Monday, June 24, 2019

Sunday Globe Special: Open Pot Shop

Which one do you want to go to?

You can’t own more than 3 pot shops, but these companies test the limits — and brag about it

I was told "Massachusetts, in short, had hoped to get legalization right, but out of the gate, that dream faces an existential threat, because “when the big boys and big money come in, it’s hard to compete. That’s the way it works,’’and Massachusetts is not the only state struggling to limit the dominance of large marijuana companies, in what seems like an open defiance of the spirit of rules designed to level the playing field."

The Globe is following marijuana regulators investigations over whether companies violated license limits and whether they are a bunch of racists, and that it is time to turn over a new leaf and educate people:

"The state granted a recreational marijuana license to a Brookline store Thursday, setting the stage for what town officials expect to be a mob scene when the outlet — the first within spitting distance of Boston — opens in a few weeks. New England Treatment Access already runs a medical marijuana dispensary at the location, a former bank branch at the busy corner of Washington and Boylston streets. But police and neighbors are bracing for an onslaught as NETA opens up to the much bigger retail market. “It’s already a very busy place as it is,” said Gladys Ruiz, owner of a nearby day care, Little Children Schoolhouse, who praised NETA for being a good neighbor since opening for medical sales in 2016. “I’m not worried about the opening day and week, even — I’m worried about what comes after.”

At least NETA had experience with crowd control.

Brookline recreational marijuana shop to open next Saturday

"Brookline recreational marijuana shop opening not the ‘apocalypse’ predicted" by Felicia Gans Globe Staff, March 23, 2019

BROOKLINE — Greater Boston’s first recreational marijuana shop opened in Brookline Village Saturday with all the expected fanfare but none of the traffic disasters town officials had feared.

Officials spent months preparing for hundreds — and even thousands — of customers to line up at New England Treatment Access, bringing the potential for clogged sidewalks, packed intersections, and few open parking spots.

Whether those issues will arise during the workweek has yet to be seen, but on Saturday morning, everything was orderly, even as hundreds raced to the store on its opening day.

“The predictions of an apocalypse are not coming true,” said Brookline Selectman Neil Wishinsky, who made the first purchase of marijuana products at NETA on Saturday.

NETA employees were handing out food and drinks to those in line, including coffee and mini-muffins.

Though most customers arrived close to the store’s opening, some came long before sunrise, eager to be among the first inside.

James Jenner drove from Salem and arrived around 5 a.m., waiting in his car as long as he could. About 6:15 a.m., he saw a man walking down the street carrying a folding chair. If Jenner wanted to be first, it was time to bundle up, and bundle up he did, first in his coat and Patriots winter hat, then with a gray NETA blanket given out to the first few customers in line.

“I didn’t think I was going to be No. 1,” said Jenner, 38, who has visited three other recreational shops across the state. “I’ve never been No. 1 in anything except my fiancĂ©e’s heart.”

Greg Berkel, who lives in Dorchester, got to Brookline around 8:30 a.m., easily found parking at a metered spot, and stood in line for about an hour. He said he just really wanted to be in the first wave of customers.

“It was day one. I wanted to be one of those people,” said Berkel, 45.

Throughout the morning, customers in the full-service line said they waited outside for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Instead of waiting in that line, the majority of customers utilized NETA’s Reserve Ahead program on the company’s website, which allows people to peruse the products and place orders ahead of time. A separate, expedited line was available for Reserve Ahead customers, and on Saturday morning, customers rarely waited more than a few minutes in that expedited line.

Medical patients have a designated parking lot across the street and do not have to wait in line with the adult-use customers.

Ahead of its opening, NETA had strongly encouraged people to take public transportation, given the limited parking in the area. Though many customers heeded that advice, the ones who drove also said they had no trouble finding parking spots.

Amanda Rositano, NETA’s director of operational compliance, said Saturday that she enjoyed seeing the customers move through the line quickly and happily, and that the store’s opening day was going exactly as planned.

“I think people are sometimes surprised to find out that these are responsible adults that are coming in to buy something that they have the legal right to now purchase,” she said. “It’s not any different than going to buy something else.”

Customers seemed pleasantly surprised Saturday morning by the speed of the line and the options available inside. And despite the cold, brisk winds, many people waiting Saturday took the opportunity to make new friends.

Evan Smith, 30, spent his time in line chatting with a woman who he joked was his new “best friend.” Smith lives near NETA and walked to the store.

“Having a location like this, especially in Brookline, too, which is really, really unexpected, I think it’s really cool,” he said.

Connor Cirillo, 23, also said he made friends in line Saturday and he enjoyed seeing the diverse group of people that had come to shop at NETA.

“It’s really not one cut of cloth. There are folks of all ages, backgrounds,” said Cirillo, who lives in the West End. “This is a very wide-covering product line that people enjoy, so it’s just interesting to see all the walks of life that are interested. It’s not just stoners. It’s not just that kind of crowd. It’s just functioning members of society that want to participate.”

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I recognized one face in the crowd:

"I can buy pot, legally, a mile from my house. Still, it feels a bit weird" by Margery Eagan Globe Columnist, March 21, 2019

I wanted legalization. I voted for it. Still, it’ll take some getting used to. Somehow, I never expected, a mile from home, that I’d be able to put down $50 for one-eighth ounce of marijuana and walk out with it, right past the detail cop, no different than if I were buying a nice Chianti to go with a Friday night lasagna.

Still, the marijuana stigma remains. Of numerous adults interviewed by the Globe in June about marijuana use, only two were willing to use their real names.

Likewise those I talked to. One mother of three children under age 10 said she and her husband hide their weekend toking because they don’t want the kids telling their classmates or teachers. Who knows how they’d react? Another mother who drinks alcohol with her twenty-something children said smoking weed with them was something else again, but a therapist said she and her husband have smoked for decades and began smoking with her college-age daughter at the daughter’s request. “It’s a fun intimacy,” she said.

Yet nobody was keen on coming out of the marijuana closet at work, and the older and the more traditional the job — teacher, health care — the more leery they were about shopping at the New England Treatment Access store without bags over their heads.

“Attitudes change slowly,” said one baby boomer who was ready to try some sweet, gooey edibles — as long as somebody else buys them. He predicts stores like this one, in the historic hearts of leafy suburbs, will nudge that change along. Meanwhile, he’s making a shopping list for his son-in-law, 27, and looks forward to a lilt in his step this spring.....

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Also seeBrookline recreational marijuana shop says lines are under control as most customers reserve ahead of time

A 14th store — Patriot Care Corp. in Greenfield — has received approval to open, but has not yet announced its opening date.

RelatedRecreational marijuana shop in Greenfield receives OK from state to open

They started selling in April.

Getting excited yet?

"Marijuana treatment could act as ‘sexual enhancement’" by Jonathan Saltzman Globe Staff, March 17, 2019

Generating billions of dollars in sales since they hit the market in 1998, Viagra, Cialis, and other erectile dysfunction drugs have been a boon to many men, but there’s a “paucity of treatment options for women” who struggle to become aroused or to climax, said Dr. Harin Padma-Nathan, the 62-year-old former assistant professor of urology at the University of Southern California and Los Angeles urologist and specialist in sexual disorders who joined Manna Molecular Science in December as chief medical officer.

“The prevalence of sexual dysfunction is high in both genders, and this causes distress in both genders,” he said.

Sound crazy?

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There is research indicating that marijuana users have more frequent sex because they fuck like rabbits.

Another prediction not coming true:

"Windfall, they said. Why Massachusetts marijuana taxes are disappointing so far" by Naomi Martin Globe Staff, March 19, 2019

Government leaders throughout Massachusetts envisioned dollar signs when marijuana legalization passed. Taxes would help fund the subway, police, and schools, but because of the slow rollout of pot stores and their far-flung locations, tax revenues have been disappointing so far. The state projected it would reap $63 million in taxes by June 30, but had received only $5.9 million as of March 1.

Prepare for budget cuts later this year.

The projection assumed “a reasonable number” of stores would be open last July, Revenue Commissioner Christopher Harding said in 2017. Instead, the first shops opened in late November, four months later.

“The numbers are low, but it’s too early in the birthing of this particular industry to be able to actually calculate whether we’re on or off track for our revenues,” Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan said at a budget hearing this month.

At least he and his are doing all right (Baker $ilenced the media, too).

The underwhelming tax revenues have thrown into question the state’s projection of $133 million for fiscal year 2020, which starts July 1.

“You can’t get revenue flowing in if you don’t have stores open,” said Pat Oglesby, former chief tax counsel to the US Senate Finance Committee and now with the Center for New Revenue. “It’s extraordinarily difficult. . . . But at a certain point, it may be that patience is lost, and folks say, ‘We need to move faster — these rules are not working well at the municipal and state level.’ ”

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, which licenses marijuana businesses only after they have been approved by towns or cities, said it was “comfortable” with its pace and priorities. Had it rushed the rollout, the commission said, there could have been “more serious costs” than uncollected tax revenues, such as easy access for children, diversion of products into the illicit market, and criminal groups infiltrating the industry.

“The commission has placed a premium on the build-out of a complete adult-use regulatory structure that supports public health and public safety,” a spokeswoman said, adding “the measured pace” ensured that stores passed inspections, sold lab-tested products, hired vetted workers, and tracked their products.

Whatever!

Industry analysts say that sales here have been inflated by the number of sole-purpose tourists who have flooded the first legalized pot shops on the East Coast.

On Monday evening, dozens of people — many from New Hampshire — waited in an hour-long line at Patriot Care, a new marijuana store that just opened in Lowell.

