home.

Amy DiSciullo, the company's assistant manager of retail, said the company will use American Alarm to secure the establishment with 24-hour monitoring. At the store's entrance, those seeking entry must show identification to be buzzed into "the man trap," she said, an enclosed area where staff positively identifies you before allowing entry to the sales floor.

"Youth use of marijuana is the lowest it's been since 1994," Germaine said.

She said evidence actually suggests a correlation between marijuana regulation and reductions in young people using marijuana. As marijuana comes out of the shadows, more honest education can deter young people under 21 from damaging their developing brains. She said research is disproving the "gateway" theory surrounding marijuana, and so youth education should focus on negative impacts on the brain, and how that inhibits their future success.

"I think kids are smart and deserve a little respect," she said, noting when she was young she didn't use marijuana because she was working to get into college and concerned about "ruining my brain."

In addition to prohibiting sale to people under 21 without a medical card, the law limits retail shops from selling more than an ounce of marijuana to a person per day, they said, noting many people are still learning the laws. DiSciullo said the company is making it a mission to educate consumers on topics like open marijuana container laws — you can have marijuana in the car, they said, but only stored away in the glove box or trunk — and those against public consumption.

If staff at the store believes someone to be a risk to themselves or others, they can decide not to sell to them, Germaine said.

"That may include an intent to divert to minors," she said, adding the company will also be able to track its products back to the purchaser if it's found in the wrong hands. "It is not good for us or for Pittsfield for the product to be used inappropriately."

The company already has two dispensaries in New Hampshire, one in Maryland and plans to open two other shops in Massachusetts.

Several caregivers came to hear the presentation, noting they're seeing the stigma start to dissolve as people see how marijuana can be a healthier way to reduce pain than opiates, and a less mind-numbing way to treat anxiety than benzodiazepines, as well as a way to ease the aches and pains of aging.

Diane Wojcik, a Windsor resident caring for her mother with Alzheimer's, said marijuana could offer a way to ease the daily anxiety caused from vascular dementia.

DiSciullo said the plant drew her in after seeing how it helped her girlfriend, who at the time was coping with the effects of chemotherapy she was taking for breast cancer.

"It was a game changer," she said.

Amanda Drane can be reached at, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


6/14/18 - HANCOCK - Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., co-founder of the Berkshire Roots medical marijuana dispensary in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, uses slides for a presentation about the marijuana industry to business owners at Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort 37 Corey Road in Hancock Thursday, June 14, 2018. (Mike Plaisance / The Republican)

“Capitalizing on marijuana industry spurs Berkshires business brainstorming”
By Mike Plaisance – The Springfield Republican – June 14, 2018

HANCOCK -- Berskshire businesses gathered Thursday to discuss how to seize the marijuana industry.

"The market is basically everybody. You've got people between the ages of 20 and 29 and you've got people between the ages of 60 and 69 and even older," using medical marijuana, said Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., co-founder of Berkshire Roots of Pittsfield.

The company, which opened the first medical marijuana dispensary in Pittsfield in March, helped to arrange the forum called "Berkshire Roots Educates on Canna Tourism in the Berkshires."

Over 30 members of the tourism, hospitality and other businesses attended the event at Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort. It was co-arranged by 1Berkshire, the regional economic development organization.

All 32 cities and towns in Berkshire County approved the 2016 ballot question that legalized recreational marijuana and the 2012 ballot question that legalized marijuana for medical use in Massachusetts.

Officials with the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission said Thursday they expect to issue licenses to permit recreational marijuana businesses to operate in July.

As of Wednesday, 53 applicants from 28 companies or individuals had submitted the entire application to open a marijuana business in Massachusetts.

At the forum here, Nuciforo, a former state senator, used slides to give a history of the marijuana ballot questions in Massachusetts, the market's growth, regulations, methods of pot consumption and other details.

Marijuana sales are projected to hit $450 million in Massachusetts this year, but in a sign of the market's power, such spending in Colorado could rocket to $1.5 billion in 2018, Nuciforo said. Colorado began permitting retail sales of marijuana in January 2014.

The market is as varied as the imagination with marijuana integrated into the lodging, cooking, tour, guidebook, retreat, transportation, dinner party and other industries, such as "sushi and joint rolling" classes, Nuciforo said.

"As you can see, there's a lot going on here. Cannabis is somehow finding its way into all these different sectors," he said.

In April 2017, Massachusetts had about 34,000 medical marijuana card holders, persons permitted to use pot for health reasons. That jumped to over 54,000 as of April of this year, he said.

The state had 26 medical marijuana dispensaries as of April 30, with Berkshire Roots the 19th when it opened at 501 Dalton Ave. in Pittsfield, he said.

Business owners and managers said they found the conference helpful in outlining the regulations binding the marijuana industry and showing ways in which such a market might help them.


