Congressman Richard Neal

Congressman Richard Neal
STOP "LUCIFORO" in 2012! *****www.nealforcongress.com*****http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Neal*****

Friday, March 17, 2017

Luciforo invested in a Pittsfield medical marijuana dispensary!

MoreAboutMJ.org
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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.

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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,
Pittsfield

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“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.

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"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.

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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
www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/01/08/read-full-statement-from-mass-attorney/2xsm3LVQ1qdCjNDxyzmojL/story.html

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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.”

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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, Democrats.com Unity.

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“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 adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter or at 413-496-6296.

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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.

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"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.

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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

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"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.

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“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 www.mass-cannabis-control.com.

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"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 ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.

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

“Berkshire Roots medical marijuana dispensary opens in Pittsfield”
By Jeanette DeForge | jdeforge@repub.com | 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 jdeforge@repub.com – 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.

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“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 adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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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 info@berkshireroots.com.)

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 lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.

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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.

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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 adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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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 mplaisance@repub.com – 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.

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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.

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“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 adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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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.

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Berkshire Roots, Pittsfield's first cannabis growing facility and dispensary, has received approval for recreational sales from the state's Cannabis Control Commission. The timeline for when recreational sales will be up and running in the state, however, is still up in the air. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

“Timeline hazy for recreational sales as 2nd Pittsfield pot shop gets provisional license”
By Amanda Drane , The Berkshire Eagle, October 11, 2018

Pittsfield — A second marijuana retailer has received its provisional license to sell recreational marijuana, though the timeline to actual sales remains unclear.

Berkshire Roots, open since March for medical sales, got the conditional OK from the state's Cannabis Control Commission last week. The Dalton Avenue operation is the second Berkshire County cannabis retailer to receive the early license for recreational sales. Temescal Wellness, on Callahan Drive, got its provisional license last month.

The two Berkshire shops join more than a dozen retailers statewide waiting for a final nod from the state to move forward in the "adult-use" market, as the state refers to the emerging recreational marijuana market.

More than two months have passed since the original deadline — and nearly two years have passed since voters approved recreational marijuana in Massachusetts — yet recreational cannabis sales have yet to begin in the commonwealth. The Cannabis Control Commission has been cryptic about when final approvals will come.

So far there are seven retailers with green lights from the city. Five of those companies, including Berkshire Roots and Temescal Wellness, have completed applications with the state.

Matt Feeney, one of the owners at Berkshire Roots, said the company is hoping to begin recreational sales by the end of November.

"But we just don't know, really," he said, noting evolving state regulations. "They put the pins up and we try to knock `em down as best we can."

Feeney said the company is slowly building a solid client base, and revenues are up 20 percent since opening six months ago. He said that "it's a building process," and the statewide situation remains fluid.

"It's a little bit of a learning experience every day," he said.

Meantime, Temescal Wellness is poised to open under its medical license. It is slated to become the third dispensary to do business in Berkshire County. As for lifting the "provisional" from Temescal's license to sell recreationally, the shop is slated for a post-provisional license inspection next week.

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

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“Vow to reform federal marijuana law prompts Western Massachusetts skepticism”
By Mike Plaisance | mplaisance@repub.com | MassLive.com | October 17, 2018

Springfield -- Local skepticism greeted a report that President Donald Trump will move to legalize marijuana for medicinal use at the federal level and address recreational pot by letting states instead of the federal government decide.

U.S. Rep. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., told foxbusiness.com that Trump has committed to establishing such pot reform after the mid-term elections Nov. 6.

Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 substance in the federal government's categorization of controlled substances. Such drugs -- heroin and LSD among them -- have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Advocates note that marijuana is a plant that has been ingested around the world for thousands of years and should be legally available throughout the United States.

Thirty states and Washington D.C. allow marijuana for medical use. Nine states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes.

The discussion about Trump possibly reforming federal marijuana laws comes as Canada's legalization of cannabis possession and use takes effect today. Rules about matters such as the availability of marijuana differ in different provinces and territories of the U.S. neighbor to the north.

Rohrabacher said Trump has spoken in support of legalizing medical marijuana on the federal level and leaving the status of recreational marijuana up to the states.

"It could be as early as spring of 2019, but definitely in the next legislative session," Rohrabacher told foxbusiness.com

The Republican sought comments from [In part]:

Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., co-founder of Berkshire Roots medical marijuana dispensary in Pittsfield and a former state senator.

Nuciforo:

"It appears that they're talking about something along a federal legislation and that can take a whole bunch of different forms. Does that mean dispensaries would be able to access federally insured banks? That sounds like an important consideration," he said.

Among other questions are will marijuana companies have access to the mechanics of commerce available to other businesses like bank accounts, loans, listing on public exchanges and conducting business across state lines, he said.

"These kinds of things I would like to see in the bill," he said.

"There's reason to be optimistic. I mean, this is a dialogue that never would have occurred two or three years ago. But it's happening now, so the proof will be in the pudding, if a bill is filed," he said.

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“Marijuana manufacturer looks to set up shop in Pittsfield”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, October 30, 2018

Pittsfield — The former ReStore space on Jefferson Place could see a new life in the marijuana manufacturing industry.

During a community outreach meeting on Tuesday, Erik Gothelf, owner of Climb Cannabis, detailed his plans to place a marijuana processing plant in a 4,700-square-foot space at 70 Jefferson Place.

Unlike other marijuana companies getting into the Berkshire marijuana manufacturing market, Berkshire Roots in Pittsfield and Ten Ten Craft Cannabis in Sheffield, Climb Cannabis would exclusively do marijuana extractions. The company doesn't plan to grow its own marijuana, but rather will buy cheap trim in bulk for the purposes of extracting its THC and reproducing it in oil form.

"I'm trying to buy what has the most THC per dollar," he told abutters during the meeting.

Then, he said, he plans to sell those products to marijuana retailers statewide. The final product is a 1-gram cartridge of marijuana oil that fits into a vaporizer.

His likely neighbors were concerned about the smell, but Gothelf said there won't be any.

The company is a spinoff of California-based Cobra Extractions, with which Gothelf said he has a licensing agreement. Gothelf himself lives in Connecticut, has family in the Berkshires and knew Pittsfield has industrial space to spare.

Gothelf said he has a five-year lease with Pariseau Heating and Cooling. He said that because the site falls within an industrial zone, he won't need special permit approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals. Still, he'll need the Community Development Board to approve his site plan, which he hopes will happen during a meeting on Nov. 20.

Neighbors were also concerned about security, and Gothelf assured them the windows will be barred and the building will be secured.

"I don't want you to know I'm there, so if you don't know I'm there I'm doing my job," he told them.

Gothelf said he hopes to expand his company as the industry evolves, and the building allows him plenty of space to do so.

There will be about a dozen employees of the company, he said, and he aims to begin renovating the space in February. He'll give Pittsfield applicants preferential treatment, he said.

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

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“EHCA Votes in Favor of Retail Marijuana Shop”
By John Lynds, East Boston Times-Free Press, November 2, 2018

The plan to place an adult use retail marijuana facility on the heavily trafficked Meridian Street near Central Square, the East Boston Social Centers, a bus stop and the neighborhood’s shopping district was met with resistance at two previous community meetings.

However, in a close vote at their October meeting Eagle Hill Civic Association members voted 14 to 11 to support Berkshire Roots, Inc.’s plans to open the marijuana dispensary at 253 Meridian St.

Berkshire Roots is the largest grower of cannabis in Western Massachusetts and was the first medical marijuana dispensary to open in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

At last month’s Eagle Hill Civic Association meeting and a subsequent community meeting last month sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, Berkshire Roots’s attorney Andrea Nuciforo said his client is intending to use and redevelop the retail space at 253 Meridian Street into a retail marijuana dispensary. The proposal for the Meridian Street pot shop includes transforming the 1,400 sq. ft. retail space on the first floor of the building into sleek and stylish dispensary with façade improvement and subtle and understated signage.

Nuciforo said there would be no cultivation, processing, or packaging on site. There would also be no product consumption on site and the product would not be visible from the street.

EHCA President Debra Cave voiced her concern at last week’s meeting.