“It’s about time, for crying out loud,” said Jim Lampropulos, 67, a machinist from Nashua who said he has smoked pot for 51 years. He was excited for his first legal cannabis purchase, and to pay taxes on it — taxes, he noted, that “New Hampshire’s losing out on.”

Massachusetts imposes a 17 percent tax — a 6.25 percent sales tax plus a 10.75 percent excise tax — and local governments 3 percent, for a total of 20 percent. So far, the taxes that have been collected were put into several buckets: nearly $2 million into the state’s general fund that pays for salaries; $350,000 for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority; and nearly $300,000 for the School Modernization Fund.

Another $3.2 million went to the Marijuana Regulation Fund, which pays for the cannabis commission, pesticide regulation, the state’s social equity program, public health, police training, and substance abuse prevention.

Local governments in towns and cities where pot stores are located have collected $885,000 in taxes. They also will receive an annual fee of up to 3 percent of their stores’ revenues as part of their agreement to host the businesses. In Leicester, where one of the state’s first shops opened to massive traffic snarls, town leaders plan to spend the influx of cash on new police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, and school equipment.

Policy makers may be tempted to raise cannabis taxes to fund better public services, but they must balance those needs with avoiding prices rising so high that consumers keep buying from their dealers. To maximize taxes, the government needs consumers to migrate to the legal market, said Andrew Livingston, director of economics and research at Vicente Sederberg, a cannabis law firm.

Some 75 percent of the pot sold in the state this year will be under the table, according to BDS Analytics, a cannabis market research firm. Several Boston-area marijuana consumers said last month that they would love to buy legal pot, but would wait until the shops could better compete with their dealers on price and convenience.

While bringing consumers out of the shadows is important, cannabis commission chairman Steven Hoffman has said going slow allows the state to work toward its legal mandate of ensuring participation in the industry by small businesses, minorities, women, and people who were disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs.

Pollock, the cannabis store CEO, agreed with the commission’s pace. He said the state doesn’t have enough marijuana to grow the industry too fast, and rushing could lead to a lack of inspections, which could enable bad actors. Pollock said that people upset with the slow process and the locations of stores should direct that frustration to their local officials, who have more power than the state in determining where the first stores open.

“The demand is certainly there, and the tax revenue will come,” Pollock said. “If it’s a couple months slower than anticipated, in the long run, I don’t think that’s a problem. Rushing the process would be a bigger problem.”

Pollock acknowledged, though, that Massachusetts’ sales would suffer if other states open their own stores. Maine and Vermont have legalized pot. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are considering legalization measures now.

“We’re getting a lot of media coming in from New York — that’s adding to the conversation,” Pollock said. “They’re seeing the tax dollars go into Massachusetts instead of New York.”

At least we are ahead of the curve on this one.

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"Bill aims to crack down on black market marijuana" by Naomi Martin Globe Staff, April 9, 2019

Two state lawmakers from Worcester want to create a task force of law enforcement, public health leaders, and regulators to crack down on unlicensed marijuana sellers.

Senator Michael Moore, a Democrat, and state Representative Hannah Kane, a Republican, will hold a news conference Wednesday at the State House about their joint bill, filed Monday, which aims to maximize tax revenues and reduce youth pot access. The underground cannabis economy “threatens the progress the Commonwealth has made in implementing the law that was approved by voters,” according to a news release.

OMFG!

What they did was far from what voters approved.

The task force would join officials from the Cannabis Control Commission, Massachusetts State Police, local law enforcement, the Department of Revenue, and the Department of Public Health. The group would receive investigative tips, share information on criminal investigations, refer leads to police and prosecutors, and focus resources on areas where illicit activity is “most prevalent.” The group would not be subject to open meetings.

Going to figure more police $tate out in a $moke-filled room.

The bill also proposes allowing the commissioner of revenue to impose civil fines on unlicensed businesses based on the estimated amount of unpaid taxes. The fines would be dedicated to police training, substance abuse prevention and intervention, and the commission’s social equity fund. The social equity fund will pay for mentorship, training, and assistance to help bring people from communities that were disproportionately affected by criminalization into the legal marketplace.

It's another money grab!

An estimated 75 percent of marijuana sales in Massachusetts will occur under the table this year, according to cannabis research firm BDS Analytics. Marijuana tax collections have been underwhelming so far.

Industry analysts blame the state’s slow rollout of legal stores in relatively far-flung locations, compared with other places that allowed stores to open near population hubs faster. Most cannabis consumers simply don’t have a legal place to buy that is as convenient or as cheap as the illicit sellers they’re used to, advocates say.

That is why most sales are still on the black market, as well as the comfortable familiarity with routine.

Cannabis Commissioner Britte McBride said Tuesday, “The task force is a common-sense idea. That type of [illegal] activity not only undermines people who are licensed, it undermines people who are in the pipeline doing their damnedest to get their stuff in order and trying to do this legally.”

The Commonwealth Dispensary Association, which represents medical marijuana retailers that spend heavily to comply with regulations, has advocated for a crackdown on unlicensed sellers, which undercut their businesses, but other groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council, argue that more cannabis criminalization would perpetuate racial disparities in policing.

Kamani Jefferson, president of the MRCC, said policy leaders who are serious about reducing the illicit market should focus on bringing unlicensed sellers who want to go legal into the regulated marketplace through outreach, education, training, and other programs. Before arresting more people, the state should give them a chance to join the industry, which is now too costly for many to do, he said.

“Most people want to build a career versus hide away from the police,” Jefferson said. “There needs to be a way to transition them into the legal market.”

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We were told they were going to be taking a hands off approach, but nope!

At least the tax revenue is rising like a wi$p of $moke:

"4/20 bump helped push Mass. recreational pot sales above $100 million" by Dan Adams Globe Staff, May 1, 2019

Total spending on recreational marijuana in Massachusetts since the debut of sales in November has topped $100 million, amid a consumer spending spree in the run-up to the traditional “4/20” stoner holiday.

That’s according to numbers from an “open data” platform launched last week by the Cannabis Control Commission, a large database showing everything from the hottest-selling marijuana products to the demographics of license-holders.

The platform shows that in the days before Saturday, April 20, Massachusetts residents seriously stocked up on cannabis.

Celebrants of 4/20 had apparently had enough, or just had plenty of leftovers, by Sunday, April 21, when sales dropped 36 percent, compared to the previous Sunday.

Total consumer spending on recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, where regulated sales debuted in late November, topped $100 million for the first time on April 26, and currently sits at $104 million.

Of course, analysts estimate that the vast majority of marijuana purchases — roughly 75 percent — are still taking place in the illicit market, thanks to the relative scarcity of regulated marijuana stores and the higher prices they charge.

Are the taxes included?

Another interesting takeaway from the numbers: Plain old flower (the cured buds of the cannabis plant, commonly combusted in a pipe) remains the most popular product among marijuana consumers.....

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Time to make a deposit:

"Easing banking rules could have a big effect on marijuana sellers — and make pot cheaper" by Dan Adams Globe Staff, April 29, 2019

New political momentum is gathering behind federal legislation aimed at freeing up banks and similar institutions to work with the marijuana industry, a change that would be likely to transform how business is conducted in the Massachusetts cannabis sector — and make pot cheaper for consumers.

Why?

Under a bill filed in the US Senate in mid-April by Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado, banks, credit unions, and insurance companies could not be sanctioned by financial regulators for providing services to state-licensed marijuana operators.

The measure, dubbed the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, already boasts 20 senators as sponsors. An identical proposal has attracted broad support in the US House, where a key committee two weeks ago voted overwhelmingly — and on a bipartisan basis — to approve the idea. Even Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said lawmakers should move on the bill, which is cosponsored by US Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and has the backing of banking industry groups.

Those guys $ee money!

The federal prohibition on the drug keeps most banks on the sidelines of the fast-growing marijuana industry, but Brandon Pollock, chief executive of the Massachusetts marijuana company, Theory Wellness, said the explicit protections of the SAFE Banking Act would probably encourage many more financial institutions to get into the cannabis game, improving the cost, convenience, and choice of services available to companies like his.

“There could be a lot of ripple effects that would have huge benefits to us,” Pollock said.

One obvious benefit would be increased competition. Five years after the debut of recreational sales in Colorado, cannabis sellers there have just a handful of institutions to choose from — and several of those banks have long waiting lists. In Massachusetts, only BayCoast Bank in Swansea and GFA Federal Credit Union in Gardner openly serve the state’s recreational pot companies.

Financial institutions that do work with marijuana operations are typically smaller, have few branches, and offer only basic services — at a premium price. GFA, for example, charges each of its 14 cannabis clients about $5,500 a month for a checking account, plus fees on most transactions, while non-cannabis businesses pay under $100.

Isn't that price gouging illegal?

“It’s not a very competitive marketplace,” said David O’Brien, executive director of the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association. “Every other type of business is able to bank within its region, and more often than not, within the same town. Cannabis should be treated like any other business.”

GFA chief executive Tina Sbrega explained that working with marijuana money while complying with onerous federal regulations is simply expensive: GFA must thoroughly vet every potential marijuana client to ensure the company is following state law and isn’t secretly controlled by another party, a process that can take four to six weeks. The credit union is also required to regularly file “suspicious activity reports” with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, about all its cannabis clients, and is subject to intensive audits, and GFA staffers manually monitor marijuana accounts and transactions to reconcile them with marijuana sales data from each store.

If only they sifted through other financial schemes that way, huh?

Then there’s the cash: While most cannabis stores accept debit cards, Pollock said about 60 percent of pot consumers still prefer the anonymity of paper money, which is expensive to transport and triggers a whole separate set of counting and security requirements.

“When I say we have our eyes on the money, I mean it literally,” Sbrega said. “Every single day, we’re validating every single deposit and outflow that comes into or out of the account to make sure it’s not suspicious.”

