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January 26, 2014

Familiar names behind marijuana proposals

Former state reps, prominent attorneys assisting applicants

Several big names in local politics are backing or assisting medical marijuana dispensary proposals across Essex County as the state health department prepares to issue licenses this week.

Names of the directors and executives of the non-profits created to apply for dispensary and growing licences from the state Department of Public Health, which plans to announce provisional licenses Thursday, in Essex County run the gambit from a former state representative, a former magistrate judge and prominent attorneys to doctors and medical researchers, musicians and web designers.

They include D’Arcangelo, Herlihy, McCarthy, Manzi, Torrisi and Vining.

Several involved with the proposals say they chose people with local expertise for advice in their specialty areas and to gain support in the communities where dispensaries are proposed.

“Every person on our board has been put on our board for a specific purpose, their expertise,” said Charles M. Saba, president of BeWell Organic Medicine, which currently is proposing a dispensary in Lawrence. “There is no one we put on a board because their political connections.”

BeWell’s board of directors includes Kevin Herlihy, the retired magistrate judge from Haverhill District Court, and Ronald D’Arcangelo, a former probation chief in Newburyport District Court.

Herlihy presided over one of the first drug courts in the state, and went to California in the 1990s to learn about the drug courts pioneered there, which divert nonviolent drug offenders from jail sentences into rehabilitation, education and job programs.

“Who better to advise us and direct us through process through legal process than him?” Saba said.

Attempts to reach Herlihy through his son, Andrew Herlihy, a community development official in Haverhill, were unsuccessful.

“The other thing they bring is their connection to city of Lawrence and the Merrimack Valley,” Saba said. “I have a 100-year family history of being connected with city of Lawrence. We wanted to be in Lawrence and the board needs to represent Lawrence.”

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