Mayor Martin Walsh is returning the $3,000-plus his campaign has raked in over the past two years from pot company executives, shedding the cash after the Herald asked about the donations.
The mayor’s move Friday comes as Boston officials have been served federal subpoenas for records linked to legal weed licenses.
“Mayor Walsh has a strict policy of not accepting donations from individuals who have marijuana business pending before the city and the Walsh Campaign makes an effort to carefully vet all donors with this in mind. Now that we are aware of these donations they will be returned immediately,” said campaign spokeswoman Megan Costello.
A Herald review of political donations shows Walsh has received $3,325 in donations since 2017 from people now affiliated with the 13 recreational and medical marijuana businesses that have signed host agreements with the city, according to Office of Campaign and Political Finance records.
The majority of city councilors also have received contributions from those approved operators. Kim Janey, the sponsor of a pot ordinance that would overhaul the oversight process, netted $2,970; Ed Flynn took in $2,200; Frank Baker got $2,500; Lydia Edwards took in $2,250; Annissa Essaibi-George got $2,000; Matt O’Malley received $1,440; Michael Flaherty got $1,420; Andrea Campbell received $1,000; and Michelle Wu got $500.
Of the outgoing councilors, Mark Ciommo received three donations from people affiliated with Mayflower Medical — all on the same day in December 2017 — for a total of $1,850, OCPF records show. Josh Zakim received $150 from another prospective operator, and Timothy McCarthy got $100.
Baker told the Herald, “Am I going to give preferential treatment for $2,500 over two years? No way.” He added, “People write me checks because they think I’m going to be fair.”
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling this week added Boston to the expanding list of municipalities from which he’s seeking marijuana records after Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was indicted on federal extortion charges related to pot shops — with alleged bribes totaling about $600,000 in cash.
Walsh’s office said the mayor hasn’t personally met with any of the approved marijuana business officials or current applicants.
The sitting city councilors who responded to Herald questions Friday said the pot hopefuls didn’t buy influence, even though councilors have met with them.
Edwards said in a statement that she’s met with people from seven different prospective businesses, adding she has “formally supported one business, an equity applicant, to date.” She has also “opposed one business whose proposed location was directly adjacent to a recovery facility.”
Baker said he met with Natural Selections officials about five times as the company was going through the process of securing its host community agreement with the city. He said he directed them to have community meetings. Other councilors also said pot hopefuls meet with them at the start of the process.
Essaibi-George said she’s met with “a few” pot applicants. Defending the pot money, she said all of the donations are online “for public consumption — no pun intended.”
O’Malley pointed out that $1,000 of his marijuana money came from Andrea Cabral, the former Suffolk County sheriff who O’Malley said is a friend of 15 years. Cabral donated more than $3,400 to city councilors this year.
Tito Jackson, a former city councilor has been attempting to open up a pot shop, gave $420 each to Janey and Flaherty. Jackson couldn’t be reached for comment.
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