O’Brien, Pollock, and others are hopeful that the SAFE Banking Act would allow marijuana operators to more readily accept debit and credit cards, drastically slashing the amount of cash in the system and in turn reducing costs.

Another great hope of Pollock and others in the industry is that legislation would encourage banks to lend to marijuana firms, which today typically finance their growth by selling off equity or with very-high-interest private loans.

“Getting access to more conventional financing would let us grow much quicker, and that would lower the prices we offer to consumers, too,” Pollock said. “Marijuana prices in Massachusetts are high, in part, because marijuana businesses have such high borrowing costs.”

The advent of institutional lending could also help Massachusetts and other legal-marijuana jurisdictions that are struggling to boost ownership of marijuana licenses by minorities and other disenfranchised groups, whose communities were disproportionately targeted with arrests when the drug was illegal.

“We’re implementing these social-equity programs and throwing licenses at people, but if there’s no access to capital, you’re not really setting them up for success,” said Shanita Penny, president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association.

Penny praised language in the SAFE Banking Act that would mandate data collection around diversity and inclusion in the industry, calling it a necessary safeguard in light of the financial industry’s history of racist practices such as redlining.

She also argued that institutional lending at fair interest rates would help small businesses better weather unexpected downturns — and help minority entrepreneurs avoid potentially predatory loans and management contracts being offered by some larger operators amid the current dearth of capital.

Employees of marijuana firms, too, could benefit from banking-law changes. Some workers have had their accounts shuttered or mortgage applications denied because their paychecks come from a cannabis company.

You need to talk to the vet.

Seven months after taking a job with medical marijuana firm Garden Remedies in April 2016, Mike Climo said his longtime bank, Pentucket Bank in Haverhill, called to say it was closing his account after an audit revealed his employer.

“I was with them for 24 years,” Climo said. “I pleaded my case, saying, ‘Hey this is a new industry, you guys should be getting prepared for it.’ But that conversation was quite short.”

Climo eventually won a reprieve after talking with Pentucket’s president, but the bank eventually closed his account anyway after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era legal protections for marijuana businesses in early 2017.

“It was very disruptive — I had to set up new online banking, auto-pay for my bills, everything,” Climo recalled. “I’d been with this bank forever but they had no loyalty at all. I was like, ‘You guys used my money for 24 years, and this is what I get?’ I never even bounced a check with them.”

Pentucket Bank declined to comment.

They ended the relationship.

Climo said he hopes for banking reforms, as he’s anxious his new bank, which he declined to name, might also show him the door. Under the SAFE Banking Act, he figures, even institutions that don’t work directly with marijuana companies might be less likely to kick a customer who works for one to the curb.

Penny, for one, is optimistic about the chances for reform. Sensing the momentum around the issue, her group moved up by six months its annual policy conference, originally scheduled for the fall, and recently conducted a successful lobbying blitz.

“It addresses something that everybody in the industry needs, from consumers to employees to owners,” she said of the banking legislation. “It’s absolutely now or never.”

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Related: Sunday Globe Special: Sloane Exception

It's now dead with few limits.

"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. May 1, 2019

Nothing happens quickly in Massachusetts politics, or in the business of pot, for that matter, but lobbyist Frank Perullo’s diligence — and carefully cultivated relationships — paid off.

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, a college dropout who found work at the secretary of state’s office, [and] now co-owns Boston-based Novus Group, which claims to be “one of the nation’s leading cannabis consulting firms.”

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.

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.

Looks like his campaign was snuffed out before it even began.

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.

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.

?????? 

All that time rewriting the damn thing and it's murky???

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.

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.

“We’re a part of the solution,” Youmans said.

Still, some worry that lobbyists will enable large corporations to define the new industry.

Since when do they care?!!

“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, and 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.....

So he lied to us?

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Why is the Globe crapping on his personal $ucce$$ $tory.

Related
:

"Frustrated marijuana advocates and entrepreneurs rallied against “Big Cannabis” at the State House Wednesday, saying the state has broken its promise to boost smaller pot companies. Speakers at the protest, most of them small-scale growers and manufacturers, outlined a variety of forces — from restrictions imposed by local officials to proposed regulations that would freeze them out of the delivery market — that they believe are stifling competition and tilting the recreational industry in favor of large, wealthy operators....."

Yeah, “there’s a handful of companies that own all the supply,” and among other demands, the protesters said they  “don’t want out-of-state corporate businesses here running our cannabis industry.” 

Also see
:

China Cashes In on the Cannabis Boom

Feds say illegal pot operation funded with Chinese money

Diplomat sickened in China pledges to donate his brain

That's what happens when you smoke.

"Signs of ritual pot smoking found in ancient Chinese graves" by Christina Larson Associated Press , June 12, 2019

WASHINGTON — Archeologists have unearthed the earliest direct evidence of people smoking marijuana from a 2,500-year-old graveyard in western China.

In a complex of tombs in the Pamir Mountains — a region near the borders of modern China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan — excavators found 10 wooden bowls and several stones containing burnt residue of the cannabis plant. Scientists believe heated stones were used to burn the marijuana, and people then inhaled the smoke as part of a burial ritual.

‘‘It’s the earliest strong evidence of people getting high’’ on marijuana, said Mark Merlin, a botanist at the University of Hawaii. He was not involved in the research, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

Ancient drug use has long intrigued scholars. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote of people in Central Asia smoking cannabis around 440 BC. In the past century, archeologists have found cannabis seeds and plants in tombs across Central Asia’s highlands, including in southern Siberia, and elsewhere in western China’s Xinjiang region, but since cannabis has other uses — seeds are pressed for oil and fibers used for cloth — the presence of seeds alone doesn’t confirm drug use.

Using new techniques for chemical analysis, the study’s scientists examined residue and found evidence of THC, the compound that gives pot its high. Most wild cannabis plants have low THC levels, so researchers believe the people who built the graves selected plants with higher amounts.

‘‘During funeral rites, the smokers may have hoped to communicate with the spirit world — or with the people they were burying,’’ said coauthor Yimin Yang of the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

Excavation of the site, called Jirzankal Cemetery, began in 2013.

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The stuff was so old and dry it had lost its potency.

Quigley's Quest

"White House anti-drug office asks Mass. for medical marijuana data" by Dan Adams Globe Staff  August 25, 2017

An arm of the White House’s antidrug office has asked Massachusetts and several other states where medical marijuana is legal to turn over information about registered patients, triggering a debate over privacy rights and whether state officials should cooperate with a federal administration that appears hostile to the drug.

Dale Quigley, deputy coordinator of the National Marijuana Initiative, or NMI, has asked Massachusetts health officials for data on the age, gender, and medical condition of the state’s approximately 40,000 registered medical marijuana patients. Quigley is a former police officer in Colorado with a long history of speaking out against legalization.

The NMI is part of the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area initiative, a law enforcement effort directed by the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.

In an interview, Quigley insisted that he is not seeking to identify patients and that his work doesn’t signal imminent changes to the current hands-off approach by the federal government to state-regulated medical marijuana operations.

“There are no black helicopters warming up in the bullpen,” Quigley said. “I have no idea where this is going to take us yet.”

Why want it then? 

He knows exactly where it's going: into the database for later use.

So the black helicopters are in fact real, huh, and not a hallucination from smoking weed?

Medical marijuana proponents said the mere notion that the Trump administration is nosing around medical marijuana could scare off patients, sending them to the black market for cannabis instead of registering with state-run systems that ensure medicines are tested for potency and safety.

RelatedIn NECC case, prosecutors seek $13 million from former co-owner

So much for state regulation.

“We must protect patients’ anonymity and comfort in obtaining medical cannabis without feeling like they’re being watched,” said Beth Collins, senior director of government relations and external affairs at Americans for Safe Access, a national medical marijuana advocacy group. “They’ll see this story and say, ‘Oh, the feds are going to know I’m a patient,’ and stay away. It’s an access issue.”

Some of the 29 states with medical marijuana programs already publish the data sought by Quigley on their websites. Massachusetts does not, but the state Department of Public Health, which regulates medical cannabis here, has provided Quigley with data on the genders and ages of its registered patients, saying that information is a public record.

That information does not identify patients by name; however, the department is still evaluating whether it should respond to Quigley’s request for a list of the medical conditions that prompted patients to register with the state. Some patients have rare ailments, and DPH officials are concerned it may be possible to use that data to identify them.

“Protecting patient privacy is a major consideration of our continued review,” a DPH spokesman said in a statement.

Massachusetts law prohibits DPH from disclosing identifying information about registered patients in most cases. To comply, and to guard against the use of sophisticated software that can correlate seemingly anonymous information with real-world identities, officials said they “blurred” some numbers provided to Quigley. For example, if there were only a handful of medical marijuana patients of a given age — say, one or two 90-year-olds — DPH’s spreadsheet doesn’t include the precise number but instead indicates only that were fewer than seven 90-year-olds.

The leaders of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, which sponsored the 2012 ballot measure legalizing medical cannabis in the state, said changes over time to the state’s registration process mean the data sought by Quigley will be incomplete.

“There is potential for incredible studies by real medical researchers,” said Nichole Snow, the group’s executive director, “but we want that data to be credible and accurate and also confidential. I think the patients of Massachusetts would feel this is an intrusion.”

Regulators in several other states where medical marijuana is legal, including Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont, said they were evaluating which data they could legally provide to Quigley. Officials in Maine noted that their registry is voluntary and said the state doesn’t collect demographic data from patients who sign up.