Marijuana facts:

The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) calls Marijuana a mind-altering drug. The DEA says no marijuana overdose deaths reported.

The Marijuana Plant contains more than 400 chemicals. The main chemical component is called THC is believed to produce the high users experience. THC produces a psychoactive effect. CBD does not produce a high and may treat some symptoms; may have medicinal benefits.

As of 6/22/2018, 29 states + D.C. have medical marijuana; 9 states + D.C. have recreational marijuana. There are three proven conditions that are treated by medical marijuana: (a) Chronic pain, (b) Neuropathic pain, (c) Muscle spasticity associated with M.S. The medical research is not there to support evidence for the treatment of other symptoms. There hasn’t been a long-term study of cannabis on the brain. There is some risk to marijuana use, especially among young people. Age: Teenagers more at risk to be addicted than adults. How often a person uses marijuana matters. Long-term daily use can use can lead to more negative impacts such as difficulty thinking or worsening anxiety. The concentration of THC in the cannabis matters. One in 10 people who are adults will become addicted to marijuana. There is a strong association between marijuana use and increased use of alcohol and other drugs.

Source: WCVB ABC NewsCenter 5 Primetime: “Mass Marijuana”, June 22, 2018.


“Pittsfield pot shop plans spark worries of an oversaturated market”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, July 23, 2018

Pittsfield — Marijuana shops are priming the Pittsfield market, and not everyone is pleased.

Brothers Dan and David Graziani aim to open up shop at 32 Bank Row, sparking concerns from nearby courthouse officials about the children they work with. They responded to these concerns during a community meeting Monday, which Register of Probate Fran Marinaro attended.

An influx of hopeful retailers also prompted some fresh concerns aired during recent city meetings last week. Temescal Wellness received special permit approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday, making it the fourth Pittsfield retailer moving toward a recreational license from the state.

In addition to the Grazianis' municipal application, there are two others in the works: one from Ken Crowley of Herbal Pathways, and another from Bloom Brothers on Merrill Road, which appeared before the ZBA and Community Development Board last week. The two boards wanted to see more trees on the Merrill Road property and a more attractive window design.

Berkshire Roots on Dalton Avenue, Kryppies of East Street and Green Biz of South Street already have municipal green lights and await state approvals for recreational sales.

All told, if all these companies eventually open for recreation sales in Pittsfield, that makes for seven shops. That, said a representative of Berkshire Roots, is too many, too close.

"There's not a need to have one of these things every half-mile," said Frank Demarinis, of Berkshire Roots.

He told ZBA members there aren't enough consumers to support all of these businesses, and so the city is setting them up for a rude awakening.

"I think people are going to start these businesses and immediately fail," he said.

In response to that, Dan Graziani said he respects that opinion, but "it all comes down to the spirit of competition."

"It's going to be based on who has the best products," he said.

They'll hire 10 to 12 employees at the shop, he said at the Monday meeting.

The state doesn't yet allow for social consumption of marijuana, the brothers said, meaning they can't allow customers to consume at the store. Public consumption is also illegal, they reminded Marinaro.

On behalf of the courthouse, Marinaro said: "We know it's coming."

He said he knows marijuana is legal, but leaders of the courthouse next door find it nonetheless "concerning" a marijuana shop will be so close to the courthouse, which sees families struggling with substance use.

"Much of that has destroyed their families," he said.

The point wasn't lost on the Graziani brothers.

"We hear you one 150 percent as local members of this community," Dan said. "We by no means want to contribute to that problem."

They plan to use a perforated film to obscure products from view of passing children, as is required by the Cannabis Control Commission. They'll have an alarm system and 24-hour surveillance at the store.

An enclosed ID checkpoint will separate people walking in from the street from the retail floor. Only verified adults over 21 will enter, and a staff member will hold their identification card in the meantime.

"One or both of us will always be at the store," David Graziani said. "Absentee owners don't run effective businesses."

Marinaro wanted to know if state laws spelled out anything about serving intoxicated individuals, and the brothers said they haven't seen anything like that. Still, they said, they'd deploy their "best judgment" and withhold sales to anyone who seems to be under the influence of inhibition-mitigating substances.

"There's a real fine line that people need to recognize going forward," Marinaro said.

The brothers said they plan to donate a percentage of their sales to a local nonprofit. The brothers are graduates of Pittsfield High School, formerly captains of the ski and tennis teams. Dan said he graduated a few years ago from Champlain College and works in digital marketing, and David recently graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in hospitality and tourism management.

"It's another business with open doors in Pittsfield," Dan said. "We want to be stewards of the community."

Marinaro said he hoped they'd keep a careful eye on the store and flag problems early. These are "maiden waters," after all.

