“I doubt that there will be eight, I highly doubt there will be eight.”

Says campaign strategist at 1:13 on this clip from almost exactly 3 years ago.

For background readers can look at this tag.

Where are we today? (Official communication.)

  • Union Twist, 1158 Beacon Street in Newton Centre/Four Corners, has been unanimously approved by the City Council for its Special Permit. Union Twist plans to demolish the current building on the site consisting of a dry cleaner and restaurant and build a new 2,300-square foot, one story retail building with 22 on-site parking spaces. For at least the first six months of operation, there will be an appointment only requirement for customers at the store. As their Special Permit has been approved, they can move forward with their state Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) licensing approval process.
  • Garden Remedies, Newton’s first adult-use retail marijuana store, opened at 697 Washington Street in Newtonville more than two years ago in May 2019. Since opening, Garden Remedies has sold to customers by appointment only. The request from Garden Remedies to amend its current Special Permit to remove the appointment only condition for their retail shop was approved by the City Council Land Use Committee. (The vote was 5-0, with three abstentions.) The full City Council will vote on lifting the appointment only condition at their meeting this Monday, Nov. 15.
  • Redi, Newton’s second adult-use retail marijuana establishment (formerly known as Cypress Tree) opened in July 2021 at 24 Eliot Street at the intersection with Boylston Street/Route 9 in Upper Falls. (It was (formerly known as Cypress Tree.) The Special Permit approved by the City Council requires that Redi’s retail customers must have an appointment to shop or pick-up products for at least the first six months of operation. 
  • Ascend, 1089 Washington Street/58 Cross Street just outside West Newton Square, has a signed provisional HCA and an approved Special Permit. Construction is nearing completion and they are awaiting licensing approval by the CCC to open.
  • MedMen, 232 Boylston Street/ Rte. 9 in Chestnut Hill (at the former Shreve, Crump & Low location), has a signed provisional Host Community Agreement (HCA) and an approved Special Permit. They are both awaiting licensing approval by the CCC to open as well as a building permit from the City of Newton to begin work on the building.
  • Green Lady, 740 Beacon Street in Newton Centre, a woman and minority owned business, has a signed provisional HCA and the City Council Land Use Committee is currently hearing its Special Permit application. If their Special Permit is approved, they can then move forward with their CCC licensing approval process 
  • Verilife, 131 Rumford Avenue in Auburndale, has a signed provisional HCA and the City Council Land Use Committee is currently hearing its Special Permit application. If their Special Permit is approved, they can then move forward with their CCC licensing approval process.
  • Nuestra, 1185 Chestnut Street in Newton Upper Falls, has a signed provisional HCA. Nuestra is a Cannabis Control Commission certified Economic Empowerment Applicant. They have not yet started the City Council Special Permit approval process which they need to do before moving forward in the state licensing approval process.

Marijuana brings good to your community

Subsequence of official communication from Newton:

[…] recently reviewed applications from […] marijuana retailers who have submitted proposals […].

[…] has a diverse management team with experience in the cannabis industry, equity, community relations and public health. […] certified by the Cannabis Control Commission as an Economic Empowerment Applicant, signifying that the applicant demonstrates experience in or business practices that promote economic empowerment in disproportionately impacted communities. Their plan involves […] additional parking on-site.

[…] also signing […] is a family owned and operated business. The company is certified by the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office as both a Minority Business and a Women Business Enterprise. […] will renovate the building and create surface parking. It has indicated it is willing to make transportation infrastructure improvements to the intersection […].

I am also signing […]. […] brings experience in the cannabis industry along with commitments to equity, public health, and community relations. […] will be constructing a new building and parking on what is currently a vacant parcel. 

[…] with a revised plan to […] include more parking.

Et cetera.

Newton MA votes on November 5: Residents vs. developers

Historically, progressive people have been understandably quite skeptical of big business, including developers. (I hesitated before using the word “progressive” because the meaning is obscure, and there are several related words, like “liberal” and so on. But the meaning on this post should be clear.)

Recently, something shocking happened. Self-declared progressive people in Newton have come to believe that the way to solve the world’s problems is to slash regulations, rewrite zoning documents, chop down forests, and give a free hand to developers (not residents in Newton) to build whatever they want, no questions asked.  (Wait, we are putting solar panels on the new roofs!)