For now, the US Department of Justice is operating under congressional restraints and an Obama-era edict that essentially prohibit federal law enforcement actions against state-regulated medical marijuana operations that don’t contribute to interstate trafficking or public health and safety problems, but Trump’s attorney general, former US senator Jeff Sessions, is a longtime antidrug hard-liner. He has sought to remove constraints on marijuana investigations, and he recently sparred with governors of legal-marijuana states who said he used flawed and outdated data to argue that legalization has caused a spike in emergency room admissions and drug trafficking.

Trump says giving Sessions the AG job was the worst mistake of his term so far.

The agency that Quigley works for reports directly to the White House, not to Sessions, but advocates worry that the data Quigley is collecting could eventually be used — or misconstrued — by US officials to help build a case for a crackdown. And they also questioned his qualifications and motivations, noting that his expertise is in law enforcement, not research or statistics, and that he has given talks around the country decrying marijuana legalization.

“He’s obviously biased,” Collins said, “and if research isn’t done right, it can show whatever he wants it to show. Why isn’t a researcher doing it? That’s a red flag to me right away.”

Moreover, various state medical marijuana programs have existed for different lengths of time, and collect different levels and types of data. That, Collins and others said, would make it difficult for even a sophisticated researcher to reconcile the numbers and produce a valid, “apples-to-apples” comparison.

Quigley himself acknowledged he is skeptical of loosening prohibitions on marijuana.

“I’ve not seen much good come out of legalization,” he said. “When you make something that has no sense of risk or harm attached to it widely available, use rates are going to go up.”

Prohibit booze, too, then!

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Related:

"Lawsuit says Newburyport officials failed to protect teen from harassment by her alleged rapist" by Travis Andersen Globe Staff  August 25, 2017

A former Newburyport High School student is alleging that school officials failed to protect her from being harassed on campus by a student she had accused of rape.

In November 2013, the sophomore told school officials she had been raped at a friend’s house by the friend’s brother and his friend, according to a 24-page civil complaint, filed Friday in US District Court in Boston.

About a week later, she filed a police report, then on Dec. 2 obtained a harassment prevention order against her alleged attackers at the suggestion of a prosecutor, the complaint said, but the friend’s brother repeatedly flouted the court order on school property, according to the complaint, which identified the female student by the pseudonym “Jane Roe.”

He “continued to harass Roe in school by purposely remaining at his locker for longer than usual in order to encounter Roe, and stare at her menacingly,” the complaint states.

During one incident on Dec. 9, he approached the sophomore in the lunch room. When she said, “Are you [expletive] kidding me?” he laughed, according to the complaint. She fled the cafeteria and began vomiting in the nurse’s office.

The violations continued over the ensuing weeks, and when the girl’s parents reported the incidents to school officials, they received unsatisfactory and sometimes hostile responses, the complaint said.

The sophomore “has been seriously and permanently injured, and continues to suffer at present from emotional distress, which impairs her ability to function and affects all aspects of her life,” said the complaint, filed by two of her lawyers, Sara Elizabeth Burns and Carmen L. Durso.

No criminal charges have been filed in connection with the case, Durso said. The complaint did not name the alleged assailants. The lawsuit named the city, Newburyport High principal Michael Parent, associate principal Michael Testa, and superintendent Susan Viccaro as defendants.

In a statement, Viccaro said school officials could not discuss the lawsuit because they had not yet seen it, and that “Newburyport Public Schools is unwavering in its commitment to maintaining a safe and supportive environment for all students.”

“To allege otherwise is wrong and does not accurately reflect the Newburyport school community,” she said.

Mayor Donna D. Holaday said the city “has not received formal notice of a lawsuit and is unable to comment at this time.”

According to the lawsuit, the sophomore’s ordeal began on the night of Nov. 10, 2013, when she went to a friend’s house for a sleepover. The male student then plied her with marijuana before raping her, the complaint alleged. His friend later “began sexually assaulting her as well,” the complaint stated.

You gotta re-criminalize it. Look to what it leads.

When she and her parents reported the rape two days later to Parent, Testa, and a guidance counselor, Testa “threw his hands in the air” and said, “You didn’t have to tell us that, you know,” according to the complaint. The meeting continued, and the administrators said they would establish a space at school where she could go “if she felt fear or stress stemming from her rape,” the complaint stated.

More concerned with the school's image and public relations than the kid.

On Dec. 10, the sophomore went to court to seek an extension of her temporary restraining order, the complaint stated. At the hearing, Testa testified that he felt “sorry” that the male student had to comply with the order during an assembly. He said he had no knowledge that the male student had violated the order and that it was “causing logistical problems” at the school, the complaint said, but Judge Jose Sanchez made his temporary order permanent, court papers show. Sanchez ordered the male student to stay at least 15 feet away from the sophomore, a condition he repeatedly violated in the school cafeteria and hallway, the complaint alleged.

Her lawyer and attorneys for the Newburyport school district negotiated for months to reach “an agreeable safety plan,” but she eventually transferred to a private school located an hour from her home, the complaint stated.

The plaintiff is seeking unspecified financial damages.....

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They got pictures:

"Some pictures of more than 40 victims in R.I. teen sexting case made their way to porn site" by Travis Andersen Globe Staff  August 25, 2017

A Rhode Island teenage boy is facing criminal charges related to a lurid sexting case involving more than 40 local girls, including some whose photos ended up on a Russian pornography website, according to authorities.

The 16-year-old Burrillville boy appeared before a Family Court judge Thursday on charges of possessing and distributing child pornography and was released to home confinement, according to Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin’s office.

The youth was ordered to have no contact with the victims and refrain from using the Internet except for school purposes, Kilmartin’s office said.

Glenn S. Sparr, a lawyer for the teen, did not immediately respond to inquiries for comment. Authorities did not name the boy, as he’s a juvenile. The Providence Journal first reported his arrest.

The teen was charged after a lengthy investigation in which authorities uncovered an account on Dropbox, an online file-sharing program, that contained more than 100 explicit photos and videos of the girls, many of whom were underage, Burrillville Police Colonel Stephen J. Lynch said in a telephone interview.

The boy allegedly managed the account and shared the images with friends. He gave police a “full confession” and acknowledged having “sole control” of the account, Lynch said.

The precise number of victims was unclear Friday. Lynch put the count at 42, while prosecutors said 43 were affected.

Investigators also learned some of the images have turned up on a Russian porn website. Police have no evidence, however, that the defendant provided any material to the site, Lynch said.

“How they got their hands on it, honestly, I don’t know,” he said.

Lynch previously told the Journal, “there’s not a damn thing we can do” about the Russian site.

The youth’s arrest comes after Burrillville police investigated a report of a similar Dropbox account being operated in 2015, Lynch said. That account was disabled before police could determine who controlled it.

Lynch described the juvenile in the current case as “very computer-savvy.”

“It took us quite a while to zero in on who was controlling this particular Dropbox,” he said.

The chief said police plan to speak to students at Burrillville High School in the fall to “address this issue” and explain the risks involved with sexting.

Asked about the possibility of any additional arrests, Lynch said, “If there is substantive evidence that comes our way, we would certainly pursue that.”

Attempts to reach school officials for comment were unsuccessful Friday.

The charges the teen faces are “felonies and subject to sex offender registration,” said Kilmartin’s spokeswoman, Amy Kempe, in an e-mail.

The defendant is due back in court for a pretrial conference Oct. 3.

--more--"

Kid was on drugs, and they also found guns.

"State halts admissions at Danvers drug treatment center" by Evan Allen and David Armstrongand David Armstrong Globe Staff and STAT   August 25, 2017

The state shut down admissions at Recovery Centers of America’s inpatient addiction treatment center in Danvers on Friday, citing “concerns regarding patient care and safety” after the death a week earlier of a patient who was being treated at the facility. 

That so flies in the face of their TV commercials.

The patient, a 61-year-old man who officials have not named, is the second patient of the facility to die this year. Nine people have died in licensed substance use treatment programs this year, according to the state.

The state’s announcement came hours after the Globe and STAT published on their websites a lengthy investigation into evidence of turmoil and shoddy care at RCA’s Danvers and Westminster treatment centers. (The story will appear in the Globe’s print edition on Sunday.)

In addition to the Danvers patient who died last Friday, another patient died after overdosing at the facility in February. That patient had also sought help at Westminster, where staff complained repeatedly to RCA management and the state that he was not receiving proper care, according to state complaints.

The shutdown is effective immediately, according to the state.

Recovery Centers of America describes itself as the “fastest-growing” addiction treatment provider in the country, offering “five-star,” resort-like accommodations. It has already sunk more than $50 million into buying and renovating its two facilities in Massachusetts. 

It's big bu$ine$$.

The Massachusetts facilities have been plagued by concerns of understaffing and inadequate treatment, and staff have complained to the state that they fear they are not able to keep patients safe.

It's “not for lack of attention or lack of effort on the part of the commonwealth.”

Few details have been released about the death of the patient this month.

The state has shut admissions at just one other treatment facility this year: Swift River in Cummington in January. According to a news report in the Greenfield Recorder at the time, that suspension followed a “concerning incident” upon which officials declined to elaborate.

Information about how long that facility had its admissions halted for was not immediately available late Friday. A call left with Swift River was not immediately returned.....

--more--"

Related:

"Behind the luxury: Turmoil and shoddy care inside five-star addiction treatment centers" by Evan Allen and David Armstrong Globe Staff and STAT  August 25, 2017

The advertisements are everywhere.

The marketing blitz and an infusion of private equity money have helped make Recovery Centers of America into the self-described fastest-growing addiction treatment provider in the country. Launched less than three years ago by a high-end real estate developer, it’s part of a rush of entrepreneurs who see opportunity in the treatment business as the opioid crisis sweeps the country, but an investigation by STAT and The Boston Globe has uncovered evidence of shoddy care and turmoil inside the walls of the company’s two Massachusetts treatment centers.

