Doors Now Open:Medical Marijuana Clinic Opens in Sullivan Square, Sees Large Amount of Customers

Doors Now Open:Medical Marijuana Clinic Opens in Sullivan Square, Sees Large Amount of Customers

By Seth Daniel

Revolutionary Clinic Product Consultant Sarah-Jaana Nodell displays two strains of marijuana buds that are dispensed at the clinic’s Somerville/Sullivan Square location. The two types are grown at their Fitchburg farm, and are among several products – from chocolates to tinctures to salves – that the clinic sells to state-registered patients.

Revolutionary Clinic Product Consultant Sarah-Jaana Nodell displays two strains of marijuana buds that are dispensed at the clinic’s Somerville/Sullivan Square location. The two types are grown at their Fitchburg farm, and are among several products – from chocolates to tinctures to salves – that the clinic sells to state-registered patients.

The first medical marijuana dispensary in the Lower Mystic region has opened its doors in Sullivan Square on Broadway, Somerville, and operators of the clinic, Revolutionary Clinics, said last week at an open house they are seeing many new patients and believe people in the area with chronic pain are turning away from the black market to get a medicine that helps them deal with their illnesses.

Last Friday, Revolution – which sees itself as a regional dispensary serving the entire Lower Mystic region – said that it has been open every day since November (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) and the business has been ramping up every week – with an average of 38 new state-approved patients per week.

“The company is growing here and the patients are returning on a regular basis,” said Keith Cooper, CEO of the company, which is based in Colorado. “We are very, very excited about this location and obviously disturbed and concerned about what is being said at the national level. We hope that it will be just posturing and not hurt the patients taking advantage of this incredible plant.”

The open house at the dispensary was a chance for the media and for state legislators, including Somerville Sen. Patricia Jehlen, to see one of the area’s first functioning clinics in progress.

At a small panel discussion afterwards, the topic of the black market for marijuana came up.

Revolutionary Managing Director Meg Sanders said they don’t inquire, but they assume people in the area were getting marijuana somehow before there was a place like Revolutionary that is regulated and legal.

“We don’t ask that, but people who need the medicine were going to get it if they needed it,” she said. “There are a lot of black market operators out there. That’s the last place we would want patients to have to go because its unregulated and you don’t know what’s really in it. All of our products are tested and we know what’s in them.”

The clinic is only for those approved by the state for medical marijuana – though there is a desire to convert to recreational sales if permitted later this year. The system is set up with many security checks, from the parking lot to the entrance to the point of sale and delivery of the product.

After going through the procedures, one can work with a clerk to discuss the products available and options. There is an education area and an area for private consultation.

The clinic dispenses everything from traditional marijuana “flowers” or “buds” to salves, vaping cartridges, tinctures, oils, waxes, cookies, biscuits and chocolates.

The actual “buds” are produced in Massachusetts, and right now Revolutionary has a farm in Fitchburg that is producing two varieties now sold in the clinic.

The many different products, said clerk Sarah-Jaana Nodell, are only a matter of preference. Some people come in with arthritis and only want a salve. Some people have lung problems and cannot smoke buds, so they need a tincture or an edible product.

Others just need very low doses for their ailments, while others need to smoke strong buds to relieve chronic pain.

“The flower is really just the delivery mechanism for the oils,” she said. “The primary element is the concentration of oils and there are other ways to deliver it. If someone comes in with lung disease, the last thing we’ll do is give them something to smoke. I’m not going to give you edibles if you can’t digest things. That’s when a patient might be a better fit for a tincture.

“We have so many people saying they don’t want to get high,” she continued. “You don’t have to. You don’t have to get high. We’re here to help patients find the product that is going to make them feel better in any way we can. Many of our products are non-hallucinogenic so they will not get anyone high.”

However, for others, the hallucinogenic effect is precisely the medicine they need in smoking the flower – and the side effects, such as giggling, can be helpful too.