"The reality is we don't know what's going to happen," he said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


Our Opinion: “Pot industry not above impact of capitalism”
The Berkshire Eagle, July 27, 2018

Due to regulatory delays, recreational pot sales remain mostly a pipe dream in Massachusetts, but already the industry is experiencing growing pains. Many in the state have applied to the Cannabis Control Commission for recreational retail licenses, including existing dispensaries that sell medical marijuana under a tightly regulated system. Some potential applicants no doubt view opening a recreational outlet as an automatic golden doorway to success; after all, it isn't as though a market for their products needs to be developed. If anything, the recreational pot market is poised to explode as users anticipate unlimited access to a substance that is until recently was legally forbidden.

In Pittsfield, special permits for recreational pot retailers are granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Its decisions are informed by the Community Development Board, which oversees development of the businesses' site plans.

The city government has embraced the nascent pot market with all the enthusiasm of a financially strapped municipality eyeing a fresh tax base, and has presented few obstacles to the future proliferation of marijuana retailers within its borders. Potentially, seven separate marijuana businesses will open their doors if they satisfy all municipal and state requirements, and this has given rise to pushback (Eagle, July 24). A representative of the only medical dispensary currently operating in the city, Berkshire Roots, indicated that Pittsfield was issuing permits to too many businesses. Frank Demarinis, a spokesman for that company, told the ZBA that the city didn't comprise a sufficient market for so many retailers. "I think people are going to start these businesses and immediately fail," he told the panel.

Imploring authorities to restrict the number of outlets of a legal product within their jurisdiction is an argument that flies in the face of free-market principles, among those being that competition is the way to deliver the best product at the the best value to consumers. The selling of recreational marijuana is still a business, and subject to all the risks involved in running any enterprise — whether it be a pot shop, liquor store or hardware outlet. Those that thrive will be the ones that give customers the best service, quality and bang for the buck, and in the internet age word of mouth among customers moves swiftly and decisively.

It is not the city's concern whether retailers manage to make a return on their investment. During the meeting, a member of the ZBA correctly allowed that market considerations are not among that regulatory body's permitting criteria.

Pittsfield is wise in adopting a relatively liberal policy regarding the number of retailers it will allow; it is operating within the laws of the state, and following all the necessary guidelines. The law of supply and demand is not a statute that comes under the city's jurisdiction, however, and pot retailers are mistaken if they believe it's the city's role to forestall a saturated marijuana market. Ultimately, the industry will shake itself out and market forces will determine the number of businesses that survive. Would-be pot shop operators need to learn that a license to sell recreational marijuana is not necessarily a license to print money.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

"Luciforo" is a voice for shared parenting

"Shared parenting not an obstacle"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letters, February 7, 2010

We at the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition certainly do not claim that Scott Brown was elected because of his support of shared parenting. However, the election of Brown by a considerable margin clearly demonstrates that being an outspoken supporter of shared parenting is hardly an obstacle to political success. Why would it?

In 2004, we put a public policy question on shared parenting on the ballot in about 25 percent of all Massachusetts precincts. It won by 87 percent, an unprecedented margin of victory. It is this ability to connect with what the people want and need that propelled Brown into office. We expect similar success for the likes of former state Senator Andrea Nuciforo, another strong advocate for shared parenting, when he makes his bid for Congressman John Olver's seat.

It is likely that the economy will be poor in November. Those who want to get elected and stand for "change" might consider really getting something done for once and finally make shared parenting law. People are so sick of more of the same, empty rhetoric, and political sloganeering.

Great Barrington, Massachusetts
The author is an officer of the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition
(no comments)

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Luciforo supports Olver in 2010 but opposes Olver in 2012!


United States Representative John Walter Olver (above)
"Luciforo supports Olver in 2010 but opposes Olver in 2012!"


LUCIFORO! (above)

Michael Engel (above)

"Educator to run for Congress"
The (Springfield) Republican (Online), September 16, 2009

SOUTHAMPTON - Michael Engel, a professor emeritus of political science at Westfield State College and former Easthampton selectman, will run in 2010 as an independent candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1st Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst.

Engel, who served on the Easthampton Select Board and School Committee in the 1990s, is seeking the 2,000 signatures needed to place his name on the ballot.

In a statement, Engel said he believes "the federal government is wasting time and money trying to fix the old, failed economic and financial system, and that working people have gained little or nothing from those efforts." He called on "citizens to start building a new system."

Olver, who has held his seat for 18 years, served three terms in the state House of Representatives before serving nine terms in the state Senate. In 1991, he won a special election to replace U.S. Rep. Silvio O. Conte, who died in office.

Former state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo, a Democrat, announced in July that he would make a run for Olver's seat in 2012 but supports Olver's bid for re-election in 2010.

Olver holds a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

The 1st Congressional District touches the borders of four states - Connecticut, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire - and includes 107 communities.