At a company that promotes itself as the new frontier of addiction treatment and charges an average of $24,000 a month, some patients were not getting basic counseling. They were often unsupervised. The staff has complained repeatedly to management and the state that they weren’t able to keep the patients safe, and patients were found to be having sex.

Ironically, that is where a lot of love stories begin.

RCA operates luxury residential and outpatient facilities in five Northeastern states, featuring original artwork, custom furniture, and manicured gardens.....

Time to check out.

--more--"

The doctors are concerned about the use of needles.

Also see:

An easier way to kick opioids?

Just watch the side effects.

This is what they served for lunch:

"Maine's wild blueberry crop is likely to be much smaller this year than in recent summers because the industry is contending with troubles such as disease and a lack of pollination. The New England state is the wild blueberry capital of the U.S., and in recent years crop sizes have soared and prices have plummeted, bringing uncertainty to a key state industry. The crop grew a little less than one percent last year to almost 102 million pounds (46 million kilograms), while prices hit a 10-year low of 27 cents per pound to farmers. But it's apparent as the summer harvest nears its end that that's all changing this year, University of Maine horticulture professor David Yarborough said. He said "mummy berry" disease, a crop-killing ailment caused by a fungal pathogen, and other factors could cut the crop as much as 36 percent this summer. Yarborough said a shortage of pollinators like bees, a lack of rain and some localized frost issues have also held back the blueberry crop. Another factor influencing the crop size is that farming effort appears to be down this year, possibly influenced by the low prices to farmers, he said. The high crops of recent years have taken a toll on the industry due to oversupply....."

Now they are trying to shove them into the schools.

"Officials say 4 men arrested in Boston-Cape Cod drug operation" By Andy Metzger State House News Service   August 29, 2017

Federal authorities said they recovered heaps of fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine along with a firearm during a crackdown on a Boston-Cape Cod drug dealing operation.

Four people arrested this month, including the proprietor of Scottie’s Pizza in Hyannis, were allegedly part of an organization “responsible for distributing kilogram quantities of fentanyl and heroin throughout the Cape Cod area of Massachusetts,” Michael Ferguson, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s special agent in charge in New England, said in a statement.

For those that see conspiracies, call it #PIZZAGATE.

Law enforcement used wiretaps to build a case against Jose Solivan, 40, and James Ramirez, 55, both Boston residents who allegedly supplied heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl to pizza shop proprietor Alex Fraga, 25, and his brother Kevin Fraga, 24, according to the US attorney’s office. Using secret compartments in his vehicle to hide the product, Ramirez allegedly supplied the Yarmouth Port brothers with drugs for further distribution, according to prosecutors.

In searches of the suspects’ home, car, a Hyannis hotel room, and a Winnebago owned by Kevin Fraga, authorities recovered what they suspect were hundreds of grams of a heroin-fentanyl mix, along with cocaine, scales, 3 kilograms of heroin, a firearm, and hundreds of fentanyl pills packaged to look like oxycodone.

“Large-scale narcotics trafficking in Massachusetts is destroying lives and entire communities,” Acting United States Attorney William Weinreb said in a statement. “This was an important investigation that led investigators from Boston to Cape Cod and removed suspected deadly fentanyl-laced pills from the streets. Those pills would have put lives at risk.”

The August bust is related to other ongoing investigations, according to a motion for a protective order filed by the prosecution, which said disclosure of wiretap information “could severely jeopardize these ongoing investigations.”

State and local police and the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Department collaborated with the DEA on the investigation, according to US prosecutors.

Kevin Fraga met Ramirez in Hyannis on Aug. 16, and afterward investigators stopped Fraga for a traffic violation, and later obtained federal search warrants, according to authorities. After obtaining a warrant, investigators allegedly found numerous drugs and a stack of cash wrapped in a rubber band located in a secret compartment behind the front passenger seat of the Jeep he was driving. At an apartment allegedly used by Solivan near Boston’s Egleston Square, investigators found what they believe was heroin hidden in a false bottom of a can of water-displacing spray, heroin in a safe, and a press used to package bricks of narcotics.

The Fraga brothers were arrested Aug. 17 and Ramirez and Solivan — a Dominican national who also goes by Kevin Nunez and other aliases — were arrested Aug. 22. Alex Fraga was charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin/fentanyl and two counts of attempted possession of heroin/fentanyl with intent to distribute. His brother faces similar charges and the Boston men are accused of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine.

--more--"

The even got the kingpin:

"George Jung, drug kingpin immortalized in ‘Blow,’ returns to Weymouth" by Travis Andersen Globe Staff   August 28, 2017

Call it blowback.

George J. Jung, the notorious drug smuggler whose exploits with the feared Medellin cartel were immortalized in books and the Johnny Depp film “Blow,” returned to his native Weymouth last week to film portions of a documentary on his life.

The documentary, currently titled “Boston George,” will chart Jung’s journey from humble beginnings on the South Shore to high-flying drug supplier helping to run an empire that spanned Florida, California, and international locales, a co-producer on the project said Monday.

Jung’s return to Weymouth was first reported by the Patriot Ledger of Quincy. He told the newspaper that he received a surprisingly warm welcome when he arrived home for the first time in decades.

“I didn’t know if I was going to get stoned, literally, or be told politely to leave town,” the 75-year-old Jung told the Ledger. “It was the complete opposite.”

He was not available for further comment Monday, but his life of crime has been well documented in press reports, true crime books, and, of course, the Hollywood film, cementing his cult status as a flamboyant anti-hero willing to speak candidly about his meteoric rise and crashing fall in the freewheeling drug game of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s.

Federal authorities described Jung in the mid-1990s as formerly one of the top figures in the Medellin cartel, a Colombian drug ring that supplied 80 percent of the nation's cocaine at its height in the 1980s.

He met Medellin kingpin Carlos Lehder Rivas in prison in the 1970s and later became part of his operation, but the lucrative partnership ended in 1985 when Jung was busted in a Fort Lauderdale sting for smuggling 660 pounds of cocaine. Three years later, Jung was the prosecution's star witness at Lehder's trial, testifying against his former friend in exchange for a reduced sentence himself.

Trouble found Jung again in 1995, when the feds raided his East Dennis home and seized between 200 and 300 pounds of marijuana. He was ultimately sentenced to 21 years and eight months in that case. 

--more--"

Time to light up:

"A year after lawsuit, marijuana rally on Boston Common set to get permits" by Dan Adams Globe Staff  August 29, 2017

Event organizers point out it would have been awkward for the Walsh administration to withhold a permit from MassCann after approving the controversial “free speech” rally earlier this month that had advertised several speakers with extremist ties and that made national headlines.

Bill Downing, a longtime marijuana activist and one of the rally’s leaders, said he was hopeful this year’s Freedom Rally would take place without interference by city officials.

“All we want them to do is leave us alone,” Downing said. “The less we have to deal with them, the better, and, so far this year, they’ve been pretty much staying out of our way.”

Downing noted that 33 people were arrested during this month’s “free speech” rally and the massive counterprotest, some for assaulting police officers. In contrast, he said, the only arrests at MassCann’s Freedom Rallies have been for marijuana possession and other nonviolent offenses. Possession of modest amounts of the drug is now legal in Massachusetts; public consumption is still banned and can be punished with a fine.

Downing said that even though relations between MassCann and the Walsh administration have improved, last year’s legal fight and the earlier court battles with Menino have left a bitter taste in his mouth.

“It was just devastatingly immoral,” Downing said of the city’s efforts to stop the event. “Boston Common is the very first place in the known universe that freedom of speech and assembly were guaranteed by law. In many Americans’ eyes, Boston Common is sacred ground, and these people in City Hall, they are stewards of that invaluable heritage. And rather than being responsible stewards by maintaining the freedoms this place symbolizes, they did just the opposite by restricting the freedom of assembly for petty politics.”

The smoky, weekend-long bash of the long-running celebration of cannabis culture is scheduled to begin Sept. 15.....

--more--"

That is just crazy, and it looks like beer is endanger of losing its craft status.

"Postal workers charged with taking bribes to deliver drugs" Associated Press  August 30, 2017

ATLANTA — Sixteen postal workers in Atlanta and the surrounding area accepted bribes to deliver packages of cocaine, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

In exchange for bribery payments, the postal workers provided special addresses on their routes where the drugs could be shipped and then intercepted the packages and delivered them to a person they believed was a drug trafficker using the postal system to ship multiple kilograms of cocaine at a time into the area, US Attorney John Horn said, but it was actually a sting operation: The supposed drug trafficker was working with law enforcement and the packages contained fake drugs.

That's entrapment!

So the patsy plots are not just limited to dumb-f**k terrorists, but are part of the drug war, too. 

Just showing you what a great job they are doing busting crimes that otherwise wouldn't be occurring without them!

‘‘‘The defendants in this case allegedly breached that critical trust by accepting work from somebody that they believed to be a drug dealer,” Horn said. “For a simple few extra bucks in their pockets, they were willing to not only bring what they believed to be dangerous drugs into our communities, but they also jeopardized the safety of their co-workers and the residents they served.’’

Some of the postal workers recruited others and got extra money for packages delivered by their recruits, Horn said.

--more--"

Now about letting those drugs in:

"The DEA chief will ‘have to check’ whether DEA lets drugs into communities on purpose. (It does)" by Christopher Ingraham Washington Post  April 12, 2017

Last week, the acting director of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration was asked if his agents ever intentionally allow drug shipments into communities in the interest of making a bigger bust later on.

Chuck Rosenberg’s answer: ‘‘I’ll have to check and get back to you on that.’’