“I just have a concern about the location,” said Cave. “It is sandwiched between two schools, the O’Donnell and Umana Schools, and it is right near the Social Centers. I know this is for adults but I don’t know if it is a good match for a residential neighborhood. I see lots of children and lots of kids everyday in that location.”

Nuciforo said that the City of Boston identified the issue of keeping these adult use retail shops away from children by creating zoning and specific zones the business can be located.

“This location does fall within the permitted zones as defined by the city,” said Nuciforo. “The city established a 500-foot setbacks away from where children congregate, a 500 foot setback away from schools and the shop can not be within a half mile of any other marijuana dispensary location. There is a very limited number of place this use is actually permitted and this address happens to be one and adheres to all three rules put into place by the city.”

There was also some concern over security. However, unlike a liquor store where access is relatively easy for underage people the facility would follow a rigorous protocol before people can even enter the dispensary.

There will be a security guard at the front door. When a potential customer enters he or she must present either a valid Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Card or a valid state license or identification card proving the customer is over 21 years of age. Between the front door and the actual dispensary is a locked door. The front door and internal ‘locked’ door are never open at the same time. Once the customer is approved by the security guard an employee inside the dispensary would have to activate a buzzer for the internal door to allow the customer inside.

“It’s a very strict and rigorous process,” said Nuciforo.

The proposal had City Councilor Lydia Edwards calling for a hearing to discuss potential policy changes affecting the siting of enterprises serving cannabis as well as alcohol in the immediate vicinity of substance abuse treatment facilities during last week’s Council hearing.

Edwards pointed to the proposed dispensaries close proximity to North Suffolk Mental Health, an agency that helps addicts with their substance abuse problems.

Currently, the City of Boston regulates the distance between cannabis establishments at one-half mile and creates a 500-foot buffer between such businesses and K-12 schools. The City also regulates businesses that serve or sell alcohol through licensing and zoning, but has not enacted a similar distance-based buffer.

Zoning changes typically do not impact existing enterprises but would apply to new development and could potentially apply to substantially renovated buildings. The hearing will explore whether such a buffer should be created, potential impacts and how to create parity between industries.

link: http://eastietimes.com/2018/11/02/ehca-votes-in-favor-of-retail-marijuana-shop/

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The fiscal 2019 budget signed by Gov. Charlie Baker projected $63 million in marijuana-derived revenue for the year. Since missing the July 1 deadline for the start of recreational marijuana sales, the state has missed out on a potential $20 million in revenue, according to Question 4 backers. credit: Carlos Osorio - The Associated Press

“For some, rollout pace for recreational pot in Massachusetts carries sense of déjà vu”
By Sophia Eppolito , Boston University Statehouse Program, November 3, 2018

Boston — Nearly two years after recreational marijuana was legalized in the commonwealth, experts are concerned that the rollout will be caught up in delays and red tape like medical marijuana, another voter-approved measure four years earlier.

When Massachusetts voters approved Question 4 in 2016, they established a Jan. 1, 2018, launch date for sales. That was pushed back by legislators to July 1. By mid-October, the Cannabis Control Commission created by the law had issued only six final licenses — two for retail, two for independent testing labs, a fifth for cultivation and one for product manufacturing. And they still have several steps to take before they will be approved to open.

The fiscal 2019 budget signed by Gov. Charlie Baker projected $63 million in marijuana-derived revenue for the year. Since missing the July 1 deadline, the state has missed out on a potential $20 million in revenue, according to Question 4 backers.

Will Luzier, the former campaign manager for the 2016 ballot campaign, said this slow-moving pace is eerily similar to when medical marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts in 2012. The medical statute said that there could not be more than 35 medical dispensaries open in the first year, but 2 1/2 years, later only five had opened, Luzier said.

"The concern — the fear, if you will — is that this rollout will be as slow as or slower than the medical marijuana facility rollout," he said. "There's been a record of glacial movement on marijuana commerce."

Jim Borghesani, the spokesman for the ballot campaign who now works with Luzier at a marijuana business consulting company, voiced similar concerns. He attributed the slow rollout to "slow-moving bureaucracy," indifference from elected officials, as well as municipal opposition from local cities and towns.

State Sen. Patricia Jehlen, D-Somerville, co-chair of the Legislature's Marijuana Policy Committee, said the recreational rollout has been a much more transparent process than the medical one.

"A major difference between the rollout of the recreational marijuana industry and medical marijuana is that the Legislature, in creating the CCC, required the recreational process to be public," Jehlen said in a statement. "We know what is causing delays because the commission is required to publicly disclose and discuss what's going on at each step of the process. We didn't have that with medical, and therefore we don't really know what caused those delays."

Medical marijuana currently falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Health, while adult use is being overseen by the recently-formed Cannabis Control Commission. There are now plans for the medical marijuana regulatory scheme to be subsumed by the CCC by the end of this year.

Shaleen Title, who sits on the CCC, said the recreational process is progressing the way that she "would have expected."

"This is about what I would expect, given how highly regulated the industry is in the original law and given just how much importance there is to making sure that it's rolled out in a way that is compliant."

Voters in Nevada and California also passed recreational marijuana laws in November 2016, but adult-use retail shops opened in Nevada in July 2017 and in California in January.

As it stands, there are 63 adult-use locations operating in Nevada, along with 123 adult-use cultivators, 10 adult-use labs and 87 manufacturers. Five of the state's 17 counties have at least one retail shop. The use of medical marijuana became legal in Nevada in 2001, but at that point people had to grow their own. State-licensed establishments were legalized in 2015.

"We had a really functional medical marijuana program in place with really solid regulations, so we were able to build on that," said Stephanie Klapstein, a public information officer for the Nevada Department of Taxation, which manages marijuana regulation. "I think that's part of our success in being able to get up and running early."

Title said it isn't fair to compare Massachusetts with these other states, because their markets are more widespread and they had several more medical marijuana businesses.

"I've been involved in that process in many other states and I would disagree that we're further behind," she said. "I think it's an apples-to-oranges comparison."

Borghesani said one major difference between Massachusetts' legalization process is that the other states didn't institute similar delays.

"First of all, neither Nevada or California delayed things by six months like we did in Massachusetts," Borghesani said. "None of them put forward a statutory delay ... and the whole licensing application approval process has moved much slower in Massachusetts than it has in those states."

Although there is no hard deadline for when retail stores will open, Luzier said he "wouldn't be surprised" if there are about three or four open by Thanksgiving.

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“Massachusetts’s first recreational marijuana sales will begin Tuesday [11/20/2018]”
By Nik DeCosta-Klipa, Boston.com – November 16, 2018

More than two years after Massachusetts voted to legalize marijuana for all adults over the age of 21, the state’s first recreational sales are set to begin Tuesday, November 20, 2018.

On Friday afternoon [11/16/2018], the Cannabis Control Commission authorized two existing medical marijuana dispensaries — Cultivate Holdings in (1764 Main St.) Leicester and New England Treatment Access, or NETA, in (118 Conz St.) Northampton — to begin sales [on November 20th].

The commission issued a third retail license to Verilife, a medical marijuana dispensary in Wareham, earlier this month. The store still has to get a “commence operations” notice from the commission before it can begin recreational sales.

The commission is also posed to issue two more retail licenses at its meeting Tuesday.

As of the commission’s last meeting on Nov. 1, [2018] state officials said they were in the process of reviewing 58 applications from businesses hoping to open recreational marijuana stores.

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“Cannabis retailers in Pittsfield, Great Barrington get final licenses”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, December 13, 2018

Pittsfield — Recreational marijuana should make landfall in Berkshire County within the month.

On Thursday the Cannabis Control Commission green-lighted final licenses for Temescal Wellness, on Callahan Drive in Pittsfield, and Theory Wellness, on Stockbridge Road in Great Barrington.

Both retailers are already selling to consumers with medical marijuana cards, but the decision clears the way for the shops to sell to anyone 21 or over. They will be the first in Berkshire County to do so, two years after Massachusetts voters legalized recreational cannabis.

Retailers await final inspections from the state before they can open their doors to the general adult public, but are expected to be up and running within the month.

There are so far two recreational marijuana retailers open for businesses in Massachusetts — one in Northampton and one in Leicester. Between the two of them, they've netted more than $7 million in gross sales since the industry launched to much fanfare on Nov. 20.

