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Sal DiMasi hired by medical marijuana group to lobby city

Sal DiMasi.
Sal DiMasi.Jim Davis/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

A fledgling medical marijuana operation has tapped former House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi to lobby on its behalf at City Hall, making the convicted felon the latest ex-politician to edge into the growing industry.

Geoffrey Reilinger, the founder of Compassionate Organics, hired DiMasi to help in the “siting and establishment” of its proposed dispensary on Newbury Street, according to a disclosure DiMasi filed this month under the city’s new lobbying rules.

Meredith G. Fierro, DiMasi’s attorney, cited his hand in helping build the state’s landmark 2006 health care law and his own battle with throat and prostate cancer, saying he has an “acute understanding of a patient’s need for access to treatments that can help relieve nausea and cancer-associated pain.”

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“He brings a demonstrated commitment to expanding health care options for all the residents of the Commonwealth,” she said.

Compassionate Organics has tried for a years to open an operation in Boston, first in Allston, where it faced opposition from a local city councilor, before seeking one in the Back Bay, where it won approval from city zoning officials in 2017. The company has a provisional state license, but it still must clear several steps — including completing a host community agreement — before it can open, according to spokeswoman Dot Joyce.

DiMasi, who is locked in a separate fight to lobby at the state level, has “extensive expertise and personal knowledge of medical marijuana, the law, and policy that surround our efforts,” said Joyce, who is also a registered city lobbyist.

Both she and DiMasi are working on a month-to-month basis for Reilinger, and have been paid $7,500 apiece since April, Joyce said.

DiMasi first registered with City Hall on April 23 — a week after Boston’s newly passed lobbying ordinance took effect and just a day after he appealed a decision by Secretary of State William F. Galvin to deny his application at the state level based on his 2011 public corruption conviction.

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Galvin has asserted that DiMasi’s federal charges include “conduct in violation” of state lobbying and ethics laws, which should automatically bar him from lobbying for 10 years, or until June 2021.

DiMasi, however, argued that because lawmakers did not include the specific federal statutes on which he was convicted into the law, he shouldn’t be prohibited. In his appeal, he called lobbying a “constitutional right.”

The city ordinance, which Mayor Martin J. Walsh signed in October, includes language that closely mirrors the state statute, giving the city a mechanism to disqualify anyone from lobbying for a decade if they’ve been convicted of a felony that violates certain state laws.

But the responsibility of enforcing that language falls to a five-person Municipal Lobbying Compliance Commission that is still working to complete regulations. Sammy Nabulsi, who chairs the commission, said his goal is to pass a final version by the end of the year.

“I’m not going to comment on any specific case, but personally, I caution against taking any enforcement action against anyone until we have a very clear process,” Nabulsi said Thursday.

As the state’s recreational marijuana industry takes shape, those trying to win licenses have continually turned to those with political influence to help navigate the process, a Globe Spotlight investigation found. For example, at least 12 of the 17 recreational pot stores open as of May 1 hired lobbyists or former politicians.

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Felicia Gans of Globe staff contributed to this report. Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.