As a consequence, there is now a heated  battle in Newton, ward for ward, to try to protect our city against this well-funded and politically well-connected assault.

And we are not even discussing if we should build a mega complex as opposed to creating new green spaces and protected bike lanes, or improving public transportation, or finally having a gym and a swimming pool — all things that would improve our health and the quality of life.  The discussion is just how big the mega complex should be.

This website describes the issues and tells you who to vote for.

This one too (endorsements have strong overlap with above but are not identical).

Sample ballots are here.


Those who sold their town to the marijuana industry now worry about vaping

Below is a statement from the same administration which rigged elections to sell their town to the marijuana industry.  The latter spent more than $300,000 to win the rigged election, see expense report, a figure that does not include money spent on attorneys to lobby the administration.  In less than a month Newton residents will have their chance to hold the administration accountable.
A multi-state outbreak of severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette and marijuana vaping devices has struck.  […] Some contained nicotine and others contained marijuana or related substances.
Newton Health and Human Services strongly urges residents to consider not using any e-cigarette or vaping products at this time.

Statement of concern regarding Marijuana in Massachusetts

You can read it here. If you don’t want to click, some key takeaways are:

  • We disagree with how marijuana policy is being shaped in the Commonwealth.
  • The science is clear; marijuana, specifically the psychoactive chemical THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), has the potential to do significant harm to public health.
  • Diversion of high THC products (≥10%), vapes and edibles, to MA youth is a growing concern.
  • When public health is not prioritized in the regulation of addictive substances, the public and our young people are put at risk.

You can also find in the statement a list of negative effects of THC.  This is all signed by a dozen+ doctors. The various marijuana players with zero medical knowledge will probably dismiss the experts’ opinion with, at best, a shrug. Instead, they are looking into opening marijuana cafes. And the first marijuana retail store will open in Newton this Saturday.

If you want to get even more worked up about marijuana reading my previous post might help.

Finally, on June 5^th there will be a luncheon event at the JFK Library titled: Marijuana: Addiction, Mental Health and Policy – Advances in Research…What have we learned in the past 5 years?

Selling your town to the marijuana industry

I vowed to quit with marijuana, but I just can’t.  It’s addictive.

We can go back to 2016, when voters were hit with legalese that can only be described as a trap.  Basically, under the mask of legalizing the consumption of marijuana, the ballot question was really about opening recreational pot shops around the corner.  No doubt many, many people voted for legalization without knowledge of this and with no desire to have pot shops in their town.  What exultation must have come from the lawyers working for the industry, when their masterstroke made it to the fine print:

A town voting to legalize marijuana may MUST open pot shops.

At the same time, the administration of Newton changed.  Councilors who liked the place the way it is and wanted to protect it lost to others who wanted it more vibrant.  The new councilors and the new mayor sided with the marijuana industry.

The way in which they eventually won is sinister.  The context was that everybody in Newton wants at least some restriction on the number of marijuana stores.  But don’t take my word for this claim: even the pro-pot councilors believe so, and in fact almost unanimously they put a question on the ballot about restricting the number of stores.  At the same time, many people in Newton wanted zero stores.  In another masterstroke of the saga, the councilors were able to put one group against the other.  They added another question about having zero stores, following a massive, grassroots petition which however should have put the question at a different time. Then they forced the people who wanted zero stores to vote against restricting the number of stores. This is genius.  Also, if it isn’t illegal I believe it should be.  And in perfect coup style, media outlets censored several pieces explaining the situation to the voters. The end result was what the administration had always wanted: no restriction on the number of stores. Ignore the alarms of the doctors, the police officers, and the people.  What do they know about what’s best for Newton? The bottom line is that the revenue will do good things for the city! Oh yes, the revenue.  Newton has 1 billion dollars in deficit.  You read well, 1 billion.  For decades we will have a fraction of the city budget wiped out to repay that. I guess they can say we are so desperately in debt that we should rake in every penny we can zone in town.  But I think a more accurate perspective is that even in their wildest dreams, cannabis sales won’t make a dent in that.  And maybe they should spend a couple of minutes thinking about the dozens of other ways we can bring money to the city without bringing the drugs.