Rosenberg’s demurral isn’t entirely surprising, given the framing. ‘‘Fast and Furious’’ was the name of an ATF operation that allowed illegal gun sales to proceed to track their buyers and sellers. Roughly 1,400 of the guns were lost, two of which turned up at the scene of a Border Patrol agent’s murder in 2010, but it’s notable Rosenberg didn’t deny his agency conducts similarly structured operations and likely wasn’t being entirely forthcoming, as there is considerable evidence that DEA does allow drugs to enter communities in the hopes of bringing down major players in drug dealing and distribution.

Federal law allows informants, like those employed by the DEA, to engage in ‘‘otherwise illegal activity’’ as part of an investigation. Those activities include ‘‘trafficking in what would be considered as large quantities of controlled substances’’ — 450 kilos of cocaine, for instance, or more than 90,000 kilos of marijuana.

‘‘DEA undercover agents or DEA confidential sources of information commonly pose as buyers or sellers of controlled substances,’’ explained DEA spokesman Russell Baer in an e-mail. Those informants are permitted to engage in all manner of illegal activities, even the large-scale trafficking of drugs.

Baer added that ‘‘as a general rule, DEA does not sell drugs. This type of activity is not a normal investigative technique, and is not commonplace.’’ Moreover, any illegal activity undertaken by confidential sources must be approved by supervising agents, Baer said, but we don’t know how often such large-scale trafficking might happen under DEA supervision because the agency doesn’t release this information.

Outside experts say that DEA-approved drug sales are ‘‘routine.’’ ‘‘In my experience dealing with hundreds of drug war prisoners this behavior is embedded in DEA practices,’’ said Tony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance, a reform group.

Papa knows better than others: Down on his luck in the Bronx in the 1980s, he agreed to deliver an envelope containing cocaine on behalf of a friend for $500. The friend was actually an informant cooperating with the DEA to get out of his own drug troubles.

Papa was busted and given a sentence of 15 years to life under New York state’s harsh drug laws. ‘‘Something like this is routine,’’ he said.

The DEA maintains its confidential sources ‘‘provide invaluable contributions and assistance in furtherance of DEA investigations against major domestic and transnational criminal organizations,’’ but the use of confidential sources in drug investigations has come under fire in recent years, particularly after several high-profile deaths of young people who critics say were coerced into becoming informants after arrests for low-level offenses involving marijuana and other drugs.

Aside from direct involvement in drug deals, law enforcement officials may also allow drugs to flow into communities because they’re interested in seizing the cash proceeds from the sale of those drugs. Investigations have revealed that drug task force authorities working the nation’s highways often focus on the routes where cash from drug transactions travels, rather than the routes the drugs themselves flow through....

--more--"

Some informants remain unknown so we will never know if they graduated.

RelatedSince ’07, DEA has seized $3.2b from people never charged with crimes

I sure hope they don't $pend it like the ATF?

"ATF slush fund paid for Las Vegas trip, suite at NASCAR race" by Matt Apuzzo New York Times  April 12, 2017

WASHINGTON — Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives used a secret, off-the-books bank account to rent a $21,000 suite at a NASCAR race, take a trip to Las Vegas, and donate money to the school of one of the agents’ children, according to records and interviews.

Agents also used the account to finance undercover operations, despite laws prohibiting government officials from using private money to supplement their budgets, according to current and former government officials and others familiar with the account.

The revelations highlight the lax oversight at the ATF that allowed agents and informants to spend millions while avoiding the normal accounting process. The Justice Department’s inspector general, who is investigating the secret account, criticized the ATF recently for mismanagement and said the agency did not know how many informants it had or how much they were paid.

The New York Times revealed the existence of the bank account in February, prompting an investigation by the House oversight committee. The Justice Department, which oversees the ATF, has denied any wrongdoing, and the department has refused to say whether the bureau continues to operate such secret accounts, which the government called “management accounts.”

The ATF has also refused to say who authorized the account, which was created by agents based in Bristol, Va., who were investigating tobacco smuggling. One government official said the bureau regarded the account as a hybrid of government funds and private money, a combination that is not authorized under federal law.

The arrangement dates back at least to 2011, court records show. Records show that a pair of ATF informants who ran a tobacco warehouse in Bristol, Jason Carpenter and Christopher Small, opened the account. The informants helped the bureau’s investigations into tobacco smugglers, who move cigarettes across state or national borders to avoid taxes.

Sometimes, the ATF agents used the money for expenses that normally would be paid from the agency’s own budget, such as leasing cars and renting warehouses under fake names to conceal the government’s involvement in undercover investigations. The account also helped pay for a trip to a tobacco convention in Las Vegas in early 2012, according to a former law enforcement official and a former industry official. The officials said the ATF supplemented its travel budget with money from the management account.

Current and former government and industry officials who discussed the case did so on the condition of anonymity because the Justice Department has argued successfully to keep nearly all the records in the case sealed. The Times has been fighting since last summer to make the documents public.

Other expenses, such as renting a 16-person suite at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, had no obvious connection to law enforcement operations. ATF agents, along with some community members, used the suite in 2012 for the Irwin Tools Night Race, a NASCAR event, according to two people who worked closely with the bureau at the time. A receipt obtained by The Times shows the suite cost $21,000.

Agents also donated money from the account, according to documents and interviews, including thousands of dollars to the high school and volleyball team of the daughter of an ATF agent in Bristol.

ATF agents also had their credit card bills paid with money from the account, according to a former law enforcement official and two former industry officials. It is not clear whether the bills involved personal credit cards or government-issued cards, but both possibilities might violate federal laws.

Government spending typically requires a strict audit trail, but the money deposited in the bank account came from an unlikely source. ATF agents told the informants to buy untaxed cigarettes, mark up the cost, and sell them at a profit. The sales made millions of dollars, which poured into the account.

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The money came from where?

"The ATF had a secret slush fund — financed by cigarette smuggling" by Matt Apuzzo New York Times  February 22, 2017

WASHINGTON — Working from an office suite behind a Burger King in southern Virginia, operatives used a web of shadowy cigarette sales to funnel tens of millions of dollars into a secret bank account. They weren’t known smugglers, but rather agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The operation, not authorized under Justice Department rules, gave agents an off-the-books way to finance undercover investigations and pay informants without the usual cumbersome paperwork and close oversight, according to court records and people close to the operation.

The secret account is at the heart of a federal racketeering lawsuit brought by a collective of tobacco farmers who say they were swindled out of $24 million. A pair of ATF informants received at least $1 million each from that sum, records show.

The scheme relied on phony shipments of snack food disguised as tobacco. The agents were experts: Their job was to catch cigarette smugglers, so they knew exactly how it was done.

Government records and interviews with people involved reveal an operation that existed on a murky frontier — between investigating smuggling and being complicit in it. After The New York Times began asking about the operation last summer, the Justice Department disclosed it to the department’s inspector general’s office, which is investigating. The inspector general “expressed serious concerns,” court records show.

It is unclear how broadly the ATF adopted this practice, at what level it was approved, and whether it continues. Nearly all references to the ATF have been blacked out of public court records, and most documents are entirely sealed.

Just one more legacy of the negligent and corrupt Obama presidency.

The investigation and the looming racketeering trial will bring renewed scrutiny to the ATF, which has been buffeted in recent years by the botched gun-tracking operation known as Fast and Furious and its mismanagement of undercover investigations. Members of Congress, particularly Republicans, have heaped criticism on the agency for decades, and the National Rifle Association has lobbied to limit the agency’s authority and funding.

While government auditors have previously cited problems with ATF’s tobacco investigations, this operation went beyond what was identified in that audit, released in 2013. The ATF and the Justice Department declined to comment.

It only came to light because a US border agent was killed by one of the guns after aiding the drug cartel, but that is just conspiracy talk and we all know the DEA would never mislead us and that in their zeal to look after our health bad things sometimes happen.

Documents in the racketeering lawsuit outline the ATF operation. The tobacco cooperative is suing a former employee and a consultant who, according to court documents, both worked as ATF informants. The informants have denied all wrongdoing. Part of their defense, records show, is that they acted on behalf of the government. In response, a judge recently added the U.S. government as a defendant.

Since last summer, The Times has fought to make all the documents public, but the Justice Department has argued successfully in court to keep them secret. Crucial details, however, have been revealed through poor redaction, documents that were filed publicly by mistake and the sheer difficulty of keeping so much a secret for so long.

In spring 2011, U.S. Tobacco Cooperative was looking to expand its distribution network. The co-op is made up of about 700 tobacco farmers — from Virginia to Florida — who pool their crops and share the profits. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, the company is a major exporter to China and produces discount-brand cigarettes including Wildhorse, Traffic and 1839.

“These are really, really good people,” said Stuart D. Thompson, the cooperative’s chief executive. “Every year, they take all their chips. They put them on the table, and they hope they get them all back.”

The company began negotiating to buy a tobacco distributor in Bristol, Virginia, Big South Wholesale. Big South’s owners, Jason Carpenter and Christopher Small, had a network of customers and owned a warehouse. They also had an existing secret relationship with the ATF, records show.

The[y] two men have filed court documents acknowledging “participation in undercover law enforcement activities.” And a judge’s sealed order, which is publicly available online, revealed that the two men worked “on behalf of various government agencies, primarily the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”

The basics of cigarette smuggling are simple. Each state sets its tobacco taxes. Buying cigarettes in low-tax states, like Virginia, and secretly selling them in higher-tax states, like New York, generates large profits. More complicated schemes have shipped cigarettes to Indian reservations, where they are not taxed, then rerouted them for sale on the black market.

