What’s New: City Beat

marijuanaPhoto by Claire Vial.

City Councilors Make Moves Toward Marijuana Equity

The City Council is moving to ensure that there’s diversity within the city’s emerging marijuana industry. Under a new ordinance, Boston.com reports, for the next two years the city will only approve marijuana businesses that fall into three categories: existing medical dispensaries; locally owned retailers; and “Economic Empowerment applicants”—retailers that are either majority-owned by or mostly employ people from communities disproportionately affected by previous drug law enforcement.

Approvals also have to be given on an alternating basis, meaning that medical dispensaries cannot move ahead with offering recreational marijuana unless an equal number of locally owned or “Economic Empowerment” businesses get permits also. The goal of this policy is to “ensure that groups marginalized by the so-called War on Drugs, such as people of color, have equitable access to the new industry in Massachusetts,” Boston.com writes.

East Somerville Main Streets Gets a New Director

East Somerville Main Streets’ new director, Jennifer Atwood, is planning events, supporting small businesses, and fostering a sense of community. Atwood, who previously worked with the Mass Cultural Council, has several goals for the neighborhood, including getting East Somerville recognized as a cultural district. She aims to help the neighborhood through upcoming changes. “The Green Line Extension’s going to be changing a lot of things for the area, the improvements to the Kensington Underpass are eventually happening, and even the casino going in and the improvements that are going to be happening over at the Sullivan Square station—those are the big pillars of change that are happening,” Atwood told Scout.

Tufts Grows Its Solar Program

Tufts is ready to soak up the sun. Over 200 solar panels were installed on the roof of Lewis Hall earlier this winter, the Tufts Daily reports. The panels will produce about 100,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually, saving the university $118,000 over the next 20 years. The Lewis Hall installation is part of a sweeping effort across campus to install solar panels, all in pursuit of Tufts’ goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

A New Chapter for the Somerville Home
Spring Hill

The Somerville Home, a residential care facility for senior citizens, closed after 91 years in operation this fall. However, the story isn’t over for the large Summer Street institution—according to the Somerville Times, the building will be renovated by Riverside Community Care, a nonprofit that provides “mental healthcare, developmental and brain injury services, youth and early childhood programs, addiction treatment, and trauma response” programming. The facility will house programs for adults, children, and families, and may one day contain a couple of apartments for individuals being served by the agency.

Republicans Eye ActBlue’s Success
Davis Square

One ripple in the blue wave originated right in Davis Square. The 98-employee nonprofit ActBlue processed so much cash in small-dollar donations that it earned the ire of post-midterm Republicans, according to the Boston Globe. ActBlue reports that 4.8 million donors used its tools to donate $1.6 billion to Democratic candidates and leftist organizations during the 2018 election cycle, at an average donation amount of $40. After the election, GOP leaders said they desperately needed to figure out how to attract and wield online, small-dollar donations. However, they shouldn’t expect help from the ActBlue team: “I’m not interested in helping them kind of figure that out,” Executive Director Erin Hill told the Globe.

Board of Health Restricts E-Cigarette Sales

Parents of teens can breathe a sigh of relief. Earlier this winter, Somerville became the first municipality in Massachusetts to ban the sale of e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes in businesses that are open to youth under the age of 21, the Somerville Journal reports. Starting on April 1, 2019, e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes will only be available for purchase in 21-plus tobacco stores. This new regulation has emerged as teen e-cigarette use has sharply increased nationally (from 2.1 million in 2017 to 3.6 million this year), and as more information on the dangers of adolescent e-cigarette use has become available.

This article originally appeared in the What’s New section of the Free Time Fervor issue of Scout Somerville, which is available for free at more than 200 locations throughout the city or by subscription.

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