JEERS to marijuana-related advertising sprouting up like a weed in all the wrong places.
One such example was placed on a billboard at Essex and Locust streets in downtown Haverhill, which is just a couple of blocks from the Boys & Girls Club and, more critically, next to a school bus stop. The sign promoted Weedmaps, a website that points users toward the nearest marijuana dispensary.
“I noted there’s at least four different schools that have a pickup at that location; high school students were the oldest, and it went down to the middle school ages,” said City Councilor Colin LePage, who took the initiative to contact the billboard’s owner, Clear Channel Outdoor, to complain about the placement. Lest the company doubt him, LePage provided photos of children waiting for the bus in front of the billboard.
It took a couple of weeks, according to the councilor, but the company eventually replaced the Weemaps sign with a public service announcement encouraging kids to wear seatbelts — a clear victory.
Fortunately the state’s Cannabis Control Commission tightly regulates marijuana advertising. Those responsible for ads including billboards must prove ahead of time that 85% of their audience will be age 21 and older.
But, as with any such rule, it takes people to enforce it. In Haverhill, city officials have reached out to the Cannabis Control Commission for more information about how advertisements are regulated and how audience data is determined.
“It was a good first step,” LePage told reporter Gerry Miles of the replaced billboard. “It was done locally in Haverhill, and I hope it’s done throughout the commonwealth and we do the best we can to limit exposure with young, impressionable children.”
CHEERS to finding your way home.
For Virgo, a 14-year-old Pekingese-Shih Tzu mix, and owner Altagracia Baldera, the happy reunion occurred a little more than a year after the dog disappeared.
Baldera, who lived in North Andover, evacuated to her sister’s home in Lawrence during last fall's gas disaster and was there when her brother-in-law inadvertently let Virgo out of the house. The dog disappeared, Baldera recently told reporter Jill Harmacisnki. And considerable efforts to find him — they contacted Animal Control, hung fliers around the neighborhood, filled social media with pleas for help, and even added his name to a statewide listing of lost dogs — were fruitless.
That was until the other day when a group of boys on Newbury Street found the dog, at this point confused and in need of grooming. Animal Control officer Ellen Bistany did some research and reunited Virgo and Baldera.
Given the time that Virgo and Baldera spent apart, including last winter, she assumes her dog was taken in by someone else. Otherwise it probably would not have survived the winter. She rightly wonders why that person didn’t call police, as the law requires you to do if you find someone else’s pet.
While that may remain a mystery, everyone can appreciate the happy ending of a story that emerged from the anxiety and loss associated with the gas disaster .
A final JEERS to companies that leave international students in the lurch.
Staff writer Bill Kirk reported last week on the abrupt closure of Eduboston, Keenam “Kason” Park’s company that specialized in placing foreign students, mostly from China, in private schools in the United States. Those involved with the company — some 320 students studying in the U.S., their parents, host families and schools — recently received word of its abrupt demise. That left some 33 students at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence without a support network, and it left Central Catholic looking for some $700,000 in tuition payments owed for the current year.
“The kids were already here,” Central's president, Chris Sullivan, told Kirk. “Then (Eduboston) said they weren’t going to pay.”
The company shared details of its problems with affiliates willing to sign non-disclosure agreements. The Boston Globe reported that an invitation to that meeting mentioned a “temporary, but serious, cash flow crisis." The Globe also reported on a lawsuit filed by an investor who claims he put $3 million into the comapny that was squandered on risky securities and used to pay off a former owner. Not good news for students who’ve traveled thousands of miles from home to study.
Schools in the U.S. scrambled to make other arrangements for their. Leaders at Central Catholic agreed to take care of tuition for its students for the year, since their money was apparently lost to Eduboston. The school also contacted another company, Apex International Education Partners, which has agreed to offer the support services once provided by Eduboston — including monthly stipends to families that host the international students.
It was a bad situation that could have been much, much worse.