Leaders at Theory and Temescal say that in the days ahead they'll busy themselves with transferring their medical supply to recreational, and plugging into a state database used to track cannabis inventory.

After that, Theory CEO Brandon Pollock said, the state will do one last "sales ready" inspection.

"And then we should be good to go," he said. "I can say it's weeks now, not months."

Pollock said he hired 15 additional people at the Great Barrington operation, lined up traffic detail through the Great Police Department and put together parking maps in preparation for the start of recreational sales.

"Once we get that approval we'll be ready to open immediately," he said.

Julia Germaine, Temescal's corporate development director, said since the retailers will need to schedule state inspections amid the holiday season, she's expecting the Pittsfield shop to open for recreational sales in four weeks. "We're being conservative," she said.

Pollock said his team is considering putting purchase limits in place to make sure supply keeps pace with demand, since "it's a real unknown how busy we will be."

"We're very excited about it," he said. "We think it's going to be a great thing for our community, both culturally and economically."

Germaine echoed the sentiment: "We're very excited to serve consumers in the Berkshires and beyond."

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

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Berkshire Roots has received "provisional" licenses from the state, meaning it is an inspection or two from being awarded final licenses: Berkshire Roots, Pittsfield, license types: cultivation, product manufacturing, transportation, retail.


After voters in 2016 approved adult use of cannabis, the state finally fulfilled the promise of retail weed in November, when pot shops opened in Northampton and Leicester. Sales are just weeks away in Berkshire County. Eagle file photo

Top Stories of 2018: No. 2: “Adult-use cannabis sales hit the registers”
By Kristin Palpini, The Berkshire Eagle, December 29, 2018

What a long, strange trip it's been.

After voters in 2016 approved adult use of cannabis, the state finally fulfilled the promise of retail weed in November, when pot shops opened in Northampton and Leicester. Sales are just weeks away in Berkshire County.

So far, 19 businesses have submitted applications to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission for marijuana retail, production, manufacturing and transport licenses in the Berkshires.

Two of these establishments — Theory Wellness in Great Barrington and Temescal Wellness in Pittsfield — have been issued final licenses and will open recreational shops soon.

Meanwhile, municipal officials have chipped away at writing bylaws dictating where and how cannabis businesses can operate in their towns and cities, if at all. Lenox and New Marlborough elected to extend marijuana moratoriums into 2019.

In the coming year, Theory Wellness CEO Brandon Pollock said, he will be following development of consumption and delivery licenses for Massachusetts businesses. Now, a person age 21 or older can purchase pot, but the state has not set rules around businesses where people can gather and consume marijuana — think "cannabis cafe."

The Cannabis Control Commission also will be digging into the status of home marijuana delivery.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how the state starts putting together delivery and social consumption — the future parts of the cannabis industry that have not been tackled," said Pollock, who estimated that his firm's medical marijuana dispensary in Great Barrington will open for recreational sales in two weeks.

"Social consumption is kind of like the final frontier," Pollock said. "They're starting to get implemented out west in California, Alaska and Colorado — it's a private venue that has a one- or three-day event permit that allows people to use cannabis on-site."

Sales force

Temescal and Theory Wellness will likely be the first to sell legal recreational weed in the Berkshires, but five other businesses are not far behind.

The following have received "provisional" licenses from the state, meaning they are an inspection or two from being awarded final licenses:

- Berkshire Roots, Pittsfield, license types: cultivation, product manufacturing, transportation, retail;

- Commonwealth Cultivation Inc., Pittsfield, license type: cultivation;

- Green Biz LLC, Pittsfield, license type: retail;

- Berkshire Welco LLC, Sheffield, license type: cultivation. (The company also has submitted applications for retail and product-manufacturing licenses in Sheffield.);

- Silver Therapeutics Inc., Williamstown, license type: retail. (Silver Therapeutics also has a provisional cultivation license for a spot in Orange.)

In addition, the state has seen the opening of two more marijuana shops since the original two: Insa in Easthampton and Alternative Therapies Group in Salem.

CEOs at Temescal and Theory Wellness said they are working with local police departments to keep traffic moving in the face of an anticipated deluge of customers.

Companies that have submitted applications to the state to establish Berkshire County weed businesses, but have not yet been awarded licenses, are:

- Canna Provisions, Lee, retail. (The company has also applied for a retail license in Holyoke.);

- Elevated Gardens, Pittsfield, cultivation;

- Keystone Bluff, Chester, marijuana micro-business;

- Krypies, Pittsfield, retail;

- LC Square, Adams, cultivation;

- Mass Yield Cultivation, Pittsfield, cultivation;

- New England Renewable Resources, Chester, cultivation;

- Slang, Pittsfield, retail;

- Ten-Ten, Sheffield, cultivation, product manufacturing, retail;

- Green Railroad, Great Barrington, retail;

- Evergreen Strategies, North Adams, retail.

Bylaws

Local authorities were busy this year drafting bylaws, getting them approved by town meetings and negotiating "host agreements" with potential cannabis entrepreneurs.

Host agreements are letters of support from town officials that are required in any marijuana license application.

In exchange for their support, most towns are getting 3 percent of a recreational marijuana establishment's sales, a 3 percent local-option marijuana tax on nonmedical sales, and donations of money or time to community organizations that seek to keep young people away from mind-altering substances and cure addiction.

Communities with established host agreements include: Adams, Chester, Great Barrington, Lee, North Adams, Pittsfield, Sheffield and Williamstown.

On the flip side, some communities have extended marijuana moratoriums.

New Marlborough has banned in-town recreational weed businesses through June and Lenox has done the same through May.

Noting that the town of 160 people doesn't have a single commercial operation, Mount Washington voters last May permanently banned pot businesses.

Other communities have made or are finalizing local regulations. West Stockbridge and Lee, for example, have bylaws that do not allow pot shops downtown. Sheffield created a marijuana "overlay" district, a term that designates allowable locations.

And last month, Hinsdale somewhat reluctantly approved a new seven-page marijuana bylaw that caps the number of establishments and other restrictions. Planning Board members said that without a bylaw, the town would be a potential "free-for-all" for marijuana entrepreneurs interested in opening a business in a community with no pot regulations.

Early players

People 21 and older from the Berkshires looking to make a weed purchase today have a few options, but only outside the county. Open recreational marijuana establishments are: Alternative Therapies Group (ATG), Salem; Cultivate, Leicester; Insa, Easthampton; and New England Treatment Access (NETA), Northampton.

In an effort to maintain supply, all four locations have purchase caps limiting how much an individual can buy in one trip.

The closest weed shops are in Hampshire County and about an hour's drive from Pittsfield. The line around NETA has shrunk, but waiting for over half an hour to get into the store is common. Insa opened right before Christmas with less fanfare than the first two pot shops in the state, and, in general, has shorter lines than Northampton, as well as a more restrictive purchase cap.

Kristin Palpini can be reached at kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com, @kristinpalpini, 413-629-4621.

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The state Cannabis Control Commission on Thursday granted Berkshire Roots in Pittsfield its so-called final license to open a retail store, grow up to 10,000 square feet of marijuana, produce marijuana-infused products and transport marijuana. It already is selling to consumers with medical marijuana cards. Eagle file photo

“Berkshire Roots in Pittsfield gets 'final license' to open retail pot store”
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service, February 7, 2019

Berkshire Roots in Pittsfield is poised to become the third Berkshire County marijuana dispensary to sell pot on a retail basis.

The state Cannabis Control Commission on Thursday granted the company its so-called final license to open a retail store, grow up to 10,000 square feet of marijuana, produce marijuana-infused products and transport marijuana. It already is selling to consumers with medical marijuana cards.

Berkshire Roots still must pass one more state inspection. It has taken other businesses about three to five weeks to get from the final licensure stage to receiving permission to begin legal sales.

Matt Feeney, one of the owners at Berkshire Roots, said he hoped to open up the shop for recreational sales within the next 30 days.

"Obviously, it's dependent upon the filing of the final inspection," he said.

It has been a long time coming, he said, and "we're almost over that final hurdle."

Beyond that, Feeney said he looks forward to opening up to city shoppers.

"We hope we can appeal to the consumer base and be one of the places people choose to go to," he said.

