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January 26, 2014

Familiar names behind marijuana proposals

Former state reps, prominent attorneys assisting applicants


Alternative Therapies Group, which is proposing a facility in Salem, Mass., has on its board professional web designer Chris Edwards, North Andover nurse and health care coordinator Sherie Schuettner and Eric Ruby, a Taunton pediatrician, on its board.

Former state Rep. David Torrisi does consulting work for Alternative Therapies Group, according to state lobbying disclosure records.

Edwards said Alternative Therapies Group did not look for people with political connections.

“In our situation, bringing in David Torrisi as a consultant was to make introductions at the local level,” he said. “The timing of political events and the process has been helpful as well. But in our situation, he’s an outsourced consultant, not part of the board of directors.”

Healthy Pharms, Inc., which is proposing a dispensary in Haverhill, has Nathaniel Averill, an associate manager at pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb, as president, and his wife Joy Kolin, projects director with Management Sciences for Health of Cambridge, a roughly 40-year-old private nonprofit that responds to health problems in the developing world such as HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, cancer, and family planning and reproductive health.

Healthy Pharms, represented by Valerio Romano, a San Francisco attorney currently in Boston, has on its board a Wayland consultant, Steven Freundlich, and a Cambridge restaurateur, Paul Overgaag.

Romano, who has experience with medical marijuana issues in California and is assisting about 10 applications in Massachusetts, said those connections may help at the local level, but he believed DPH is conducting the state end of the process “transparently and thoroughly.” But having a name could make a difference locally, he said.

“I had a client who leased property to a guy who wanted to franchise a 7-Eleven on a site that had been a convenience store,” Romano said. “It took almost a year to get the permit transferred to a 7-Eleven. They weren’t doing anything new. So now you think of a polarizing issue like medical marijuana and you’re trying to get into a local municipality. It helps to know someone, like a former state rep. They can make calls because maybe they know someone. You can’t blame an applicant for trying to leverage those connections, as long as they’re not bribing people.”

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