By Joe Battenfeld
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Columnist Joe Battenfeld takes a look at a former Boston politician’s efforts to grow her marijuana business.
When it comes to pot, money rules.
The high stakes game going on now among cannabis dealers, growers and would-be entrepreneurs — including lobbyists and former elected officials — looking to make it rich is being played out all over Massachusetts.
The latest former pol trying to cash in is Andrea Cabral, former Suffolk County sheriff and public safety secretary, who now runs a marijuana company called Ascend Cannabis. Ascend means to climb higher — get it?
In Ascend’s case, the company wants to climb real high, opening what it claims would be the nation’s largest retail marijuana store in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Brookline.
Cabral’s law enforcement career wouldn’t seem to be the best experience to navigate the pot world, but she has an extra advantage. Last year Attorney General Maura Healey appointed Cabral to the Cannabis Advisory Board, an unpaid state board that gave recommendations to the Cannabis Control Commission on the regulation and taxation of the state’s retail pot business.
That means Cabral literally helped come up with the guidelines for the rules and regulations that pot shops must follow. She has a heads-up over all of her competitors.
But ethical lines get blurry because dollars come first. Ascend’s attorney says Cabral has no conflict of interest at all, because advisory board members aren’t state employees and aren’t involved with the licensing process.
But Cabral and Ascend right now have bigger problems — a group of angry residents seeking to block Ascend from opening the store. That doesn’t seem to be deterring Cabral.
During her law enforcement career, Cabral took advantage of state laws and rules to put more money in her pocket.
She used a retirement perk meant for cops and other law enforcement who put their lives on the line — so called hazard pay — to boost her pension by nearly $30,000 a year. Cabral insisted on getting her hazard pay boost despite an outcry from lawmakers and other critics who say her administrative job shouldn’t have qualified her for the extra money.
She’s now pulling down a $95,000 annual pension. She also took a $12,000 vacation payout when she left public service.