"2012 race for Congress starts early"
By David Pepose, Berkshire Eagle Staff, December 3, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- The 2012 elections are nearly two years away and the sitting congressman hasn't even been sworn into his next term, but the race for 1st Congressional District -- whatever it may look like in two years -- is heating up.

While questions of redistricting linger as a result of the 2010 U.S. Census, U.S. Rep. John W. Olver says he intends to run for his seat once more in 2012, which may put him head-to-head against Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.

"I do intend to run for re-election in 2012," Olver, 74, told WAMC Northeast Public Radio. "I'm planning and preparing for that. My experience is that the very best way for me to prepare is to do the very best job I can to promote the interests of the people in my district."

A former University of Massachusetts chemistry professor, Olver has been the U.S. representative in the 1st Congressional District since 1991, having been a member of the state House of Representatives and the state Senate. Olver chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and holds a seat on the House Appropriations Committee.

Olver's announcement comes early, before he even begins the two-year term he won in last month's midterm elections. It also heralds what may be a primary battle with fellow Democrat Nuciforo, who said in July 2009 that he would be aiming for the seat in 2012.

At the time of his initial announcement, Nuciforo wouldn't say what kind of conversation he'd had with the veteran Olver over the positioning of his campaign.

"I have had a very friendly and cordial conversation with the congressman," Nuciforo told The Eagle at the time. "I am not at liberty to discuss the details of the conversation with you."

With the redistricting of Massachusetts and the impending loss of one House member in Congress, there is a possibility that Olver's home base of Amherst may wind up in a district outside of Pittsfield, avoiding a race between the two candidates.

Yet state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, said that with Rep. Olver running for re-election in the 1st Congressional District and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of Springfield running once more in the 2nd, the chances were strong that Western Massachusetts could retain two congressional seats.

Even with that in mind, Downing said the likelihood of redistricting separating Nuciforo and Olver's races was extremely unlikely.

"Theoretically there are ways you could draw up the district that Amherst and Pittsfield are in different districts, but in reality, there is no likelihood of the two being separate," he said.

When Olver was asked by WAMC if he felt any resentment over Nuciforo allegedly implying that he would not run again, Olver replied, "I do, a little bit."

"But this is not a seat that one owns -- it is a seat you borrow for a period of time as long as your constituents want you to have it," Olver added. "Anybody's free to run -- I have no resentment for the people who ran against me in the last election, and it worked out fine."

Shortly before a reception held in his honor Thursday evening at the ITAM Lodge in Pittsfield, Nuciforo, 46, said his campaign anticipated that Olver would run again.

"Congressman Olver is doing exactly what we thought he would do," Nuciforo said.

Nuciforo said he could not speculate on how other political figures in the Berkshires might react to Olver's intentions.

Nuciforo began his 10-year stint in the state Senate in 1996, and it was a position his father, the late Andrea Sr., also held from 1964 to 1972. The younger Nuciforo, an attorney, stepped aside in 1996 to run for Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds, a post he's held since.

When asked about his decision last year to hold off running in 2010 and run in 2012 instead, Nuciforo said his rationale was based on pragmatism, not insider politics.

"People that know me well know that I prepare carefully and an undertaking as substantial as this one needs preparation," he said. "I thought it was reasonable that we take the time and prepare."

Nuciforo said that the major battles of the 2012 congressional race would "not be between candidates ... [but] about redistricting."

"My intentions have been clear for many months: My name will appear on the ballot for the 1st Congressional District in 2012 -- and that's whether that district includes Amherst or not," Nuciforo said.

"Local pols throw early support behind Olver"
By David Pepose, Berkshire Eagle Staff, December 4, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- Even with two years before the 2012 elections, some political power brokers in the Berkshires have already begun choosing sides in the battle for the 1st Congressional District.

U.S. Rep. John W. Olver confirmed his decision to run for re-election in 2012 this week, which is likely to mean a challenge from Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. of Pittsfield.

"It's important for a sitting mayor to support a sitting congressman who has earned that support," said Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto on Friday. "I have a great deal of respect for Andrea Nuciforo ... but [Olver] has earned that position, and the right to continue in that position."

Ruberto said he had donated to Nuciforo's congressional campaign last year, believing at the time that Olver was not running again.

Following Olver's announcement to run again, however, Ruberto said he would support the incumbent legislator because "[Olver] has been a good friend and very generous in supporting Pittsfield's agenda in Washington."

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, who worked in Olver's office from 2003 to 2005, said he wasn't surprised about Olver's announcement, and that he stood behind his former employer "110 percent."

"Anyone who puts their name up for Congress ought to be able to say why [Olver] shouldn't be our congressman," Downing said. "Anyone who would seek to unseat him shouldn't simply do it out of personal ambition -- they should have a good reason for it."