Executing their sophisticated plan cost in the neighborhood of $100k, mostly spent on a political strategy group which helped win the election.  To add insult to injury, key members of this marijuana combine, including the political strategists and those who funded them, don’t live in Newton but in towns where recreational pot stores are banned.  The marijuana combine is effectively carving out suburban Boston in areas where it’s good to live and areas where it’s good to sell pot.

As is well known, nobody has any problem with legalizing marijuana consumption.  Moreover, there is absolutely no problem with buying this stuff over the internet, or stocking up at out-of-the-way stores.  Well, absolutely no problem except one.  The money wouldn’t go into the pockets of X, Y, and Z.

shoving marijuana down the throats of Newton’s residents

Congratulations to the marijuana industry and the Newton MA administration for rigging the elections and pouring > $70K into a campaign strategist who lives in a neighboring city where recreational pot shops are banned, thereby snatching a narrow victory and shoving marijuana down the throats of Newton’s residents. When the pot shops open, owned by people who live in the same neighboring city which does not have them, I’ll have a toast to you with a marijuana drink.

Well, I think I am taking a break from politics, at least until I have a stronger financial backing. I have a bigger impact on society with my research.

How to rig an election

After the historic signature collection there was a pitched battle to decide which questions to put on the ballot.  Alas, the battle resulted in somewhat of a defeat for the residents of Newton.  The councilors of Newton saw it fit to put two conflicting questions on the ballot, and to resolve the conflict by stipulating that if both questions pass, the one with the highest number of yes votes will prevail. As explained below, this forces residents to strategize, take a risk, and in a way answer questions against their true preference — a well-known, and bad, situation in election theory.

The two questions are:

  • Question 1:  Shall the City adopt the following general ordinance?
    All recreational marijuana retail establishments shall be prohibited from operating in the City of NewtonCouncilors unanimously approved the inclusion of this question on the ballot.
  • Question 2:  Shall the City adopt the following zoning ordinance?
    The number of recreational marijuana retail establishments shall be not fewer than two (2) nor more than four (4). Councilors approved the inclusion of this question on the ballot by a vote of 11 to 10.

Yes, the motion to put Question 2 on the ballot passed by 1 vote. Each of those 11 councilors can go home feeling satisfied that they bear full responsibility for ignoring the clear preference of their constituents.  It doesn’t matter what the chief of the Newton police says, or what the former head of the Newton-Wellsely hospital says, or what any of the other dozens of high-profile people say, or that you collected thousands of signatures.  Those 11 councilors know what’s best for Newton. (Oh, and by the way, the upper bound is meaningless and can be easily increased. )

Before they convened to deliberate I sent them this message:

  • If you want to put another question on the ballot besides a simple YES/NO question, then you should first collect 7,000 signatures.

I doubt they could have even collected 70 for Question 2.

But the real problem is the rule I mentioned before, that if both questions have a majority of yes votes, the one with the highest number of yes votes will prevail.  To illustrate, consider the following realistic scenario.  Suppose that a resident of Newton loathes recreational marijuana establishments.  When they go to the ballot, they obviously vote yes on Question 1.  What should they do about Question 2?  If Question 1 loses, they are better off if Question 2 wins.  Suppose they also vote yes on 2, and that 99% of Newton residents behaves this way. Then it’s enough that a merry 1% band of business(wo)men vote no on Question 1 and yes on Question 2, and they harness all the votes that people cast to their own advantage.

There do exist fair ways of having both questions on the ballot, but this isn’t one. The current setup forces people who really want to ban recreational marijuana to strategize by voting no on question 2, and risk that if Question 1 loses, they end up with unlimited recreational stores.

Maybe it’s a little hard to understand this in terms of marijuana.  Consider the following scenario:

  1. Question 1: Do you want to ban torture?
  2. Question 2: Do you want to limit the amount of torture that can be inflicted upon you?
  3. Default: Unlimited torture can be inflicted upon you.
  4. If both Questions 1 and 2 have majority Yes, the one with the highest number of yes prevails.

It is not going to be easy, but it seems that in the upcoming campaign we will have to convince people to answer ‘NO’ to question 2.