Last month, Theory Wellness in Great Barrington became the first Berkshire County marijuana retailer, followed days later by Temescal Wellness in Pittsfield.

The commission has greenlighted nine retail marijuana stores across the state, and eight have opened their doors to customers. The first stores opened Nov. 20, and through Jan. 27, customers have spent about $28 million on marijuana products in Massachusetts, the commission said.

Chairman Steven Hoffman said Thursday that he does not expect the commission will alter its plans or the pace at which it considers and approves business licenses. Hoffman previously has said that he expects four to eight new retail stores will open their doors each month.

In the past month, the commission has authorized four retailers to begin operations. Three of them have opened for business, and the fourth awaits local permission to open. No retailer has received permission from the commission to open since Jan. 16.

"I'm comfortable and I've defended this many times. I'm comfortable with the pace that we've gone at to this point, I think we've done it right," Hoffman said. "We are absolutely concerned about how this industry looks over the long term, and we feel like we're doing it at the right pace and in the right manner."

With some stores having been open for almost three months, Hoffman said he also is comfortable with the access that retailers have to banking services. Because marijuana remains wholly illegal at the federal level, many banks have balked at doing business with marijuana firms so as to not risk their federal protections.

Two Massachusetts banks — GFA Federal Credit Union based in Gardner and BayCoast Bank based in Swansea — have begun to work with marijuana businesses. A third bank, which Hoffman said has asked not to be identified publicly, also is serving marijuana businesses.

Eagle staff writer Amanda Drane contributed to this report.

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The Cannabis Control Commission also gave Berkshire Roots a final license to open a recreational marijuana shop in the same Pittsfield location where it currently operates a medical marijuana dispensary.

Berkshire Roots was also given licenses to cultivate marijuana, manufacture products and transport marijuana. The company bills itself as the largest grower of marijuana in the Berkshires. It operates a medical marijuana dispensary at 501 Dalton Ave. in Pittsfield. It also sells marijuana wholesale to other Massachusetts dispensaries.

Berkshire Roots is run by President Albert Wojtkowski and CEO Stephanie Aussubel. Former Democratic state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo, a Pittsfield attorney, is a co-founder of the company.

Source: “First ‘mom and pop’ marijuana store in Mass. approved” Boston Business Journal – This article first appeared on MassLive.com. – By Shira Schoenberg – MassLive.com – February 8, 2019

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“Two East Boston Adult Use Marijuana Proposals Sign Host Agreements with City”
By John Lynds, East Boston Times – Free Press, February 22, 2019
East Boston Massachusetts Newspaper -- News

An adult use marijuana facility proposed for Meridian Street and another proposed for Maverick Square both signed host agreements with the City of Boston last week.

Berkshire Roots and East Boston Bloom, LLC both agreed to make quarterly payments equal to three percent of gross sales revenue to the city within thirty days after the end of each quarter.

Berkshire Roots is the largest grower of cannabis in the Berkshires and was the first medical marijuana dispensary to open in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The group recently received support from the Eagle Hill Civic Association to open an adult use facility inside a retail space at 253 Meridian Street.

Aside from paying the city three percent of its sales per quarter, Berkshire Roots also agreed to install security cameras in and around the business and to participate in public safety and beautification initiatives in and around the business.

According to the agreement with the city there will be no benches or social gathering areas in or around the business and Berkshire Roots agrees to prohibit smoking, vaping or any other form of consumption of marijuana onsite. The company also agrees to share data and reports to the Boston Public Health Commission as well as assist in the dissemination of materials related to public health, public safety and prevention efforts.

Luis Vasco, Steven Vasco, Nick Spagnola, and Julis Soko, owners of East Boston Bloom recently gave an presentation on their plans to open an adult use marijuana facility on the ground floor of a building owned by the Vasco Family in Maverick Square.

The presentation was very similar to the other five or six adult use facilities being proposed in the community. There will be top notch state of the art security, a high level of professionalism, a floor plan that ensures access to the facility is by adults 21 years or older. There will be no advertising, flashy signs or the ability to see the product being sold from the street. In fact, according to Vasco, customers will come in, place an order and the product will be retrieved from a locked vault in the back of the store.

East Boston Bloom’s proposal has gained the attention of many in the community looking for local entrepreneurs to emerge and take advantage of the new emerging business instead of outsiders.

All partners in East Boston Bloom from the Vascos to Spagnola and Soko are longtime Eastie residents with Luis Vasco being a celebrated business owner for the past 15 years. Vasco and his family have run Taco Mex in the square without incident and is a popular destination for thousands of residents.

Like the agreement between the city and Berkshire Roots there will be no benches or social gathering areas in or around the business and East Boston Bloom also agrees to prohibit smoking, vaping or any other form of consumption of marijuana onsite. The company also agrees to share data and reports to the Boston Public Health Commission as well as assist in the dissemination of materials related to public health, public safety and prevention efforts.

East Boston Bloom also agreed to install security cameras in and around the business and to participate in public safety and beautification initiatives in and around Maverick Square.

“These new host community agreements represent the city’s commitment to ensuring the cannabis industry in Boston brings opportunity to all communities, and continues the administration’s focus on creating a more equitable Boston,” city spokeswoman Samantha Ormsby said in a statement.

Both companies will now seek a “Conditional Use” permit from the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals on March 12 [2019].

If the two companies receive ZBA approval they can go on to the next step of obtaining a state marijuana licenses from the Cannabis Control Commission.

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“Berkshire Roots, which plans to grow and sell pot, still awaits final state OK”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, March 31, 2019

Pittsfield — More than six weeks after earning a license to sell recreational cannabis, Berkshire Roots still awaits a final state inspection before it can swing open its Pittsfield doors.

The company would be the third to sell recreational cannabis in the county, and the first Berkshire retailer to grow and manufacture its cannabis products on-site. Theory Wellness in Great Barrington and Temescal Wellness in Pittsfield, which both opened to the general adult public in January, have production facilities outside the Berkshires.

Matt Feeney, an owner at Berkshire Roots, said he is disappointed that the Pittsfield store hasn't been able to commence recreational sales yet.

"Nobody's more frustrated," he said.

Berkshire Roots is busy doing what the Cannabis Control Commission asks of the company, he said, and "I can't imagine it's going to be much longer."

Feeney declined to elaborate on the steps the commission asked his company to take, but said the approval process is complex.

"It's a really, really detailed process, and I don't think it's unique to us," he said.

According to information provided by the commission, all inventory must be properly tagged and uploaded into the required seed-to-sale tracking system, Metrc, before the final inspection. Commission staff will then confirm that conditions of the final license have been met, and that agents of the establishment are registered and properly badged before approving the start of recreational sales.

A spokesperson for the commission did not respond to requests for more details about what the company must accomplish in order to win an appointment for a final inspection.

So far, there are 11 retailers open statewide, four of which are in Western Massachusetts — two in Berkshire County and two in Hampshire County.

Silver Therapeutics in Williamstown received its final license March 7 but also awaits a final nod from the commission. Two other Pittsfield retailers, Slang and Green Biz, received provisional licenses on the same date. A Lee retailer, Canna Provisions, received its provisional license in February.

Companies with provisional licenses must receive final licenses before working with the state to land a final inspection.

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

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Berkshire Roots on Dalton Avenue in Pittsfield will open Saturday for retail sales of adult-use marijuana. Eagle file photo

The sales staff of Berkshire Roots dispensary, Berkshire County's first on-site cannabis-growing and manufacturing facility, has a meeting in the retail lobby in Pittsfield last year. Eagle file photo

A cannabis flower thrives under grow lamps at Berkshire Roots, Berkshire County's first on-site cannabis-growing and manufacturing facility. Eagle file photo

“Berkshire Roots in Pittsfield to begin recreational pot sales Saturday”
By Amanda DraneThe Berkshire Eagle, April 4, 2019

Pittsfield — The city will get its second recreational cannabis store Saturday.

Berkshire Roots first opened to medical cardholders a year ago, and now it readies to swing open its Dalton Avenue doors to the general adult public.

The company will be the third to sell recreational cannabis in the county, and the first Berkshire retailer to grow and manufacture its cannabis products on-site. Theory Wellness in Great Barrington and Temescal Wellness in Pittsfield, which both opened for recreational business in January, have production facilities outside the Berkshires.

