Updated: 51-Year-Old Haverhill Man May Have Held Firearm During Armed Robbery at Cannabis Store

Haverhill Police confirm the 51-year-old man arrested for armed robbery at a River Street cannabis store used what appeared to be a firearm Wednesday, but there were no injuries. As WHAV reported earlier, police quickly tracked down and arrested Tony Hernandez of Haverhill at 2:30 p.m.—about two hours after the robbery at CNA Stores, 558 River St., Haverhill. Police said in a statement, “an undisclosed amount of cash and cannabis” were taken. Hernandez is to be arraigned in Haverhill District Court tomorrow. Deputy Police Chief Stephen J. Doherty Jr. told WHAV the matter is still being investigated.

Councilors Defeat Proposed $217 Million Haverhill Budget; Members Try Again Tuesday

After first rejecting a proposed $217 million budget Tuesday night in a disagreement over creating a dedicated pool of money for mental health and youth recreation, Haverhill city councilors plan to take up the matter again next Tuesday. The 5-4 vote against the budget was the second time in four years councilors defeated a budget proposed by Mayor James J. Fiorentini. If there is no agreement next week, only emergency services will continue after July 1. Councilor Colin F. LePage was the first last night to call the lack of a mental health fund for youth a “sticking point.”

“I think we should be putting in more money into this Department of Public Health as we’ve talked before—seniors, youth, everyone,” he said. Opposing councilors favored creating a special revolving account comprising all of the “local option” taxes of up to 3% of gross sales the city is allowed to collect from cannabis retailers.

Councilors Tie Cannabis Impact Fees and Haverhill Mayor’s Refusal to Add Second Police Clinician

The fate of Haverhill’s proposed $216 million spending plan for the year that begins in less than a month may hinge on collecting cannabis impact fees and hiring a second mental health clinician for the police department. The issues were tied together by City Council Vice President Colin F. LePage last week during a line of questioning centered on the police department’s proposed $13.6 million budget. LePage noted retired Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro requested two “behavioral response” workers to deescalate violence and address core issues. DeNaro told WHAV in March mental health issues have been at the root of several high-profile incidents of violence across the country as well as locally. Councilor Timothy J. Jordan told Mayor James J. Fiorentini he is drawing a line in the sand.

Update: Court Rules Haverhill Stem May Pursue Extortion Suit; Other Side Cites Free Speech Worries

This update contains the responses of lawyers for Lloyd Jennings and J. Bradford Brooks. A state Appeals Court today upheld an earlier ruling that a Haverhill cannabis retailer’s suit against two opponents is valid since the foes went to lengths that “fell outside any acceptable boundary.”

Wednesday’s decision means Caroline Pineau, owner of Haverhill Stem, may continue her suit against Lloyd Jennings and J. Bradford Brooks. Lawyers for Jennings and Brooks told WHAV in an email that they are considering an appeal to the state’s Supreme Judicial Court because of, among other things, “free speech violations.”

The original action, filed almost two years ago, charges the men “engaged in a pattern and practice of threatening, extorting, intimidating and/or suing a business neighbor and applicant for their own financial gain.” In short, Pineau argued the men opposed her business as a means of coercing her to pay them a minimum of $30,000 for construction of a rear deck predating Pineau’s building ownership. “We’re very pleased that the appeals court agreed with Judge Deakin that the defendants’ actions went beyond any acceptable boundaries. Stem has been a strong new source of tax revenue for the city of Haverhill and has been a positive downtown presence.

Judge Denies Emergency Delay of ‘Impact Fee’ Payments from Haverhill’s Stem Cannabis Store

A downtown Haverhill cannabis retailer must make its first “impact fee” payment to the city tomorrow after a Superior Court judge denied a request for an emergency delay. Stem, 124 Washington St., had argued it would suffer “irreparable harm” while waiting for a hearing on its larger case—that the city must give it a detailed accounting of any impacts and related costs. Judge James F. Lang said if Stem were to later win its case, it could recover the $356,000 owed plus be “made whole” by collecting financial damages. Haverhill Stem Owner and CEO Caroline Pineau told WHAV she expects to win. “We are not discouraged or surprised by this preliminary ruling.

Superior Court Judge Hears Request from Haverhill Marijuana Retailer for Bar on ‘Impact Fees’

A Superior Court judge heard a Haverhill marijuana retailer’s request Monday for an order relieving the store of paying a community “impact fee” of $356,000 until a larger question over such fees is resolved by the courts. Essex County Superior Court Judge James F. Lang, sitting in Newburyport and listening to testimony remotely, heard from lawyers from Stem, 124 Washington St., and the City of Haverhill, but did not issue an immediate ruling. Stem had sought an emergency injunction before May 26—the date Stem’s fee is due to the city or have the court hold the company’s payment. If not, the downtown retailer said in filings, it would suffer “irreparable harm” because the city could charge interest and late penalties. The city’s related request to dismiss Stem’s case has not yet been heard, but Mayor James J. Fiorentini issued a statement late Monday afternoon, saying he stands by the city’s position.

Legislative Committee Testimony Reports Marijuana Host Agreement Exploitation

Advocates, lawmakers and former regulators urged a legislative committee on Tuesday to provide more oversight of required contracts between municipalities and marijuana businesses, arguing that the system continues to be exploited by some cities and towns, which creates a barrier for small and minority owned businesses to get started in the industry. A suit against the City of Haverhill, filed by downtown marijuana retailer Stem and its president, Caroline Pineau, played prominently before the Committee. The issue of host community agreements has been one fraught with tension as people in the industry have argued for years that negotiations are often “one-sided,” with communities controlling all the leverage. The result, according to testimony given to the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy, are agreements that often violate the limits put on how much cities and towns can charge marijuana businesses for traffic, public safety and other impacts they have on a community. The committee held a hearing Tuesday on nine bills focused on host community agreements, returning to an issue the House tried to address with legislation it passed last February, before the COVID-19 pandemic put most other issues on the back burner.

In Separate Filings, Haverhill Asks Court to Dismiss Stem Lawsuit; Retailer Seeks Quick Turnaround

The City of Haverhill and Stem, a downtown marijuana retailer, exchanged new legal claims yesterday in Essex County Superior Court with the city asking that most claims against it be dismissed and Stem asking for “emergency relief.”

In its filing, Haverhill argues Stem, 124 Washington St., must pay “community impact” fees, not necessarily because of state law, but because the adult-use marijuana business agreed to do so in a contract; that it is too early to document “impacts” Stem may have caused especially in light of the health pandemic; Stem has not been financially harmed, but rather appears to have earned $13 million since opening; and not enough time has passed to verify and negotiate community impact costs. Stem, on the other hand, followed up on its earlier lawsuit, asking the court to act before May 26—the date Stem’s fee is due to the city or have the court hold the company’s $400,000 payment. If not, the downtown retailer said, it would suffer “irreparable harm” because the city could charge added interest and penalties if the fee isn’t paid on time. Stem added the city should be prevented from using any of the company’s payment when it is made until it proves there has been an adverse community impact and the financial cost. In a statement, Stem’s Caroline Pineau said, “The law says the impact fee needs to be reasonably related to a cannabis establishment and that the fee must be documented.