“We have some strains that make you giggly and happy,” she said. “Some people say they want something that will make them giggle. We can do that. For a lot of people with chronic pain, giggling is an easy thing to do.”

Nodell said she can relate to such pain, as she and many of the product consultants are medical marijuana users who have survived and coped with chronic pain for years.

“I lived with chronic pain and was allergic to most pain medications,” she said. “I was 15 when I discovered medical marijuana and never turned back. Six surgeries later and no morphine for me. Chronic pain is a hard thing. That 1-10 scale gets mixed up and it’s hard when 10 is all the time.”

Bringing the 10 down to a manageable level – whether dealing with cancer, Crohn’s Disease or arthritis – is what Revolutionary said they are all about.

“These products really help and provide relief,” said Sanders. “I have seen so many Crohn’s patients find great relief with these products after so many steroid treatments.”

After one finds the product they need and pays for it, the product is picked up in a secure dispensing area – much like a traditional pharmacy counter. After that, a patient can leave, and they do so with a great deal of security in the parking lot and with a network of cameras to prevent theft or assault.

“We haven’t had an incident since we opened,” said Sanders. “It is as secure or more secure than any bank or jewelry store you might enter…With all the cameras around here, we actually end up helping to solve crimes in our experience. In a store we have in Colorado, the police frequently ask us for footage from our cameras to catch things that happen around us. We are actually solving crimes.”

The clinic is open Monday, Weds., and Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, they are open 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. On Sundays, they are open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

They are located at 67 Broadway in Somerville, just two blocks from Sullivan Square.

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Anti-Bullying Week Kicks Off at Collaborative, CHS

Anti-Bullying Week Kicks Off at Collaborative, CHS

By Seth Daniel

Chelsea Collaborative youth leaders Stephany Villatoro and Ashanti DeCosta look at a picture of Amanda Todd, a teen from another state who ended her life in 2012 due to cyber bullying. The moment was part of a kick-off event at the Collaborative on Tuesday, Jan. 16, for Anti-Bullying Week. A large event at Chelsea High for students, parents and staff will take place Thursday, Jan. 18, at 5 p.m.

Chelsea Collaborative youth leaders Stephany Villatoro and Ashanti DeCosta look at a picture of Amanda Todd, a teen from another state who ended her life in 2012 due to cyber bullying. The moment was part of a kick-off event at the Collaborative on Tuesday, Jan. 16, for Anti-Bullying Week. A large event at Chelsea High for students, parents and staff will take place Thursday, Jan. 18, at 5 p.m.

The Chelsea Collaborative youth leaders and Chelsea High School are combining their efforts this week to bring unprecedented attention to Anti-Bullying Week.

On Tuesday afternoon, youth leaders kicked off the week with a program at the Chelsea Collaborative designed to educate  youth and adults about how dangerous bullying can be in the 21st Century – a danger that can often lead to death.

Stephany Villatoro and Ashanti DeCosta of the Collaborative Youth Team said they see bullying all the time at the high school, and can definitely understand how

someone might commit suicide.

When asked if they could picture someone at their school going so far as to end their life over  bullying, they replied, “Oh yea.”

That is why the youth displayed personal stories of bullying from kids who live in Chelsea and also one national story about Amanda Todd. The teen had posted something online by mistake, and was attacked  with cyber-bullying that didn’t stop.

Soon, it was more than she could take, and she ended her life.

“I think it is such a necessary topic,” said Villatoro. “It’s something that many of us might have actually experienced ourselves in some form, but we don’t want to talk about it. By being youth leaders at the Collaborative, it gives us an opportunity to spread concerns and solutions about this to other youth our age.”

Said DeCosta, “Something that is very common at Chelsea High is cyber bullying. It’s not much with verbal or physical bullying, but the cyber bullying often leads to that. It all starts with the cyber bullying though. Someone will post something about someone else and they’ll go back and forth on social media. Then it just gets out of control.”