Berkshire Roots is scheduled to open for medical and VIP customers at 9 a.m. Saturday, according to Brittany Pufahl, the company's marketing manager. The opening is at 10 a.m. for everyone else. Customers must be 21 or older and must bring valid identification. Pufahl said the company plans to pass out THC-free edible samples to those waiting in line, as well as coffee and doughnuts from Tyler and Pine Bakery. The band Prismal will perform live, Pufahl said, and staff will raffle off discounts on non-cannabis products.

The company will provide ample parking in the area of the store, and staff and security guards will show people where to go.

Police Chief Michael Wynn said that after reviewing the company's plans, he doesn't believe a traffic detail is required.

"Based on our prior experience and their detailed plans, our staff determined that no additional detail would be necessary," he said. "They have been instructed to contact the patrol commander in the event their plans do not prove adequate, and we will assist at that point."

Medical customers at Berkshire Roots can pre-order online, and Pufahl said the company would look to roll out that service for recreational customers after "the dust settles."

The store will be open seven days a week for recreational business, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Customers can pay with cash or via cashless ATM, meaning they can use their debit cards for a third-party fee from their bank.

The product menu isn't yet online, Pufahl said, but those who are interested can keep checking berkshireroots.com for updates.

The company has built a good relationship with its medical customers, she said, and looks forward to branching out into the recreational realm.

"We're excited — a little anxious — to see how everything is going to roll out," she said.

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

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“Pittsfield recreational marijuana store opens Saturday, becomes second in the city”
By Felicia Gans, Boston Globe Staff, April 5, 2019

Berkshire Roots in Pittsfield will begin recreational marijuana sales on Saturday [April 6, 2019], becoming the state’s 15th recreational store and the second in the Western Massachusetts city.

The company announced the opening Friday, one week after receiving a “commence operations” notice from the state that allowed the business to open after three calendar days.

In addition to its Pittsfield store, Berkshire Roots is looking to open a recreational store in East Boston, where it has been caught up in a debate over city zoning regulations. Despite the confusion, Berkshire Roots has received approval from Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeal to move forward.

Pittsfield’s first recreational marijuana store, Temescal Wellness, opened in January.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re visiting Berkshire Roots in Pittsfield:

Where is the store?
Berkshire Roots is located at 501 Dalton Ave. in Pittsfield.

What are the hours?
The store will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Berkshire Roots will also have two hours per week — 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Wednesday and Saturday — for medical patients only. Customers with medical cards also can purchase products during regular operating hours.

Parking
Parking will be available for adult-use customers at the parking lot outside of Berkshire Roots, half of which will be reserved for medical patients.

Adult-use customers also can park on streets surrounding the shop, where recreational parking spots will be clearly marked, a Berkshire Roots representative said.

Payment
Customers can pay in cash or use the company’s cashless ATM system that will accept debit cards.

Purchasing limits
Berkshire Roots will have some purchasing limits beyond the state limit. Some of those limits are based on weight and others on the number of products in given categories.

More details will be available at the store.

Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.

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“Unclear rules for East Boston pot shops”
The Boston Globe, Editorial, April 11, 2019

Legal marijuana in Massachusetts was supposed to be an engine for social equity, providing business opportunities for marginalized groups. But at least in Boston, the city is improvising the rules governing local approval of pot shops as it goes along, creating an opaque system that creates another obstacle for applicants.

For the latest example, look no further than the standoff involving two East Boston marijuana shop applicants, an incident that underscores the need for reforms of the city’s marijuana application process to make it more transparent for applicants. Two companies, Berkshire Roots and East Boston Bloom, want to operate a marijuana retail establishment in Eastie. But the proposed stores are located less than a half-mile apart, which under the city’s zoning rules is a no-no. Still, City Hall, which is in charge of deciding which applicants advance to further review at the state level, signed host-community agreements with both applicants anyway.

Two weeks ago the Zoning Board of Appeals met to consider both projects. Berkshire Roots had the good fortune to appear first on the agenda, and it got the go-ahead. Then, because of the buffer zone violation, East Boston Bloom went home empty handed. It wasn’t lost on the community that the Berkshire Roots team included a former state senator, Andrea Nuciforo, while the East Boston Bloom included Latinos in its leadership.

This week the zoning board deferred action on the East Boston Bloom application until July. But the questions remain: Why did the city sign agreements with both applicants if they were too close to one another, and how did it decide to tip the scales to Berkshire Roots? If the city just made a mistake by failing properly to calculate the distance, why is only one of the applicants paying a price for that mistake?

No one knows exactly what guidelines Boston’s one-person department in charge of marijuana uses to assess proposals, nor who ultimately made the decisions on the 11 host-community agreements the city has signed so far. That’s why City Councilor Kim Janey has proposed

a local cannabis board to oversee the application process. The board would use a straightforward set of criteria, prioritizing equity and local control, to evaluate prospective pot shops in Boston.

The idea is gaining steam, because the East Boston decisions aren’t the only baffling actions by the city. A few weeks ago, the Globe reported that new rules seem to be popping up randomly in Boston. For instance, the city is apparently holding back certain marijuana applicants unless other marijuana firms have also applied to open in the same area, a rule that applicants say was never communicated to them before they started paying rent on storefronts. “If you talk to any of these entrepreneurs, they have all made serious complaints about the lack of response from this office,” Janey said.

There appears to be no easy way forward in East Boston that won’t muddle the city’s rules even more. City officials say neither store is in violation of the zoning rule, because their interpretation has always been that cannabis businesses must be opened a half-mile or further from existing cannabis establishments. Since no stores exist in the literal sense, there can be no violations. But if both East Boston stores are allowed to move forward, it would surely set a precedent in the licensing process that other stores would demand to take advantage of. On the other hand, if East Boston Bloom doesn’t receive its zoning variance, it’ll deepen questions about the process that favored Berkshire Roots.

The city’s confusing, seemingly arbitrary process hasn’t instilled much confidence that it takes seriously the equity goals of marijuana legalization. Boston gets only one chance to build a marijuana industry that honors the intent of voters who approved the 2016 legalization referendum, and if it takes a more transparent process to get one, that’s what the city should create.

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April 11, 2019

Re: Nuciforo “rules”

The Boston Globe Editorial Idiots noted that Andrea Nuciforo, who is a former state Senator, received a “go-ahead” for his marijuana business in East Boston over another marijuana company that included Latinos in its leadership. It looks like a back-room deal at Boston City Hall that favored Nuciforo over non-connected applicants.

Nuciforo was also the first to receive a “go-ahead” for his marijuana business in Pittsfield. Like Boston City Hall, Nuciforo received a back-room deal at Pittsfield City Hall. Nuciforo’s “Berkshire Roots” marijuana business is set up to sell marijuana in East Boston and Pittsfield, whose greater market includes New York State, Connecticut, and Vermont.

In the past, I wrote about Nuciforo’s corrupt politics and business dealings. In 2006, Nuciforo was able to strong-arm 2 women candidates for a state government “election” for Pittsfield Registrar of Deeds, which is really a “no show” plum for politically-connected hacks. Nuciforo used his sinecure to go to NYU to get an MBA, and also plot a failed run for U.S. Congress in 2012.

When Nuciforo was a Pittsfield State Senator, he was also a corporate Attorney in Boston who represented big banks and insurance companies. Nuciforo chaired financial committees while at the same time representing them as legal counsel. In 2007, he lobbied then Governor Deval Patrick to nominate him to be Commissioner of Insurance after he was sworn in as Pittsfield Registrar of Deeds.

My personal negative experiences with Nuciforo included Nuciforo conspiratorially having people associated with his political network bully me without Nuciforo leaving behind his own fingerprints/DNA since the Spring of 1996 when I was 20 years old. Nuciforo also filed multiple “ethics” complaints against my father from the Fall of 1997 – Spring of 1998 to try to get my dad fired from my father’s then state government job and force my dad’s resignation from his elected post on the Berkshire County Commission. During the Spring of 1998, Nuciforo made false allegations against me to the Pittsfield Police Department to have me arrested and sent to his close ally then-Sheriff Carmen Massimiano’s county jail.

