JEERS to someone’s idea, which was drug influenced if not induced, that they could use welfare benefits to buy legalized weed. Actually, as Statehouse reporter Christian Wade chronicled this past week, as many as 28 people have had that idea.
No surprise that the state Department of Transitional Assistance took precautions in case holders of Electronic Benefits Transfer cards tried to use them to patronize one of the state’s new retail marijuana outlets. The department made sure point-of-sale devices and on-site ATM machines at those shops — many are cash-only businesses — could not process EBT cards. The surprise was there were at least 28 attempted purchases with the cards, representing $1,825 worth of weed, that the agency said were blocked.
The prohibition on buying pot with an EBT card should’ve surprised no one. The cards are meant to covey food and cash assistance to the elderly, disabled and families in need. They cannot be used to buy jewelry, lottery tickets, tobacco or tattoos, among other things. Certain categories of businesses — such as jewelry stores and packies — cannot accept them.
It’s not that many people try to use their cards for those things. As Wade noted, misuse of EBT cards on prohibited items fell to about $16,000 worth in 2016. The agency, which administers $16 million worth of benefits each month, credits technology and stricter enforcement with reducing that number.
Undoubtedly, the enthusiasm surrounding retail weed, budding since voters legalized possession and sale of marijuana in Massachusetts three years ago, led some people to put their EBT cards to the test in some of the brand new pot shops. Good for the Department of Transitional Assistance and the state’s Cannabis Control Commission for anticipating that.
CHEERS to a milestone for a Merrimack Valley landmark, and all the best to Amy and Bryan Guay, who’ve owned and operated the Shawsheen Luncheonette on Lowell Street in Andover for the past 30 years.
If there’s a gauge of the popularity of the diner on Lowell Street in Andover, it’s the knot of people invariably standing outside on the sidewalk on a Saturday or Sunday morning, waiting to get a table. It’s the kind of place known for its bacon, eggs, omelettes and grilled cheese — but mostly for the atmosphere.
Getting a job cleaning tables and waiting on customers was just a temporary gig for Bryan Guay, an arrangement made by his sister some 38 years ago. He and Amy bought the place from Roland and Janet Boisvert back in the late '80s.
The luncheonette was already a local landmark by then, built up over 33 years by the Boisverts, who created a warm environment where regulars were treated like family. According to an obituary for Roland Boisvert, who died earlier this month, “It was the place to go on weekend mornings for breakfast, Friday night for fish dinner, and lunch all week long.”
The Guays stayed loyal, above all, to maintaining that environment — which was reflected by the concern of their customers when word spread about their retirement. “There isn’t a person here that didn’t come in today that didn’t hug me and say goodbye to my husband, and that didn’t have a story they could relate,” Amy Guay told reporter Jessica Valeriani after a recent lunch crowd had cleared out, one of her last.
As for the Guays, they plan to sell everything that doesn’t fit into their newly purchased RV and go see America. The Shawsheen Luncheonette will go on, after some renovations, with some new owners but much the same staff.
It may not be the same without the Guays, but here’s hoping the orders keep coming up for the luncheonette decades into the future.