Both said one of the goals they have is to be able to teach students caught up in this about how to address the core issues and conflicts they have face to face. They hope to be able to instill a maturity in the community that allows people to resolve conflicts with one another and not turn to bullying online.

It’s a world that parents often find extremely foreign, as most parents didn’t grow up with social media and have a hard time understanding how an electronic message can hurt so deeply.

But it does, say leaders.

“Cyber bullying has taken on a life of its own and doesn’t necessary exist now in the way that it did even five years ago,” said Sasha Parodi, a youth organizer at the Collaborative. “It’s one thing that’s rapidly developing and there are so many ways for it to surface. It’s really more  of a lack of understand or resources to address it for some parents. It’s very hard because every kid has a phone and it’s hard not to get everything that comes with that phone, such as social media.”

Today, Jan. 18, Chelsea High School will have a major event to help bring the topic even more into the light for students, teachers and parents.

Alfonso Ceciliano, a Chelsea High parent liaison, said they will stage the event at 5 p.m. in the Auditorium.

“We’re going to be addressing all kinds of different topics with Anti-Bullying,” he said.

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Chelsea Collaborative youth leaders Stephany Villatoro and Ashanti DeCosta look at a picture of Amanda Todd, a teen from another state who ended her life in 2012 due to cyber bullying. The moment was part of a kick-off event at the Collaborative on Tuesday, Jan. 16, for Anti-Bullying Week. A large event at Chelsea High for students, parents and staff will take place Thursday, Jan. 18, at 5 p.m.

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Heyde and Kaley Vasquez write their thoughts about a bullying story that was posted as part of the kick-off Tuesday night.

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Youth Leaders from the Chelsea Collaborative kicked off Anti-Bullying Week at the Collaborative on Tuesday night.

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High Water:Recent Blizzard Storm Surge Forces Tidal Flooding to the Forefront

High Water:Recent Blizzard Storm Surge Forces Tidal Flooding to the Forefront

By Seth Daniel

When the Jan. 4 blizzard hit Chelsea and Greater Boston, it was a lot of snow – which was par for the course in January – but the eye-opener was the 14.99 foot high tide that accompanied a storm surge.

Suddenly, blizzard conditions were matched with heavy flooding on Marginal Street, Congress Avenue and Beacham Street – where the Island End River actually went over its banks and threatened the New England Produce Center, which is a key cog in the region’s food supply.

To top it all off, the Chelsea Street Bridge was actually closed because the Creek was too high to keep it open.

“It really puts a lot of things into perspective,” said Roseann Bongiovanni of GreenRoots. “It’s predicted that all the way up to the Market Basket will be under water by 2030 and beyond, but you see something like the storm on Jan. 4 and it seems like it could be 2025 or 2020, maybe sooner…There are a lot of people who think they don’t have to worry about this now because the predictions are way off in the future. Well, the Chelsea Street Bridge closed down because the Creek overflowed. Nobody would believe that would happen in 2018, but it did. It’s real. That’s what I think we should take from this.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said there was some significant flooding in the Island End River area, coming up by Signature Breads, the marina and to the DPW Yard. However, the Produce Center didn’t have significant flooding. At the same time, it put into perspective that such a critical facility for the food supply in New England, some mid-Atlantic states and southern Canada could be in a very risky location.

“That was a scary situation,” he said. “I know it came up very close to our DPW yard.”

There are already several grants in hand to do some infrastructure work to shore up the Island End River (about $1.5 million in one grant), but Ambrosino and Bongiovanni said the storm on Jan. 4 puts an exclamation point on getting it done faster.

“That’s been one of our focuses at GreenRoots for quite some time because it is a very key facility for the region,” said Bongiovanni. “We have been working with the Produce Center and they say the bays are high enough that the produce won’t be compromised. We know they keep about three day worth of produce on hand, but what if the trucks can’t get there for three days or more. That Center provides all the produce for a large area, and that food supply would be cut off for as long as the flooding there persists.”