Nuciforo is Pittsfield’s inbred political Prince! Nuciforo’s late-father was a Pittsfield State Senator and then a Probate Court Judge. Nuciforo’s late-aunt was Pittsfield’s first woman Mayor and a career Professor at Berkshire Community College. Nuciforo uncle was a Pittsfield state Representative. Nuciforo is one of Pittsfield’s Good Old Boys, which means he is from one of Pittsfield’s interrelated politically-connected families. Pittsfield politics has long been run by the Good Old Boys, which is ran like a Mafia.

Nuciforo is like a spoiled brat who unethically uses his political connections in Pittsfield and Boston to his advantage. If anyone else pulled the same or similar acts of corruption as Nuciforo, they would be in jail and denounced in the news media. Somehow, Nuciforo always gets away with strong-arming his way through politics and business, whether it be his new marijuana business that sidelined a minority group applicant in East Boston, his questionable political and legal connections with big banks and insurance companies, his ability to intimidate 2 women candidates out of a state government “election”, his ability to conspiratorially bully and hurt people like me who he doesn’t like, and his misuse of his Good Old Boys status in Pittsfield politics.

Nuciforo “rules” mean that he can do whatever he wants, while everyone else gets the shaft!

- Jonathan Melle

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SPOTLIGHT
“For sale in the pot industry: political influence”
By Andrew Ryan, Beth Healy, Dan Adams, Nicole Dungca, Todd Wallack and editor Patricia Wen of The Boston Globe Spotlight Team. Ryan wrote this story. May 1, 2019
Last in a series



Lobbyist Frank Perullo had good reason to believe his client’s proposal to open a medical marijuana store would receive a warm reception from the Cambridge City Council. After all, Perullo counted six of the nine councilors as his political clients, including Leland Cheung, whom Perullo served as campaign treasurer.

Cheung was ready to do his part. He planned to offer a resolution supporting the marijuana shop.

But Perullo wasn’t going to leave anything to chance at the August 2016 council meeting. So his staff sent Cheung an e-mail labeled “talking points,” describing Commonwealth Alternative Care’s exotic marijuana products.

“LC, please see attached for this evening,” a staffer wrote, addressing Cheung by his initials. “Let me know if you have questions.”

Nothing happens quickly in Massachusetts politics, or in the business of pot, for that matter. But Perullo’s diligence — and carefully cultivated relationships — paid off. Today Commonwealth Alternative Care’s pot shop is under construction in Inman Square.

Marijuana may be the hot, new retail business in town, but it largely plays by the old political rules. The competition for new licenses all over the state has been a bonanza for some in the influence game, none more so than Frank Perullo.


New England Treatment Access, which has marijuana stores open in Brookline (above) and Northampton, had paid lobbyists $530,000 since 2014, records show. (JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF)

A college dropout who found work at the secretary of state’s office, he now co-owns Boston-based Novus Group, which claims to be “one of the nation’s leading cannabis consulting firms.” He estimates that he has deployed his extensive political connections and expertise to help push 40 to 50 proposed pot shops in Massachusetts. He helped recruit two prominent political clients — former state public safety secretary Andrea Cabral and former Boston city councilor Tito Jackson — to run pot companies, further expanding his reach.

And now Perullo is a pot executive himself, part owner of an enterprise that says it has raised nearly $100 million to build a business in Massachusetts and other states.

But Perullo’s hustle and influence are pushing the boundaries in a new industry where often-overmatched regulators are supposed to prevent a few players from dominating. He stands at the forefront of a cadre of politically connected lawyers, consultants, and lobbyists whose work to promote their well-capitalized clients is having an unintended side effect: undermining the state’s promise to create an egalitarian marijuana industry in which small operators could thrive, a Spotlight Team review found.

The 2017 law that legalized recreational marijuana tried to make room for the little guy by limiting the number of pot shops a company could own or control. The new law also directly encourages pot shop proposals from black and Latino entrepreneurs whose community members were often unfairly targeted for arrest when pot was illegal.

But, so far, winning a license to sell pot in Massachusetts often seems to be determined by whom you know — or if you can afford to pay a lobbyist or consultant who knows people.

At least 12 of the 17 recreational pot stores open as of May 1 hired lobbyists or former politicians. The Boston Globe Spotlight Team obtained, through public records’ requests, thousands of e-mails relating to pot shop proposals in a host of communities. The fingerprints of influence peddlers — consultants, lawyers, lobbyists — are all over them.


Scores of former government officials have flocked to the marijuana industry, including former state senator Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., former Boston police superintendent-in-chief Daniel Linskey; and former Boston city councilor Michael P. Ross. (BOSTON GLOBE FILE)

This should be no surprise; it would be a surprise, in fact, if the influence business had taken a pass on the lucrative potential of pot. But the flood of former government officials coming into the pot business — including former governor and current presidential candidate William F. Weld, former state House speaker Thomas M. Finneran, former state senator Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., former Boston city councilor Michael P. Ross and even former Boston police superintendent-in-chief Daniel Linskey — is striking.

And the lobbying payments can be eye-popping. For example, New England Treatment Access, which has opened pot stores in Brookline and Northampton, has paid $530,000 since 2014 for a lobbying effort that included work by former state senator Robert A. Bernstein and former representative James E. Vallee. Pot companies have paid Perullo and Novus Group at least $760,500.

State lobbying records do not track marijuana as an industry, so it’s difficult to calculate the total growth of the pot influence-peddling business. But even among lobbyists, Perullo stands out. The man is everywhere, the engine behind a web of entities and investors deployed in a host of deals.

Perullo and investor Abner Kurtin are proposing three pot stores in Greater Boston and a growing facility in Athol through their company Ascend Massachusetts, where Perullo’s former client Cabral is chief executive. Kurtin also runs a private equity fund with Greg Thomaier, who is backing yet another pot company, Union Twist — where former state representative Marie St. Fleur, another Perullo client, is an executive.

Operators of a third company connected to Perullo and Kurtin want to open yet another shop next to the Athol cultivation site. An employee of Kurtin’s investment fund was listed on the shop’s corporate records and Perullo and Kurtin would be the store’s landlord.

If all are approved, that could give them influence over at least seven pot shops. The state’s three-shop legal limit has clearly not been an impediment so far.


Frank Perullo says he and his consulting firm have worked on 40 to 50 proposed marijuana shops in Massachusetts. (CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF)

Perullo, in an interview with the Globe, said it was premature to raise questions about Ascend and license limits. Pot is a new industry with a relatively small pool of capital, he said, so overlap is to be expected among the early investors. State regulators will scrutinize everything, including relationships between companies, he said.

“It will be reviewed,” Perullo said. “And if it needs to be modified, we’re happy to modify it.”

But, for some local officials, the labyrinthine networks of ownership and investment raise concerns about whether they are getting the full story about who’s in charge.


“There are corporations within corporations within corporations. If you track them back, they all go back to the same small number of people,” explained Rebecca J. Bialecki, chair of Athol’s Board of Selectmen.

Frank Perullo, she said, “is one of those people.”

Perullo said his firm simply provides expertise that helps guide clients through an often murky licensing process.


“I’ve been very, very fortunate to have clients that appreciate what I do and [they] pay me for what I do,” Perullo said. “And I think this industry is a dream come true for someone like me who likes to get in with their hands and do the hard work.”

Other players in the pot industry feel likewise. Despite the proliferation of upstart marijuana companies, many of the same faces — the same lawyers, consultants, and lobbyists — show up again and again at hearings for proposed stores. At the Greenfield Zoning Board in February, attorney Phil Silverman from the national pot law firm Vicente Sederberg quipped that he had been “to 50 communities recently doing the same thing.”

Or take Jay A. Youmans, a former Department of Public Health official who describes himself as lead author of the state’s medical marijuana regulations. Youmans jumped into influence peddling so quickly that his last paycheck from the state arrived after he’d already registered as a lobbyist for his new firm, Smith, Costello & Crawford.

Youmans said he abided by the state’s cooling-off period, which required him to wait a year before lobbying his former DPH colleagues, but that still left him plenty of other work he could do. In his first 20 months since leaving state government, Youmans has received $322,000 from pot clients for his lobbying services on Beacon Hill alone, a figure that doesn’t include payments for his work at the local level in Boston, Cambridge, Nantucket, and beyond.