Questions loom about the redistricting of Massachusetts' House districts as a result of the 2010 U.S. Census, which could alter the House membership for Massachusetts. Still, it's likely that Olver and Nuciforo would face off in a primary election in 2012.

With that potential showdown still in the air, many well-known political figures in the Berkshires said they would side with Olver.

"Andy's been a great supporter of mine and a good friend," North Adams Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said on Friday. "But I've been in Olver's corner for a long time, and if you're asking me if I'd expect that to change, I'd say no."

Alcombright said that he didn't see Olver's announcement coming, particularly not before the Amherst Democrat is even sworn in for the two-year term he won last month.

"But if all things are equal and there's a primary in two years, you have to look at the big picture," Alcombright said. "If Andy is running against the congressman, you have to look at the big picture."

Nuciforo, 46, signaled his intention to run for the 1st Congressional District seat in July 2009. A former state senator of 10 years, Nuciforo stepped down in 1996 to run for his current post, the Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds.

Meanwhile, Olver, 72, a former chemistry teacher from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has served as the U.S. Representative for the 1st Congressional District since 1991. A longtime political veteran, Olver chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and sits on the House Appropriations Committee.

Meanwhile, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli praised the veteran Olver for his intention to run again, which he felt could help protect the 1st Congressional District from redistricting.

"I wasn't taken off guard at all. He's a healthy man. He's passionate about his job," Pignatelli said. "If we lose that congressional seat, the Berkshires lose."

Yet when asked whether he would back Olver or Nuciforo in the coming election, Pignatelli remained noncommittal.

"Two years is a lifetime in politics, and I think it's too early to presume anything's going to happen," Pignatelli said. "I'm not even thinking about it. It's too far in advance."

December 4, 2010

Re: Nuciforo's run

There is no surprise that "Luciforo" plans to challenge Congressman John W. Olver for U.S. Congress. I have written about this event for years. Please review Mary E. Carey's Blog page from 2007 featuring my prediction that "Luciforo" will use his dirty politics to challenge Olver for his seat in Congress.

"Luciforo" is the most insidious, conspiratorial, vindictive and mean-spirited small-town politician with a misguided big-head that I have ever dealt with. "Luciforo" thinks that he is great because his Father was a state Senator and Judge, his Uncle was a Pittsfield State Representative, and his Aunt was Mayor of Pittsfield, who also ran the office politics at Berkshire Community College. Nuciforo has layered his bullying of me since the Spring of 1996 when I was 20 years old. Nuciforo's network manipulated people to harass me and put me in conspiratorial situations. Nuciforo also tried to get my Dad fired from his courthouse job by filing false "ethics" complaints against him. Please review my Blog page explaining the cruelty Nuciforo's network put me through as a young man.

Nuciforo got caught double-dipping with both the state government and big banks and insurance companies. Mary E. Carey blogged my reaction to Nuciforo's illegal conflict of interests.

Nuciforo wants to go to U.S. Congress to in order to represent big banks and insurance companies (NOT the People) so he may take in many thousands of dollars in special interest dollars. Please review my Blog page chronicalling "Luciforo's" corruption in state government.

Nuciforo strong-armed 2 women candidates out of the 2006 state government election for Pittsfield Registrar of Deeds. Please review my Blog page that explains how "Luciforo" views himself when it comes to women and democracy.

When Nuciforo was a State Senator, "Luciforo" voted against the all felon DNA database. Please review my Blog page that list the criminal offenses "Luciforo" would have allowed to be exempted from the all felon DNA database.

I have an entire Blog dedicated to criticizing and dissenting against "Luciforo" and his run for U.S. Congress!

I hope that Congressman John W. Olver stays strong against "Luciforo" and his dirty politics. Nuciforo went after me and my family when I was a young adult to show his political network's (abuses of) power. Nuciforo represents a small-town politician with a big ego who will do anything for power. I hope people read my Blogs, and Mary E. Carey's Blog pages, too, and see what a fraud "Luciforo" is to decency, democracy and good governance.

- Jonathan Melle


"Olver will be part of new majority"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letter to the Editor, December 14, 2010

The Williamstown Democratic Town Committee congratulates John Olver on his election victory this Nov. 2. With his long experience serving the 1st Berkshire District since 1991, Congressman Olver has been a tireless and effective advocate for causes and programs important to Western Massachusetts and to the nation, including land conservation, energy efficiency, transportation development, and workers' rights. We wish him continued good health.

When he runs again in 2012 we will support him, as we look forward to returning a Democratic majority to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Williamstown, Massachusetts
The writer is chair of the WDTC and writes on its behalf.

"Former state senator Andrea Nuciforo Jr. plots a run for Congress"
By BEN STORROW, Staff Writer, - February 23, 2011

When Andrea Nuciforo Jr. ran his first campaign for elected office in 1996, he had little support from the Berkshire County political establishment. Jane Swift, then a state senator representing Berkshire County, announced that she would not seek re-election that year and would instead challenge U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, for a seat in the U.S. Congress.