Bongiovanni said they have been working with the City on some ideas.

City Planners have suggested salt marsh restoration that could naturally prevent flooding, as well as new sea walls and green infrastructure.

A more ambitious project, Bongiovanni said, is a study to create a Micro-Grid in Chelsea that would be able to power places like the Produce Center and Beth Israel Medical on Broadway if the electrical supply were cut off.

“Besides sea level rise and flooding, we want to think about what would happen if the electrical grid were down and they couldn’t power their refrigeration units to keep the produce cold,” she said.

Partners in that upcoming study include the Produce Center, the City, Chelsea Public Schools, Chelsea Housing Authority and Beth Israel. They would all host renewable energy generators that could be used just for Chelsea in an emergency.

“It’s the first stages of making the City completely energy independent,” said Bongiovanni. “That’s the kind of thing we really need to start thinking about when we see water coming up as high as it did.”

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Business and Environment Meet in Plastic Bag Ban Discussions

Business and Environment Meet in Plastic Bag Ban Discussions

By Seth Daniel

City leaders, business owners and members of the community are preparing for what might be the first big debate of the year – whether or not to ban plastic shopping bags in Chelsea.

Already, several municipalities have taken the step to ban the common, thin plastic shopping bag given out at almost every store in the City. Boston banned bags late last year, and their new ordinance will start later this year. In Chelsea, some of the larger supermarkets and businesses are ready to debate with environmental leaders about something that comes down to evaluating the cost vs. benefit.

Council President Damali Vidot and Councillor Enio Lopez have initiated the conversation with a Committee on Conference that will meet on Tuesday, Jan. 23, to have an initial discussion.

“It’s a topic Councillor Lopez and I have been entertaining for a few months,” said Vidot. “Seeing as though we are an Environmental Justice community, I think we should be doing everything in our power to support our environment. We have plastic bags everywhere in the city – on the ground, stuck in trees, flying into our waters, and posing a threat to animals. If we minimized their usage and/or charged per bag, we can hopefully get people to ‘think differently’ about our dependency on plastic.

“However, it isn’t something I want to change overnight,” she continued. “I want residents and business owners to bring their voices to the table and share their concerns and be a part of the conversation so that people aren’t impacted from one day to the other, if it does pass.”

Vidot said she hopes that a side conversation amidst the debate can be how to take more ownership of the City by littering less.

On the business side of things, Al Calvo of Compare Supermarkets said his market uses about 140,000 plastic bags per month, which is about 1.7 million plastic bags per year. They cost about 2 cents each, and his store pays about $34,000 per year for plastic bags.

A paper bag, he said, is about 9 cents per bag – resulting in an increased yearly cost to him of $85,000 for bags. The reusable heavy plastic bags, he said, cost a whopping 15 cents per bag. Many times, he said, customers forget to bring it back for re-use – and often substitute paper bags for the forgotten reusable.

The bottom line is this is an additional cost for the store owner, in addition to taxes, health care costs, minimum wage, and other costs,” he said. “In a very price competitive environment which our company faces, such as competition from that little corner store a mile away called Market Basket, we will either absorb the cost, which impacts profitability or raise prices to absorb the additional cost. Raising prices risks losing customers to Market Basket. Although we have other competitive advantages, price is still paramount in the eyes of the customer. It’s another potential death blow to the small business.”

Calvo said the discussion should focus on the tradeoffs between the environmental benefits and the added costs to business and/or customers.

Sergio Jaramillo, interim president of the Chelsea Chamber, said his personal view is that he supports anything to get rid of the plastic bags that litter the city and dirty up the business districts.

“I have seen the effects of plastic bags floating everywhere, and this is in particularly true in our own neighborhoods, where uniformed individuals leave them on unassigned places,” he said. “I understand that one of the consequences will be a higher cost to the merchant as it needs to provide an alternative to bags and may be passed on to the consumer and reflected in higher merchandise prices. It could be said this is the ‘cost of doing business.’”