ATF agents try to disrupt these networks. Often that means working with informants to buy and sell tobacco on the black market, much the way agents pose as drug dealers to investigate cartels.

Because so much of the case remains sealed, Carpenter and Small are prohibited from answering questions about nearly every aspect of the case. “Everything we did that is being attacked now in litigation, we did in good faith,” they said in a statement.

Exactly who at U.S. Tobacco knew about their ATF ties and what they knew are a matter of dispute. But there were signs that Big South was not a simple tobacco distributor. Its assets included more than two dozen vehicles, including expensive SUVs and a fleet of Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Lexus and Jaguar sports cars.

Early 2011 was a time of intense pressure inside the ATF. The agency was under fire from Congress over the Fast and Furious operation, in which agents allowed gun traffickers to buy weapons and ship them to Mexico, hoping the shipments could lead them to major weapons dealers. Justice Department auditors began scrutinizing how ATF agents managed their tobacco smuggling investigations. With that audit continuing, the ATF issued new rules to tightly monitor undercover investigations. Soon after those rules went into effect, U.S. Tobacco completed its purchase of Big South for $5.5 million, a deal that gave Big South the authority to buy and sell cigarettes on behalf of the cooperative.

Almost immediately, the farmers say, Carpenter and Small began defrauding them.

It worked like this: An export company working with the ATF placed an order for cigarettes to be shipped internationally — thus not subject to U.S. taxes. Big South would instead ship bottled water and potato chips, making it look as if cigarettes had been exported. Carpenter and Small would then buy the tobacco at a slight markup through a private bank account. Lastly, they would sell the tobacco to Big South, again at a markup.

Because they had the authority to buy on behalf of the tobacco cooperative, “Carpenter and Small simply sold products to themselves,” the farmers wrote in court documents. All of these transactions occurred on paper. The cigarettes never left the Virginia warehouse.

“It’s what I saw with my own eyes,” said Brandon Moore, the warehouse manager and one of the people who discussed the transactions in the case. Their accounts fit with descriptions in court records.

Moore said he was aware of the ATF operation but became troubled by it as he learned more. “It shouldn’t be going on, even if it is the ATF,” he said.

That's when the printed version stopped smoking.

In one deal described in the lawsuit, the informants bought tobacco at $15 a carton and sold it to U.S. Tobacco at $17.50. The profit, about $519,000, went into what was known as a “management account.” That account, while controlled by Carpenter and Small, helped pay for ATF investigations.

Moore, the warehouse manager, said agents often told him what to buy on the company’s credit card. For instance, he recalled spending tens of thousands of dollars at Best Buy on iPads, televisions and other gifts to curry favor with potential criminal targets.

Carpenter and Small have also acknowledged in court documents receiving more than $1 million each, though it is not clear from public documents whether that was profit or reimbursement for expenses paid on behalf of the government.

How that arrangement began is unclear. Ryan Kaye, an ATF supervisor, testified that the management account was created “as a result of verbal directives from the ATF program office and other headquarters officials.” Kaye’s full statement is sealed, but excerpts are cited in one publicly available document.

The defendants in the lawsuit contend that U.S. Tobacco got a good deal on the cigarettes, even at the prices they paid. The farmers tell a different story, saying they never would have purchased Big South if they understood that Carpenter and Small had a side arrangement that involved selling them tobacco at inflated values.

Thomas Lesnak, a retired ATF agent who was involved in the operation, dismissed suggestions that anything was done improperly. He said he could not discuss Big South because the Justice Department was still conducting investigations based on information developed during operations based at the warehouse.

The arrangement began to break down in late 2012, when Thompson joined U.S. Tobacco as the chief financial officer. He was curious why his warehouse was placing so many orders for a brand of cigarette that competes against U.S. Tobacco. He could not get a straight answer, the company said in court documents.

In March 2013, Moore picked up the phone, called Thompson and explained what was happening. “I did what I did because of the ethics of it,” Moore said recently. “What was happening there was wrong.”

Once U.S. Tobacco discovered the bookkeeping irregularities, it reported them to the Justice Department, which investigates white-collar crime and government misconduct. Records show that the Justice Department, which includes the ATF, investigated some aspects of the case but no charges were filed.

“We voted unanimously to give everything we had to the government,” said Charlie Batten, a U.S. Tobacco board member whose family has worked the same North Carolina soil for generations. “We thought they would take it and run with it. What happened was, they’ve fought us tooth and nail.”

Because of the sealing order, Thompson, Batten and others are prohibited from discussing what happened to the money — even with their own farmers.

Three years into its lawsuit, U.S. Tobacco still cannot disentangle itself from the government. The cooperative recently told a judge that it was under investigation by the Treasury Department.

All those secret tobacco sales, it turns out, should have been taxed, and the government wants its money.

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Then raise taxes, right?

"After Mass. raised its cigarette tax, smuggling exploded, study finds" by Dan Adams Globe Staff  January 18, 2017

A new study has concluded that nearly 30 percent of all the cigarettes smoked in Massachusetts in 2014 were smuggled into the state, a drastic increase that apparently followed a tax hike on cigarettes.

I can't imagine where they came from.

Researchers at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan think tank, found that cigarettes illegally brought into Massachusetts jumped to 29.3 percent of all those smoked in 2014, up from 12 percent in 2013, the seventh-highest rate among states and largest year-over-year increase of any state. They hypothesized that the spike in black market sales resulted from an increase in the state’s tax on cigarettes from $2.51 per pack to $3.51 per pack in 2013.

State law makes it illegal to transport or sell cigarettes in Massachusetts that do not bear a state tax stamp. Mackinac researchers say “smuggled” cigarettes include those bought in other states with lower tax rates by individual smokers, as well as bulk sales by organized black market rings.

Massachusetts State Police officials have said they focus enforcement on commercial smuggling rings, not individual consumers who may cross the border for a carton for their own use.

A public policy institute, Mackinac Center conducts an annual study of cigarette smuggling and tax avoidance within states that tax tobacco. Its researchers compared each state’s smoking rate to official numbers tracking legal, taxed cigarette sales, along with other data. The study was released this week in conjunction with the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan tax research group in Washington, D.C.

Public health advocates, however, argue that higher taxes on tobacco discourage smoking. Complaining that high taxes only lead to smuggling “is a long-used tactic of the tobacco industry to try to prevent tobacco tax increases, which have proven to be one of the most effective ways to help people quit smoking and prevent kids from starting,” said Marc Hymovitz, a spokesman for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Framingham.

A spokesman for the Tax Foundation acknowledged the group receives donations from the tobacco industry, but said the smuggling study was not directly funded by cigarette companies and rejected suggestions it was intended to advance their interests. He also noted the Mackinac Center had been producing the annual report before the Tax Foundation’s involvement.

In Massachusetts, the proportion of adults who smoked regularly fell from 16.4 percent in 2012 to 14 percent in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . It’s not clear whether the 2013 tax hike contributed to that decline.

New Hampshire, which imposes a per-pack tax of $1.78, is likely the source of many illicit cigarettes consumed in Massachusetts, the Mackinac Center study said. Researchers calculated that for every 100 cigarettes consumed in New Hampshire, an additional 81 were smuggled out, making it the top cigarette-exporting state.

New York — where a pack of cigarettes is taxed at a nation-leading $4.35, plus an extra $1.50 in New York City — remains the highest net importer of smuggled cigarettes, according to Mackinac.

The findings released this week echo earlier studies. A state panel on illegal tobacco said in 2013 that tobacco tax avoidance and smuggling schemes cost Massachusetts between $74 and $295 million of tax revenue annually.

In 2011, the state added a counterfeit-resistant stamp to cigarette packaging that made it easier for law enforcement to identify illegally-purchased cartons. Lawmakers have also banned cash sales from cigarette suppliers to retailers and mandated electronic record-keeping of transactions, while the Department of Revenue has also suggested higher penalties for selling cigarettes without a license.

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Excuse me, I'm going to New Hampshire for a smoke.

So what do we do with the smugglers and government agents that colluded or allowed it?

"Baker proposes manslaughter charge for drug dealers" by Jan Ransom Globe Staff  August 30, 2017

Seeking to crack down on the suppliers behind the state’s lethal opioid crisis, Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday filed a broad legislative package that would create a new manslaughter charge for drug dealers whose product causes a death.

Under Baker’s plan, dealers would face a mandatory minimum of five years for selling any drugs that result in a fatality.

“When illegal drug distribution causes a death, laws that were designed to punish the act are inadequate to recognize the seriousness of the resulting harm,” Baker wrote in a letter to state lawmakers in support of the legislation. “In order to ensure that accountability, this legislation establishes enhanced penalties that directly target those who cause death by illegally selling drugs.”

Nearly 2,000 people were believed to have died from opioid overdoses in Massachusetts in 2016. The drug has caused the deaths of 978 people in the first half of 2017, a 5 percent drop from the same span last year.

The new manslaughter charge is among several proposals aimed at curbing the state’s opioid epidemic, some of which mirror legislation pending before state lawmakers. Baker, state officials, police chiefs, and prosecutors announced the plan Wednesday at a news conference at the Gavin Foundation’s Devine Recovery Center in South Boston.

“As society keeps seeing evolving public safety threats like dangerous drugs fueling the opioid epidemic and gang violence in our communities, it is critical that our laws give law enforcement the appropriate tools and enforcement measures to keep everyone safe,” Baker said.

Baker said his proposal would hold drug dealers to the same legal standard as those who kill someone while driving under the influence. Some Massachusetts prosecutors have filed manslaughter and similar charges in drug dealing cases and won convictions, but Baker said the new proposal would establish a standard.

“These are smart solutions to dangerous crimes the people of the Commonwealth face every day,” said Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes, president of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police Association.