Lobbyists with a background in government like Youmans’s bring expertise that hard-pressed local officials sometimes lean on. When Cambridge City Councilor Craig Kelley had a question about zoning in 2018, the chief executive of Revolutionary Clinics quickly turned to his lobbyist.

“Jay Youmans, copied here and who worked at DPH, is a person that is an expert in these matters,” wrote Keith W. Cooper on Aug. 8, 2018. “Please feel [free] to speak with him.”

In an interview, Youmans said he is not trying to tilt the playing field in favor of the powerful, noting that his firm represents an economic empowerment marijuana applicant pro bono and helped organize a job fair to get more people of color involved in the industry. His firm will not represent clients, he said, who try to circumvent the license cap and other state rules.

“We’re a part of the solution,” Youmans said. “I don’t view us as part of the problem.”

Still, some worry that lobbyists will enable large corporations to define the new industry. In Massachusetts, few municipalities require lobbyists to disclose their work at the local level. That gap, Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu warns, “is a recipe for political connections and big money to take over.


“There are daily calls from lobbyists,” said Wu, who championed new municipal lobbying regulations for Boston. “Some of the smaller operators are also trying to make sure they’re reaching out, but when you can pay someone to get you meetings and face-to-face conversations, it’s a very uneven playing field.”

A pioneering consultant

Perullo, 42, learned the value of hard work in high school, he said, washing dishes at his family’s restaurant, Max’s Restaurant and Pub in Lynn. He took classes at Suffolk University but found his calling after a family friend with political connections made a phone call and got him a job at the secretary of state’s office.

That job at age 20 put Perullo on track to rise to where he is now, more than two decades later. He eventually oversaw Massachusetts’ first centralized voter database — a significant technological milestone because disparate voter records had previously been kept locally at the state’s 351 cities and towns.

Perullo parlayed that technology into a business. He became a pioneering political consultant who used the mining of voter data to redefine campaigns. He sold voter lists, data, and more to some 6,000 political campaigns across 21 states. (Perullo also did polling, including work for The Boston Globe.)

He was an entrepreneur, Perullo told the Globe in 2006, “driven by a desire to get rich.” Marijuana may make his dream come true, with the foundation of his pot business built on his network of political clients, stretching from the Berkshires to Cape Cod.

In Boston, Perullo looked to his former clients, or those of his consulting group — Senator Joseph A. Boncore of Winthrop, Representative Aaron Michlewitz of Boston, and Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim — to write letters supporting Ascend’s flagship store near North Station. (The lawmakers told the Globe they supported Ascend because of its store location, not Perullo.)

“It’s just persistence,” Perullo said. “It’s knowing when to call and who to call and having that subject matter expertise to know the process and how to get it done.”

He also made himself valuable to local officials.

“I like Frank,” said Athol Town Manager Shaun A. Suhoski. “When he tells me something’s going to be done, it gets done.”

Perullo’s income from marijuana is difficult to tally. The Novus Group does not disclose how much it charges and the $760,500 the firm has been paid for lobbying by pot clients since 2015 does not reflect all of the firm’s work. But records from Perullo’s recent divorce offer one indication of his financial resources: He agreed to child support payments starting in January that total $180,000 a year.

Perullo’s income may be hard to quantify, but his impact is clear. His team at Novus has helped the Florida-based investors behind Sea Hunter Therapeutics pursue licenses for nine pot stores through a network of interconnected corporate entities. Though that’s considerably more than the state cap of three per company, Sea Hunter executives say they will not have control over more than the limit.

Perullo helped conceal the sprawling ambitions of his client. When Greenfield Mayor William F. Martin asked about the state cap on licenses, Perullo told him only about the pot stores being pursued by one of Sea Hunter’s affiliates.

“There is a limit of three. We have three,” Perullo wrote back in a July 2018 e-mail obtained by the Globe through a public record request. “Greenfield. Easthampton. Amherst.”

But Perullo didn’t say that his consulting firm was also working closely with another Sea Hunter affiliate, Verdant Medical, to open pot stores in Provincetown, Rowley, and the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston.

Asked recently if he believes Perullo was fully forthcoming, Greenfield’s mayor replied: “Obviously not since they were part of a larger group seeking franchises, if you will, in different parts of the state.”

Perullo said his response to the Greenfield mayor was “very accurate” because Sea Hunter and its individual affiliates were separate clients. But the actions of one of Perullo’s staffers showed the extent of Novus’s involvement in Sea Hunter operations.

For several months, records show, Anne Nagle worked for both Novus and Sea Hunter’s other companies, using different e-mail addresses to keep her roles separate. One day last year, Nagle wrote nearly identical messages to officials in Greenfield and Provincetown, within minutes of each other, one using her Novus address, the other her Verdant Medical e-mail.

“We work very hard to help these companies, which most of the times [are] having a hard time finding the resources that they need to hire full-time folks,” Perullo said in defending Novus’s approach to helping clients. “Our role was to assemble a team of experts to get them through the permitting process and help them get their doors open.”

Now as an executive and part-owner in the startup, Ascend Wellness Holdings, Perullo said he has a chance to help shape a new industry. That includes recruiting marijuana executives such as Andrea Cabral. In an interview, Cabral recalled that Perullo bucked the establishment and worked for her successful 2004 campaign, helping her to become the first woman and first African American elected Suffolk sheriff.


Former state public safety secretary Andrea Cabral, now chief executive of Ascend Massachusetts, saw the marijuana business as a rare opportunity to shape a new industry. (CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF)

“People forget what the atmosphere was back then,” Cabral said. “There was considerable political risk to supporting me.”

Cabral was secretary of public safety when medical marijuana was legalized and served on a state marijuana advisory board. After she left office, Perullo asked Cabral to run Ascend’s business in Massachusetts.

The marijuana business intrigued Cabral, she said, because there are “very few brand new industries in this country and fewer that present a wide open opportunity for women to be in leadership or people of color to be in leadership.”

Cabral then persuaded her longtime friend, former state representative Marie St. Fleur, to join the pot industry, both women said. St. Fleur, a native of Haiti, described Perullo as a “connector” but said he had no role in her Boston-based pot company, Union Twist, beyond Novus’s work as a consultant. St. Fleur said she and her business partners are making decisions and are in control of the company. Corporate records, however, list Union Twist’s president as Greg Thomaier from Kurtin’s investment fund.

Perullo also recruited one of the best known African-American politicians in Boston, former city councilor Tito Jackson, to be chief executive at Verdant Medical.

Perullo expressed pride about his role in recruiting people of color into leadership in an industry that, when it was illegal, led to the disproportionate incarceration of blacks and Latinos.

“People of color in this city have been stepped on and stepped over for far too long,” Perullo said. “And if it’s my opportunity to help bridge the gap for their opportunity, I will never apologize for that.”

Now, Perullo is taking a leave from Novus Group and making a big bet on his own Ascend Wellness, which is pushing to open stores in four states. He has cast his lot with Kurtin, an investment veteran who once worked for the well known Boston hedge fund the Baupost Group.

Kurtin and Thomaier founded a high-end investment club focused on pot that became JM10 Partners, which has taken stakes in four marijuana firms that already have opened stores in Massachusetts. Kurtin said that all of JM10’s investments, including Union Twist, will follow the law — with holdings no greater than 9.9 percent in any company.

But Kurtin wanted to start his own operation, too. Over several breakfasts with Perullo at Newton’s Rox Diner, they decided to launch Ascend Wellness.

“You have guys flying in from Palm Beach and Illinois and California who potentially are getting a lot of the licenses in Mass. And we were like, why?” Kurtin said. “We really wanted to found a company that could do a better job.”

Lobbying in the far corners

The pot lobbying frenzy has reached even the most distant corners of the commonwealth, including 30 miles offshore in Nantucket. There, one of two planned pot licenses has already been awarded to a company that hired Perullo’s Novus to help build community support.

That left one remaining license on the island, and the fight got so intense this winter that one company offered to walk away for a $15 million payoff.

But the fight went forward. One company vying for the Nantucket license was Acreage Holdings, whose board includes Weld and former US House speaker John Boehner. To make local connections, Acreage hired former Nantucket select board member Patricia Roggeveen.

