E-Mail Exchange Questioning Cannabis Board Accidentally Sent to Cannabis Board

Everyone has mistakenly hit the ‘send’ button, but few such instances have been such an unlucky stroke as a private e-mail exchange by Resilient Remedies (R2) marijuana store that was mistakenly sent into the public record last Friday – a strategic e-mail exchange that questioned the integrity of the Boston Cannabis Board (BCB) and then was sent to…the Boston Cannabis Board.

The e-mail exchange got into the public record when R2’s attorney, Tanya Trevisan, sent other members of the team BCB Clerk Jasmin Winn’s e-mail address last Friday afternoon so as to forward support letters. However, within that communication was a strategic conversation between R2 that questioned the integrity of the BCB’s process in approving their competition, Heritage Club’s Nike John, as an official equity applicant. It also contained a series of exchanges detailing an investigation last Thursday and Friday aimed at trying to disqualify John as an equity applicant prior to the BCB vote this week – perhaps even using this paper, the Patriot Bridge, to get that message out.

Both R2 and Heritage are competing to be the first recreational marijuana licensee in Charlestown, and both propose to locate within a half-mile of each other – creating a buffer zone issue that has heightened the competition significantly.

“We need…to strategy on this,” wrote Trevisan in an e-mail last Friday. “I’ve included her and the rest of the team here. In my opinion, the challenge as to Nike’s equity status would be better coming from the public. It’s important to note that, just because Nike identifies as Black does not mean that she is automatically designated as a Boston Equity Applicant. She needs to meet at least 2 more of the 6 criteria outlined in…the Equity Ordinance to be designated an Equity Applicant. And it appears she fails to do so.”

The e-mail went further to indicate that perhaps BCB Attorney Chayla White looked the other way on residency issues to make sure John qualified, even if she may not have deserved it.

“Clearly, there is an issue regarding whether Nike actually lived in an (Area of Disproportionate Impact) ADI for at least five of the last 10 years,” read Trevisan’s e-mail. “There is significant conflicting data that appears to have been manipulated to Nike’s benefit to enable her and The Heritage Club to be given priority in the cannabis license application process. The public deserves an explanation as to how the OED/BCB determined Nike resided in an ADI for at least five of the last 10 years, given this information.”

John said this week she was aware of the mistaken e-mail exchange, and had seen it as well. She called it a blatant display of racism.

“I have always believed that who you are is who you are when no one is watching,” said John. “To take that a step further, and quote Maya Angelou, ‘When people show you who they are, believe them.’ Resilient’s conversation is a blatant display of racism and it is unacceptable. My hope is that the Board, that was designed to ensure racial equity, not only upholds that mandated goal, but also chooses operators who align with the mission.”

R2 said it was unfortunate the exchange was mistakenly sent to the BCB, and they wished everyone good luck in the upcoming process.

“It is unfortunate internal attorney client communications have been inadvertently made public,” read the statement. “We wish all very good fortune and luck as they navigate the dynamic process of this emerging industry.”

On Friday, once Trevisan realized she had sent compromising e-mails to the BCB, she attempted to roll it back, saying to disregard the communication as it was part of privileged attorney-client discussions between the owners of R2.

“Please confirm receipt of this e-mail and deletion of the other,” wrote Trevisan.

“Hi Tanya,” replied BCB Clerk Winn. “All correspondence sent to the City is public record.”

The exchange was then included in the public record of R2’s application, which is currently before the BCB.

The heart of the matter within the exchange is a long-standing question from R2 about John’s status as an equity applicant, specifically whether or not she has resided in an ADI for five of the last 10 years – which is a requirement along with identifying as a Black person and qualifying as low-income.

Former Boston Election Commissioner Nancy Lo, now part of the R2 team, was involved in the e-mail exchange reaching out to various Town Clerks, specifically Brookline, to inquire about John’s residency there. Brookline is not an ADI. She discovered that the Brookline Clerk had her registered there from 2008 to 2016. She and Trevisan and the team continued to analyze the dates of where John lived and did not live, including the fact that her current driver’s license says she lives on Beacon Hill – which is not an ADI.

“That said, Brookline has her on record as a resident from 2008-2016???,” wrote Trevisan. “And the Boston voting record & her driver’s license indicate she lives on Beacon Hill currently while she says she lives elsewhere. Something is fishy & it’s not just the harbor…”

The entirety of their case is then detailed in a long e-mail to the team, which contained significant concern about the integrity of the BCB in its evaluation of John, and whether BCB attorneys might have manipulated information to make sure she qualified. A strategy was then formulated to contact the Charlestown paper and try to roll out a story on the matter before the meeting this week. No effort, however, was made after Friday to do so.

“When does the Charlestown paper come out and its deadline?” wrote Lo.

The Mayor’s Office told the Patriot Bridge that the City and the BCB stands behind its evaluation of John as an equity applicant, and said that question was first raised by Trevisan in March – and the BCB addressed it then. The e-mail exchange seems to indicate R2 still had concerns about that evaluation.

“Chayla believes the predominant question being asked by Attorney Tanya Trevisan about Ms. John’s equity status concerns Ms. John’s residency,” read a statement from the Mayor’s Office. “Ms. John provided Chayla with sufficient documentation to prove that she has resided in areas of disproportionate impact as defined by the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) for the requisite amount of time – at least 5 of the last 10 years. Ms. John submitted this information in October 2020, so proof of residency in an area of disproportionate impact for any five-year term from 2010 through October 2020 would satisfy the residency criteria set forth in the Ordinance Establishing the Equitable Regulation of the Cannabis Industry in the City of Boston… As Attorney Hawkins noted, Chayla did respond to Attorney Trevisan’s inquiry regarding Ms. John’s residency on March 22, 2021.”

The Mayor’s Office said Attorney White was provided with residential leases on Gainsborough Street in the Fenway from Sept. 2013 to Aug. 2015. She also provided them with a lease from a Quincy apartment from Dec. 2014 to June 2018. She also provided them with utility bill statements that matched those addresses for that time period where she held a lease.

“Altogether, Ms. John resided in areas of disproportionate impact for approximately 63.5 months – which is in excess of the mandatory 60 month period,” read the statement from the Mayor’s Office.

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