Six candidates jumped in the race to succeed Swift: one independent, two Republicans and three Democrats. Among them was Ed Reilly, the sitting Democratic mayor of Pittsfield and the favorite of many in the political establishment.

However, that did not deter the then 31-year-old Nuciforo - a member of a family long active in Berkshire County politics - from leaving his job at a Boston law firm to run for the senate seat.

"It was a race where all the inside players were not with us," Nuciforo said in an interview at the Gazette last month. "The sheriff, the state rep, the city council president, everybody who was anybody was not with us. I remember people crossing the street when they saw me coming. And we worked real hard and we won that primary."

Reilly eventually withdrew from the primary race, citing a bad back and the need to care for his elderly relatives, according to reports in the Berkshire Eagle at the time.

Nuciforo went on to win the general election that year and represented Berkshire County in the state senate for the following decade. In 2007, he resigned from his seat to run for Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds. He won that race and still holds the position today.

Now running for Congress

Yet it is that first 1996 race that is perhaps most important in understanding Nuciforo today. Now 46, the Pittsfield native is crisscrossing western and central Massachusetts to lay the groundwork for a 2012 congressional bid. And much like the 1996 contest, the region's political establishment is lining up behind his likely opponent, Olver, the 11-term Democratic congressman from Amherst who announced in December his intention to seek reelection in 2012.

"I am supporting John Olver," said state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst. "He said he is running and I am supporting him."

Asked to describe Nuciforo to area residents who may not be familiar with him, Rosenberg said, "He's energetic and ambitious."

State Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, now occupies the seat on Beacon Hill that Nuciforo once held. And like Nuciforo, he admits to holding Congressional ambitions. But Downing, a former Olver staffer, is adamant that he will not consider such a bid until his former boss announces his retirement.

"So long as John Olver is running for re-election I will support him," Downing said. "If he decided he didn't want to run, I'd take a look at it."

Downing argued that Olver's 20 years in Congress make him an effective advocate for the 107 western and central Massachusetts communities now in the 1st District, saying "the experience and seniority that he has accumulated should not easily be dismissed."

Olver is a member of the Appropriations Committee and the ranking minority member on its Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee.

Nuciforo is not discouraged, saying, "We'll take our support from wherever we can find it ... What we are going to do for the next year is build an organization, raise money and meet voters."

As of Dec. 31, he had raised $130,000 and had $101,537 in his campaign bank account, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

Points to Obama, Patrick

Nuciforo also pointed to the examples of Barack Obama and Deval Patrick, arguing that each represented an example of candidates who won office despite not being the initial choice of the Democratic Party's establishment.

"These races have a certain commonality where you have a favorite inside candidate and then you have someone running from the outside," Nuciforo said. "The Barack Obama example is a perfect one, if you take a look at who is primary opponent was, Hillary Clinton.

"You can take Deval Patrick who had the sitting attorney general (Thomas Reilly) who had run successfully statewide in the previous election cycle," he added. "... You see these races happening all over the country and what you find is that voters want voice."

Nuciforo won't discuss Olver or the possibility of running against him, noting that redistricting, in which the state Legislature will reconfigure the congressional boundaries, has yet to start. Because Massachusetts will lose one of its 10 congressional seats, that could radically alter the shape of each district.

The 1st Congressional District now includes all of Berkshire and Franklin counties and parts of Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex and Worcester counties.

"There are two big events that have to occur here - first we have to understand what the district is and number two we have to know who the candidates are yet," Nuciforo said when asked about Olver. "It's very premature to say what the race is going to look like."

Sitting congressman

Still, Nuciforo would likely have to defeat a sitting Democratic congressman if he is to win the seat. The other obvious candidate to represent all or part of western Massachusetts is U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, who also has announced his plan to seek re-election. The 2nd Congressional District, which Neal represents, currently includes parts of Hampshire and Hampden counties.

When pressed on why he would run against a sitting member of Congress from his own party, Nuciforo responded, "I certainly am not going to contrast myself or compare myself to any other candidates ... Certainly at this stage when we don't know what the district looks like much less who the other candidates are, I am not going to go down the road of criticizing or comparing other candidates."

Olver, 74, is equally reluctant to discuss a possible challenge by Nuciforo.

"We don't own this district, we rent it," the Amherst congressman said in a recent interview at the Gazette. "Andy is someone who wants to run for Congress."

What Nuciforo does talk about is how the changes he's seen in Pittsfield since he grew up there in the 1960s and 1970s has motivated him to run for Congress.

"I am running to protect and stick up for middle- and working-class people in western Massachusetts," Nuciforo said.