Baker said he expects the bill will be debated when legislators return from summer recess after Labor Day, but some lawmakers and advocates expressed concerns about aspects of the Baker approach.

State Senator William N. Brownsberger, Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, said he has not taken a position on the bill and acknowledged the manslaughter proposal will be “the most difficult to figure out.”

“If you lost someone to a drug overdose, then it makes a lot of sense to try to get some accountability, but there’s a huge downside,” he said. “We have to think very carefully about the unintended consequences.”

Brownsberger said he wants to make sure that legislation doesn’t discourage people from calling 911 to report an overdose for fear they might face criminal prosecution.

State Representative Russell Holmes, a Mattapan Democrat, said he thinks the bill goes too far.

“How do you know it was that person’s drugs that killed the person?” he said. “I’m not agreeing with that.”

Critics worry that people selling small quantities of drugs to feed an addiction might end up in jail.

“Incarceration of people with drug addiction continues to scar them and not help the problem,” said Lew Finfer, a spokesman for Jobs Not Jails, a coalition of labor, community, and religious groups pushing for an overhaul of criminal laws. “We need to make sure we’re doing it right; not adding to mass incarceration.”

Maryanne Frangules, executive director of the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, shared similar concerns.

“Our feeling on mandatory minimums is you need to have the ability to look at mitigating circumstances,” Frangules said. “We don’t want carfentanil and people making this stuff out there, but I’m not sure mandatory minimums is the answer.”

Defense attorneys praised Baker’s efforts to tackle the opioid crisis but worried that mandatory minimum sentences could wind up criminalizing drug addiction.

“The intent is good,” said Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel to the Massachusetts Bar Association. “We hope this is targeted more to actual traffickers, instead of low-level dealers who are addicts themselves.”

Other states that have similar legislation include New Hampshire and Florida. In New York, prosecutors have used similar strategies, and legislators in Maine and Maryland are also considering it.

The Baker bill would also link state drug classifications, except for marijuana, to federal standards to allow law enforcement and prosecutors to respond quickly to the influx of new synthetic drugs like carfentanil.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan, president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, did not address the manslaughter proposal, but lauded Baker’s plan to make murder-for-hire a felony, punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison.

The proposal also seeks to address a loophole in the state’s witness protection laws to cover retaliation against a witness before and after trial. It would also extend protection services to a witness’s family, court staff, and law enforcement.

“This bill contains many common sense changes which provide that those who help to ensure the public safety through their participation in the criminal justice process, as well as their loved ones, are protected from retaliation even when the case is over,” Ryan said in a statement.

Aretha Mauge’s son, Devonte Mauge-Franklin, 16, was stabbed to death on an MBTA bus in 2008. She said there were many people who witnessed her son’s murder, but no one stepped forward. No arrests have been made in his death.

“We need more support for people to come out,” she said. “We have to protect our witnesses, if we don’t our stuff will go unsolved.”

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Related:

"A man in his mid-30s was found dead in an SUV outside his home here Wednesday afternoon, officials said. Just before 1 p.m., firefighters found an unresponsive male locked in a vehicle on Webster Avenue, Deputy Fire Chief John Quatieri said. When they saw what appeared to be white powder on the man, they backed away from the car and called in Boston Fire Department’s hazardous materials team, Quatieri said. “Obviously, our concern is that it’s fentanyl,” he said. “With everything that’s going on, we’re on heightened alert for that.” The hazmat team entered the car and took a sample of the unidentified substance, which was tested at a state facility, Quatieri said. Results indicated the substance was not fentanyl or “any other dangerous substance,” said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk District Attorney’s office. Firefighters had initially assumed the man died of a drug overdose, but State Police spokesman David Procopio said the substance recovered from the victim was not a powder but a “natural biological byproduct of decomposition.” His death is not considered suspicious, authorities said. It was unclear how long the man had been deceased. The car where the man was found is a black Dodge Durango parked in the driveway of a two-story home that has construction wrap on the upper part of its front exterior."

This is the cop who found him:

"Ex-Bain consultant who opposed legalization named top marijuana regulator" by Dan Adams Globe Staff  August 31, 2017

Steven Hoffman, a veteran corporate executive who opposed the legalization of marijuana, was named Thursday as chair of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, a new agency charged with ushering in an era of legal pot commerce.

The appointment, by state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, makes Hoffman, a 63-year-old Lincoln resident who once worked at the powerhouse consulting firm Bain & Co., the state’s top marijuana regulator. He will hire the commission’s executive director and other staff and oversee the drafting of rules governing marijuana cultivators, processors, and medical and recreational dispensaries.

Hoffman has no experience with the cannabis industry, and Goldberg’s office said he voted against Question 4, the ballot initiative approved by voters last year that legalized the sale and possession of marijuana. That makes him the second commissioner at the nascent agency who opposed legalizing the drug, following Governor Charlie Baker’s appointment in August of state Senator Jen Flanagan, who campaigned against Question 4.

Attorney General Maura Healey has one pick for the commission, which she has yet to announce.

Critics immediately panned Hoffman’s selection, saying the commission risks being dominated by opponents of marijuana, which will inevitably result in unreasonable restrictions on cannabis companies and limited availability of the drug to consumers.

That explains the slow rollout and continuing crackdown.

“We are concerned that a second legalization opponent now sits on the commission, and we hope for balance in the remaining appointments,” said Jim Borghesani, who handled communications for the pro-Question 4 campaign.

Hoffman was unavailable for comment Thursday, but Goldberg noted that her options were sharply constrained by the Legislature. Under a package of changes to Question 4 enacted by legislators in July, the treasurer had to appoint a chair with experience in “corporate management, finance or securities,” language copied verbatim from the state’s casino gaming statute.

Take a hit off this roach for more.

Goldberg has made little secret of her disdain for the requirement, arguing it had little connection to the chair’s duties, and, she complained, the demanding position’s $160,000 salary was not high enough to entice many qualified executives.

Hopefully, the taxes on pot and not other taxpayer loot will cover it as well as his health and pension perks.

Asked to respond to critics who said that legalization opponents should not oversee the marijuana industry, Goldberg said, “when the Legislature, in its eminent wisdom, decided to make that the criteria for the CCC chair, they themselves were directing it to a more conservative cohort.”

“That is a very unique population,” Goldberg added. “People who are qualified are typically very successful and do not have a commitment to public service. You need someone who can afford to come into state government, who isn’t at the stage of life where they’re trying to put three kids through college.” 

Oh, BOO-HOO-HOO!

Borghesani acknowledged the difficulty Goldberg faced in finding a qualified candidate, saying, “the unnecessarily restrictive qualification language for the chair posed a hurdle for Treasurer Goldberg, but she seems to have selected a chair with impressive credentials.”

Goldberg said she interviewed 22 people but chose Hoffman because he had experience at both large companies and small startups, giving her confidence that he could build the cannabis agency from scratch.

Goldberg and Hoffman both attended Brookline High School, graduating in the same class in 1971. She said they were not close friends.

The new marijuana law stripped the treasurer’s office of its oversight of the marijuana industry and remade the commission as an independent agency run by five members. The deadline for appointing all the commissioners is Sept. 1.

“My role in terms of cannabis is now over,” Goldberg said.

In a statement, Hoffman said he was honored to have been appointed, and added, “I hope to guide this Commission thoughtfully and responsibly as we implement the legalization of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts. We have a lot to do, I am excited to get to work.”

He was unavailable for further comment.

Hoffman worked Bain & Co. from 1980 to 1992. He called future governor Mitt Romney a colleague and eventually became a partner and the head of its large Boston office. The firm is separate from Bain Capital, the investment business founded in 1984 by Romney and others who left Bain & Co. Romney briefly returned to Bain & Co. as interim chief executive in 1991 and 1992, when the company faced a financial crisis.....

Isn't greed also an addiction?

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Wanna get a hotel room so we can smoke?

"Motel 6 settles lawsuit alleging human trafficking for $250k" Associated Press  August 31, 2017

LOS ANGELES — Motel 6 has agreed to pay $250,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Los Angeles that alleged one of the chain’s locations was a base for human traffickers, drug dealers, and gang members.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said Wednesday that the money will be used to help deter human trafficking.

The city in November sued the managers of a motel in the Sylmar neighborhood and G6 Hospitality Property LLC, which operates the Motel 6 chain, seeking to quell ‘‘unrelenting crime and nuisance activity.’’

Police had made more than 60 arrests at the location since 2013 for prostitution, battery, firearms possession, and drug-related charges, the authorities said.

‘‘We allege this has been used as a base for which known gang members and drug dealers had operated,’’ Feuer said. ‘‘We allege that there was prostitution happening at this site — pimps and prostitutes both — and we allege it was a base for stolen goods, for distributing drugs like meth and cocaine and heroin.’’

Raiza Rehkoff, a spokeswoman for G6 Hospitality, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In one case, staff members ‘‘didn’t hesitate’’ to rent a room to an undercover police officer who had been posing as a pimp and told the workers he intended for another person, who was an undercover officer, to work as a prostitute there, the lawsuit alleged.

In another incident, three undercover officers were approached at the motel’s pool by a suspected gang member who propositioned them to work as prostitutes, offered to act as their pimp, and said he would post ads on Backpage.com in exchange for half of the proceeds, Feuer said.

A loaded handgun was found hidden in a box-spring under a mattress, and police had arrested suspects in several different robberies at the motel, the city attorney said.

As part of the settlement, the motel will require guests to provide valid photo identification, hire security guards, and post signs in the lobby about human trafficking. 

!!!!!!!!

The motel also will give police access to its guest list and visitor logs.

!!!!!!!!!!!

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We better find someplace else to go.