Demonstrators protest lobbyist’s work against legalizing pot

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BOSTON — As a medical marijuana dispensary opened its doors in Lowell Tuesday morning, demonstrators who support a move to make sales of the drug legal for recreational use gathered nearby to call on the company that owns the shop to break ties with a lobbyist opposing their campaign.

Patriot Care, the company that operates the dispensary and plans to open others in Boston and Greenfield, contends that the issues of medical and recreational marijuana use are separate, according to Greg Czarnowski, a spokesman, who called the demonstration “odd.”

Bill Downing of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, or MassCann, said about 18 demonstrators assembled near the Lowell shop Tuesday morning, urging its owners to end their relationship with Daniel Delaney, a registered lobbyist whose firm lists Patriot Care as a client.

Delaney is also the chairman and treasurer of Safe Cannabis Massachusetts, a committee organized last month to oppose a ballot measure that would make retail sales for recreational use legal, according to campaign finance records. The ballot initiative is backed by a group called the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

Legalization activists will consider future action and additional demonstratons unless Patriot Care ends its relationship with Delaney, Downing said.

Patriot Care “puts the interests of patients first,” Greg Czarnowski, a company spokesman, said in a statement sent to the News Service.

“We achieve our company mission through collaboration, an unyielding commitment to engage with stakeholders of all perspectives and the belief that all views, whether we agree with them or not, have the right to be expressed,” Czarnowski said.

“As a medical company, we are not involved with this issue — this initiative is about making recreational marijuana available to anyone who wants it,” Czarnowski said. “Trying to prevent a Massachusetts health care policy expert from voicing his concerns by attacking unrelated parties rather than engaging in constructive dialogue to understand opposing positions seems odd for any group looking to secure the support of the commonwealth.”

Downing said he believes the legalization of adult cannabis use would benefit patients by making it easier and less expensive for them to access marijuana for medical purposes.

“Basically, for the cost of zero dollars, zero-point-zero-zero dollars, patients could create their own free medicine and of course, places like Patriot Care have a great interest in selling stuff to the patients instead,” he said. “If patients were able to grow their own medicine, they probably wouldn’t be buying.”

Boston police have sought drug distribution charges against Downing, who they say sold marijuana products out of an Allston store. Downing, who appeared in municipal court last month, has said the products sold in his shop were legal herbal remedies and that he believes he is being targeted for his activism.

Written by Katie Lannan