Nuciforo describes the Pittsfield of his youth as a "working-class" town, where most people were employed at General Electric or in manufacturing. The loss of manufacturing jobs in recent years has takena heavy toll on the city's economy, he said.

"Think what Pittsfield looked like in the 1950s, '60s, '70s and '80s, even into the '90s, and you look at the impact this economy has had on small cities and towns today. It's been brutal," Nuciforo said.

"For middle-class families living in places like Westfield, Pittsfield, Holyoke, Fitchburg, these trends have been devastating," he added. "I see it with my own eyes and in my own family."

One of five children, Nuciforo graduated from Taconic High School in Pittsfield in 1982 and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst where he received a bachelor's degree in English in 1986. He has a law degree from Boston University and a master of business administration from New York University.

In the state Senate, Nuciforo served as chair of the Joint Committee on Financial Services and Joint Committee on Banks and Banking. He also served as a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Political family

Nuciforo comes from a long line of Berkshire County politicians. His father Andrea Nuciforo Sr. served as a state senator there between 1964 and 1973 before being appointed First Justice of the Berkshire Probate and Family Court by former Gov. Francis Sargent. His uncle Thomas C. Wojtkowski was a state representative from Pittsfield for 18 years, and his aunt Anne E. Wojtkowski served as mayor of Pittsfield between 1988 and 1992.

Nuciforo's plan to run for Congress does not come as a surprise to many who know him. Matt Barron, a Democratic political consultant and former Olver staffer, said it has long been known that Nuciforo wanted to run for higher office.

Barron, who lives in Chesterfield, recalled how the pair used to attend ribbon-cutting ceremonies together when Nuciforo was a state senator.

Olver would joke with the young legislator, Barron said, by taking Nuciforo's hand and placing it on his wrist, as if Nuciforo was taking Olver's pulse.

"In those days John would laugh and Andy's face would turn beet red," Barron said.

Ben Storrow can be reached at


"Berkshire County Officials Stress Maintenance of Congressional Lines at Redistricting Hearing" - Patrick Donges (2011-06-14)

PITTSFIELD, MA (WAMC) - More than 80,000; that's how many more residents officials say must be added to the state's first congressional district to maintain its current borders. It is already the largest district in the state containing all of Berkshire and Franklin counties and parts of Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, and Worcester counties.

That number was stated Saturday during a hearing in Pittsfield held by the Massachusetts Special Joint Committee on Redistricting, the eighth of 13 hearings being held across the state by the panel of state legislators charged with re-drawing the district lines in advance of the November 2012 elections.

Based on population figures taken from the 2010 census, Massachusetts is slated to lose one of its ten congressional districts in this year's process.

From 2000 to 2010, Berkshire County lost nearly 3 percent of its population, from almost 135,000 residents to just more than 131,200.

State Senator Stanley Rosenberg, senate co-chair of the redistricting committee, broke down the number of residents that would need to be drawn into in the state's three most western congressional districts to maintain their current boundaries.

"On the first congressional district we have to pick up 82,558, the second congressional district is 66,469, and the third is 62,595."

Those figures have stoked strong speculation of consolidation of the state's first and second districts, a move which would force a primary battle between first district Representative John Olver, the eldest member of the delegation, and second district Representative Richard Neal, who has held that seat since 1989.

Olver was the first to speak at Saturday's hearing; his remarks set the stage for most of the testimony that followed.

"The first congressional district encompasses 107 of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts. It has a substantially rural character."

"With a multitude of these small towns, they have shared interests which come from their relatively rural nature. I urge you to reject any plan that might come before you that would split Berkshire County in any way whatsoever."

Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds Andrea Nuciforo, who has announced he will challenge Olver in a Democratic primary next year, agreed that the county should remain whole.

"It's very important that Berkshire County not be split. I think that would be dreadful. All of Berkshire County together are, as a whole, one community of common interest."

Nuciforo also cited maps drawn by, a non-profit proposing a consolidation of the first and second districts.

"One of the proponents of this thing said, there is frankly no reason to keep two seats headquartered in Western Massachusetts.' That is incorrect."

"There are many, many billions of dollars that are allocated by the federal government every year that go to small towns and small cities. The small towns and small cities, including my hometown of Pittsfield, deserve and need a congressman that will be speaking exclusively for them."

Nuciforo said he believed the committee could maintain the rural nature of the first district by adding Northampton, Hadley, South Hadley and other communities in Middlesex and Worcester counties.

Jack Robinson, CEO of, agrees that the consolidation would be "unfortunate" for Berkshire County residents, however

"It's really unavoidable given the math. The western part of the state has lost population. It's really just an unfortunate consequence that (we) go back to kind of what the maps were in the late 1800's and early 1900's."

As for Nuciforo's suggested changes, again Robinson said they don't add up.