Jaramillo said he thinks the solution is more global, with the plastics industry needing to come up with a better alternative.

“The industry as a whole needs to retool plastics and come up with cost efficient alternatives, such as fast-biodegradable materials that will minimize the impact on our ecosystem,” he said.

GreenRoots Director Roseann Bongiovanni said she also agrees that the ban is the right way to go.

“We have been talking to the City Council and other leaders in the community about this,” she said. “We really want to see the City go in that direction to ban these bags. We’ve received concerns from people who carry these bags from Market Basket and the supermarkets – especially people who are transit-dependent – but I think those concerns can be overcome.”

Bongiovanni said she is in favor of the thicker reusable bags, and allowing merchants to charge for them. She said a slow rollout would be best if such a ban passes.

“I think it will be like the trans-fat ban,” she said. “There really has to be a time when there is an education piece that starts it out.”

Joe Mahoney, a resident of Admiral’s Hill and member of the Chamber, said he tends to have a ‘green’ opinion and he would support eliminating the bags.

“I see the bags flying around all the time,” he said. “If you can recycle them or get a reusable plastic bag, I think it would be better for the city. When it comes to plastic vs. paper, I have to put myself more on the paper side. Unfortunately, plastic is a lot less expensive though.”

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Significant TIF Likely to Come for Revamped CHA Mixed-Income Development

Significant TIF Likely to Come for Revamped CHA Mixed-Income Development

By Seth Daniel

A new, revamped effort by the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) to build a mixed-income development on Central Avenue will likely come with a significant Tax Increment Financing (TIF) request, said City Manager Tom Ambrosino.

The new proposal, which is a second attempt by designated developer Corcoran Jennison, will likely come before the City in February or March. However, this time Ambrosino said it’s probably going to also be accompanied by a request from Corcoran for a TIF agreement.

“It will not be an insignificant amount for a TIF,” said Ambrosino. “From the City’s perspective, we’re motivated by the fact there is no other way to get that development rebuilt. This will give those resident brand new units in a mixed income development. Right now, we’re getting zero tax dollars on it, and we would be getting something from the developer if this is built.”

The development was proposed in 2017, but was beat back when Corcoran requested the City Council allow them to use some non-union labor on the project to make the finances work.

A large group of residents and union workers appeared at the meeting on the night of the vote, and the Council agreed with them, shooting down the request.

Nothing has happened  since, but it appears that to make the books balance, Corcoran will be looking to get some property taxes reduced for a period of time.

“The City will be sympathetic,” Ambrosino said. “I want that project to move forward. That’s going to be a huge upgrade for those public housing tenants.”

Historically, the Council has been accommodating for TIF requests, but in recent years many councillors have began to question whether they are really needed any longer. It will likely be a spirited debate once again within the board.

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Coming to a TV Near You:Hollywood Hits Revere Beach for a New Pilot Program

Coming to a TV Near You:Hollywood Hits Revere Beach for a New Pilot Program

by Sue Woodcock

Film crews descended on Revere Beach Boulevard and Bill Ash’s Lounge at the end of last week. Crews were filming a television pilot for Showtime called, “City on the Hill” and a scene called “The Approval.”

Crews have also been filming in Malden. Star actor Kevin Bacon (Footloose) is tagged to be a part of the show although he was not in Revere.

The scenes are set in the late 1980s or early 90s and the show is supposed to be a “cop-type” drama.

The Department of Recreation and Conservation (DCR) closed down Revere Beach Boulevard from just before Shirley Avenue to Revere Street. One scene being shot was along the boulevard starting at the Bandstand and traveling down to the State Police Barracks. The shot, captured from a camera mounted to the top of a blacked out Porsche Cayenne (rented out for two days at $40,000, according to a crew member.) The scene being filmed showed an armored car truck being followed by a minivan.