“I was hoping we could sit down and talk about your concerns regarding Acreage Holdings,” Roggeveen e-mailed Selectman Matt Fee in July 2018. “I’ve just started to work with them, and want to understand more about where you’re coming from.”

But Roggeveen wasn’t the only former government official fighting for the license. Another pot company, ACK Natural, hired its own lobbyist — Youmans, the former Department of Public Health official.

“Great to connect today — so appreciated,” Youmans e-mailed Nantucket’s deputy director of planning. “How might 11/28 work for me to meet with you and the team in Nantucket?”

As a vote on the license neared, a select board member sounded exasperated.

“I know all the people involved in both of these groups,” Selectwoman Dawn E. Hill Holdgate said. “I’m being lobbied left and right. I feel like I’m in an incredibly unfair position.”

In the end, the side that hired Youmans won, but that was just one flashpoint in a much larger battle. Acreage may have lost on Nantucket, but the company still had plenty of ambitions, backing pot stores in Leominster, Shrewsbury, West Tisbury, Framingham, and beyond.

Andrew Ryan can be reached at andrew.ryan@globe.com. Any tips and comments can also be sent to the Boston Globe Spotlight Team at spotlight@globe.com or by calling 617-929-7483.

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May 1, 2019

Re: Nuciforo used his political connections for marijuana millions

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., among other former Massachusetts politicians, used his political connections to open his marijuana businesses in Pittsfield and pending dispensary in East Boston. The Boston Globe’s spotlight report explained that hundreds of millions of dollars in investments are at play in the commonwealth’s new multi-billion dollar pot industry. Despite the new rules on paper or in theory, the same old rules of politics are the real rules that demonstrably favor most marijuana dispensary investors.

The Boston Globe states: “[W]inning a license to sell pot in Massachusetts often seems to be determined by whom you know — or if you can afford to pay a lobbyist or consultant who knows people. …At least 12 of the 17 recreational pot stores open as of May 1 [2019] hired lobbyists or former politicians. …Despite the proliferation of upstart marijuana companies, many of the same faces — the same lawyers, consultants, and lobbyists — show up again and again at hearings for proposed stores.”

Moreover, the system is overly bureaucratic. The Boston Globe states: “[T]he labyrinthine networks of ownership and investment raise concerns about whether they are getting the full story about who’s in charge.” Rebecca J. Bialecki, chair of Athol’s Board of Selectmen, explained: “There are corporations within corporations within corporations. If you track them back, they all go back to the same small number of people.”

It is obvious that “political connections and big money” (quote credit: Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu) took over Massachusetts’ marijuana industry!

A few years ago, I wrote that I wondered if Nuciforo and others former politicians like him would use their political connections to open marijuana businesses. After reading the Globe’s spotlight report, I see that my intuition was right.

I have experienced and read about Nuciforo’s method of operation for years. Nuciforo is from a political family. His late-father was a Pittsfield state Senator and then a Probate Court Judge. His late-aunt was Pittsfield’s first woman mayor and a career Professor at Berkshire Community College. His uncle was a Pittsfield state Representative. Nuciforo followed in his late-father’s footsteps by serving one decade in the state Senate, all while hoping to oust Congressman John W. Olver.

I first met Nuciforo 23 years ago during the Spring of 1996 at a Democratic Party candidate forum in Dalton, Massachusetts, where my dad was running for Berkshire County Commissioner. Ever since that fateful day in my life when I was 20 years old, people associated with Nuciforo’s conspiratorial network bullied me for years on end on Nuciforo’s behalf without Nuciforo leaving behind his own fingerprints/DNA. In 1996, Nuciforo won his first election as Pittsfield State Senator, while my dad won his election as Berkshire County Commissioner. Nuciforo went on to lead a campaign to abolish Berkshire County government, while my dad opposed Nuciforo’s plans and proposals. Nuciforo retaliated against my father by filing multiple “ethics” complaints against him from the Fall of 1997 – Spring of 1998. Nuciforo tried to get my dad fired from his state government job at the Pittsfield District Court Probation Office, and force my dad to resign from his post as a Berkshire County Commissioner. Fortunately, Nuciforo’s political/legal retaliations against my dad did not succeed, but Nuciforo was able to pass his legislation to abolish Berkshire County government with a termination date of July 1, 2000. Also, from the Spring of 1998 – Summer of 1998, Nuciforo made false allegations against me to the Pittsfield Police Department to have me arrested because Nuciforo said I made “veiled” threats against him. Fortunately, I was never arrested during that period of time when I was 22 going on 23 years old. Then, in the Summer of 2005, when I turned 30 years old and I had moved to Southern New Hampshire over one year prior, Nuciforo’s network had his people spread vicious and hurtful rumors against me to the Pittsfield area that all “Jonathan Melle did was stalk a Jewish woman from Otis”, and that “Jonathan Melle belongs in a psychiatric institution.” What bothers me the most is that after these past 23 years, no one who hurt me from Nuciforo’s network of bullies ever apologized to me or my family!

I read about Nuciforo strong-arming 2 women candidates out of a state government “election” during the Spring of 2006 to anoint himself to Pittsfield Registrar of Deeds. The names of the 2 women candidates he forced out of the “election” was a Pittsfield Registrar of Deeds staff member named Sharon Henault and former Pittsfield Mayor Sara Hathaway. In the early-winter of January of 2007, The Boston Globe reported that Nuciforo asked then newly-elected Governor Deval Patrick to appoint him to be Commissioner of Insurance, but the position went to another candidate, who was a woman and former Judge named Nonnie Burnes. The Boston Globe explained that from 1999 – 2006, Nuciforo was unethically serving in both the public and private sector in the financial industry. Nuciforo chaired the state Senate’s financial committee, while he also served as a corporate Attorney for the law firm “Berman and Dowell” as legal counsel for Boston area big banks and insurance companies.

While Nuciforo served 6 years as Pittsfield Registrar of Deeds, he plotted his 2012 campaign for U.S. Congress against U.S. Representative John W. Olver. Nuciforo lied to his supporters and fellow Democrats by falsely telling them Olver was retiring due to the redistricting, and that Olver wanted Nuciforo to succeed him. Congressman John Olver publicly refuted Nuciforo on all counts! Olver said he was running for reelection in 2012, but then later he did retire. Olver went on to endorse Springfield Congressman Richard Neal, who defeated Nuciforo by 40 percentage points in early-September of 2012.

Nuciforo went on to co-found Berkshire Roots, which is his marijuana dispensary and cultivation business in Pittsfield. Nuciforo used his political connections to receive Pittsfield’s first permit to open his marijuana business. Nuciforo went on to receive a “go-ahead” permit to open another branch of Berkshire Roots in East Boston over another applicant with Latino and Veterans investors.

In closing, I knew it all along when it comes to Nuciforo’s method of operation and his use of his political connections to make millions of dollars off of the cultivation and sales of marijuana in Massachusetts! For 23 years I have experienced and read about the way Nuciforo operates. He uses his political power to his advantage, while everyone else loses.

- Jonathan Melle

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"Pot legalization seemed so sweet — then the national industry pounced"
The Boston Globe, Letter, May 2, 2019

To all of you who voted to legalize pot, next time be more careful what you vote for (“For sale in pot sector: political influence,” Page A1, May 2). When I finished reading the last in the Globe Spotlight series about the marijuana industry in Massachusetts, it hit me that the national pot industry has won all that it wants.

Surely there were many who voted yes on the referendums who saw legalization as not all that big a deal, and it made sense not to put anyone in prison for smoking it. What they didn’t foresee was a billion-dollar powerhouse waiting to pounce on the state. We now know this industry has busted in and set everything up in its favor.

There are highly paid lobbyists, behind-the-scenes deals, huge vertically integrated pot companies posing as local retail stores, slick promotion campaigns, and state, town, and city politicians being influenced with money. The national industry has brilliantly promoted pot as some type of miracle substance that will cure everything and cause “wellness.” It is rich white men who run the industry, and they pay lip service to minority and female pot shop ownership.

What is going on resembles the California gold rush, with all the corruption and moneymaking. Is this really what those who voted for legalization wanted to happen? Well, if they didn’t, it is too late to turn back now.

Robert Sullivan, West Newbury

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