"We looked at that; looking at Northampton, Holyoke, West Springfield, even Longmeadow, some of the larger communities out west. You just can't get enough of them to get to the additional people that you need to create a legal district."


"District lines looking shaky"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle Staff, July 24, 2011

As the work of redrawing Massachusetts’ federal and state legislative districts begins, county leaders say it’s still unlikely that Berkshire County will escape the process unscathed.

The redistricting committee recently wrapped up a series of 13 public hearings held in communities throughout Massachusetts, including one in Pittsfield last month.

State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, the co-chairman of the committee, said he heard essentially the same thing from residents across the state: Don’t touch my district.

"Very few people pointed fingers, but the few times fingers were pointed, they were pointed west," said Rosenberg. "They argue that there’s been a consistent loss in population in Western Massachusetts, you should reduce the number of seats there."

Rosenberg said the committee’s staff is completing its analysis of census data. Soon, he said, committee leaders will begin the process of drawing maps.

The state’s legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years to reflect population changes recorded in the decennial census. Berkshire County’s population shrank from 135,000 residents in 2000 to 131,000 in 2010, while populations grew in eastern parts of the state.

And because of sluggish population growth across the commonwealth, Massachusetts is being forced to merge 10 congressional districts into nine.

According to area politicians, the Berkshires is facing the loss of one state representative, while Western Massachusetts as a whole stands to have its two congressional district merged into one.

At the very least, state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing’s district, already the geographically largest in the state, will be getting even bigger. The Pittsfield Democrat said he’ll have to add another 12,000 constituents to his district by picking up between three and five communities to the east.

Likewise, if one of the county’s four seats in the state House of Representatives isn’t eliminated, those districts will also have to grow by adding more out-of-county communities.

Downing said he’s less concerned about his district growing than he is about the prospect of losing a congressional representative.

"Obviously we know these districts have to change and it’s up to the committee to figure out the best way to do that, but I think that when you have five members of Congress from the state’s 10-member delegation living within 15 minutes of Boston, that part of the state wouldn’t suffer from a lack of voice the way we would if we went from two representatives to one," said Downing.

Rosenberg said special-interest groups in Boston have been pushing plans that call for Western Massachusetts’ 1st and 2nd Congressional districts to be combined. Among those groups is Fair Districts Mass, which contends that because the West’s population is shrinking and the East’s is growing, it’s only fair to redraw congressional districts accordingly.

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, is worried that concerns about the western half of the state’s congressional representation may be overshadowing what he described as a very real threat to the Berkshire’s representation in the state House of Representatives.

Pignatelli said it’s already a challenge for the county’s four-member delegation in the House to advocate for the region in a body that totals 160 members.

"It’s still not too late for the public to weigh in, and I think people should," he said.

Rosenberg said he hopes to have a preliminary plan before the entire redistricting committee by Thanksgiving.


"Olver's exit averts intraparty fight"

Massachusetts Rep. John Olver has announced that he won’t seek reelection in 2012 – a decision that saves Democrats from an ugly post-redistricting fight that would eliminate one of their members.

With the state losing one of its 10 seats – all held by Democrats – Olver, whose congressional career spanned more than two decades, faced the prospect of being forced into the same district as his western Massachusetts colleague, Democratic Rep. Richard Neal.

His announcement came just weeks before state lawmakers are expected to release a draft congressional map. With Olver’s retirement, line-drawers will have the easy choice of erasing his seat and creating one western Massachusetts seat.

Olver’s decision will come as a relief to other members as well: Line-drawers also had the option of combining the neighboring districts held by Democratic Reps. Stephen Lynch and Bill Keating, on the eastern side of the state.

In his retirement statement, Olver alluded to his wife’s cancer diagnosis, which was recently made public, as a key factor in his decision to forego another race.

“Last December, I announced that I intended to seek to continue my congressional service beyond 2012. Over the past six months, circumstances within my family have substantially changed, and I now find I must reconsider my earlier decision,” he said. “Therefore, I will retire from the House of Representatives at the conclusion of the current (112th) Congress.”

Democratic officials had been concerned about a potential Olver-Neal clash, which would pit two of the party’s most senior lawmakers against each other. Olver is a longtime member of the House Appropriations Committee; Neal is a senior member on the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee.

Eliminating a seat from the state’s western region was an easy option for state lawmakers because its population has dropped at a faster rate than other parts of the state over the last decade. Olver’s sprawling district is regarded as oversized –a reality he acknowledged to in his statement.

“Since 1991, I have had the privilege and great honor of representing the people of the First District of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives,” he said. “The district has grown much larger from the district as it was in 1991, and these twenty years have been tumultuous years for America.”

Neal’s path to reelection is not entirely clear. Democrat Andrea Nuciforo, a former state senator, has said he will run for a western Massachusetts-based seat no matter who is on the ballot.