All the vehicles being used are late 1980s and 90s models. There was an old Lincoln Continental, a Jeep Grand Wagoner with wood paneling and an old Volvo.

The outside of Bill Ash’s Lounge was transformed to the “Ebb-Tide” a restaurant/bar type of place. Last Wednesday afternoon about 20 electricians and crew members were inside the dive redoing all the lighting.

The crew was very tight-lipped about what they were working on and unknowing members of the public who just wanted to go for a walk, were redirected away from the filming areas.

No word on when the show will air.

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Alleged MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Re-Entry of Deported Alien

Alleged MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Re-Entry of Deported Alien

An alleged member of MS-13 pleaded guilty Jan. 11 in federal court in Boston to an immigration charge.

Elenilson Gonzalez-Gonzalez, a/k/a “Siniestro,” 31, a Salvadoran national, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful reentry of a deported alien.  U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for April 5, 2018.

Following a lengthy investigation, Gonzalez-Gonzalez was one of 61 defendants named in a superseding indictment targeting the activities of alleged leaders, members, and associates of the transnational criminal organization, La Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13.

Gonzalez-Gonzalez is the 27th defendant to plead guilty in this case.

In December 2015, during the course of the investigation, law enforcement encountered Gonzalez-Gonzalez near Deer Island National Park in Winthrop. Further investigation revealed that in May 2012, Gonzalez-Gonzalez had been apprehended by U.S. Customers and Border Patrol agents illegally entering the United States near Mission, Texas.

At that time, Gonzalez-Gonzalez admitted that he was a Salvadoran national who had entered the country illegally and was attempting to make his way to the Boston area. He was subsequently removed from the United States in 2012 on an expedited basis. Gonzalez-Gonzalez later re-entered the United States and was charged with illegal reentry after deportation.

The charging statute provides for a sentence of no greater than two years in prison, one year of supervised release, and up to a fine of $250,000. Gonzalez-Gonzalez will also be subject to deportation upon the completion of his federal sentence. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty to Murder Conspiracy

MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty to Murder Conspiracy

An MS-13 member pleaded guilty on Jan. 12 in federal court in Boston to racketeering conspiracy involving the murder of a 15-year-old boy in Lawrence.

Josue Alexis DePaz, a/k/a “Gato,” 21, a Salvadoran national formerly residing in Lawrence, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy.  U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for April 6, 2018.

DePaz was identified as a member of MS-13’s Everett Loco Salvatrucha (ELS) clique, which operated in the greater Boston area. When interviewed by law enforcement officers, DePaz admitted that on July 5, 2015, he was one of two men who stabbed a 15-year-old boy to death in O’Connell Park in Lawrence. In conversations recorded by law enforcement during the investigation, MS-13 members identified DePaz as one of the men who murdered the victim. DePaz was subsequently arrested in a house in Somerville with several other MS-13 members. A search warrant at the house resulted in the recovery of a firearm, several large knives, photographs of MS-13 members flashing gang signs, and a large volume of MS-13 paraphernalia, including blue and white hats, bandanas and rosary beads. According to court documents, MS-13 members frequently wear blue and white items of clothing to signify their membership in the gang.

After a three-year investigation, DePaz was one of 61 individuals named in a superseding indictment targeting the criminal activities of alleged leaders, members, and associates of MS-13 in Massachusetts. DePaz is the 28th defendant to plead guilty in this case.

DePaz faces up to life in prison, five years of supervised release, and will be subject to deportation upon the completion of his sentence.

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Chelsea Inauguration 2018

Chelsea Inauguration 2018

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Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes leads the procession of City Council members to begin the Inauguration ceremonies on Tuesday night, Jan. 2, in the Council Chambers at City Hall. Meanwhile, outgoing Council President Leo Robinson is given a gavel by incoming Council President Damali Vidot. Vidot was sworn in as the first female Council President
since charter reform.

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