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SMOKE OUT: Green Side Up Gallery owner Matthew Yaffe (right) was licensed by the city. So why, asks Scott Matalon (left), did the cops arrest Yaffe and take his stock?

Who is responsible for the wave of "functional glass art" shop raids that has recently taken place throughout Allston?

Since April, Wildside Gallery, The Joint, and Green Side Up Gallery were raided by police and shut down for selling what the issued search warrants call "paraphernalia."

"I can't remember the last time merchants were closed down in the neighborhood," Scott Matalon, owner of Stingray Body Art and a director of Allston Board of Trade (ABOT), tells the Phoenix by phone.

Matalon and ABOT got involved with the issue after both Wildside and The Joint were shuttered, since it seemed that no other similar shop outside of Allston had been cited. Further research by the Phoenix has not turned up a similar raid in any other Boston neighborhood. According to Matalon, after the first two raids, ABOT asked a Boston Police community liaison from District 14 to attend one of its meetings. The liaison reassured ABOT that there was no targeting of local businesses, and that Boston Police were concerned with safety hazards, electrical compliance, and licensing issues. There'd been no criminal charges filed against either business, and other local business owners were told they were in no danger of being targeted as long as their licensing and signage was in order.

But then on June 16, Green Side Up Gallery was raided, $50,000 worth of stock — its entire inventory — was confiscated, and owner Matthew Yaffe was arrested and charged with distribution of drug paraphernalia. Yaffe had worked with the city for three months to make sure he was properly licensed and compliant with city and state codes.

A Phoenix review of the search-warrant applications filed for the raided businesses found that "under the direction of Sergeant Detective James Fong," local District 14 has been "conducting investigations into illegal Head Shops" and that investigating officers went to tobacconist LJ Peretti Co., who told them that there was "no legitimate purpose for non-conventional pipes such as glass or porcelain."

Of course, others would disagree. Toni, owner of Ritual Arts in Allston, considers her shop a "metaphysical supply store." She's been in business for 27 years, supplying locals with goods to perform rituals in a wide variety of spiritual traditions. "There are numerous herbs that are perfectly legal and used in ceremony for religious purposes that require smoking and have nothing to do with getting high," she explains.

Since the raids, however, Ritual Arts has ceased selling pipes.

According to Massachusetts law, "paraphernalia" can include blenders, bowls, spoons, balloons, and envelopes. Because a product's intended use determines its paraphernalia status, police interpretation of the law plays a huge role in what's prosecuted and what isn't.

"Intent is a slippery slope," says Matalon. "Intent is in someone's mind. We don't have thought police in America.

"The city gave [these business owners] permits," he adds, "and then the police interpreted a law to stop them from doing what the city said they could do."

"The police keep saying that everybody knows what these things are for," Yaffe's attorney (and ABOT member), Joshua Krefetz, tells the Phoenix. "But not 'everybody' is on trial. Matthew Yaffe is on trial."

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8 Comments / Add Comment

DLREALIFE

WAY TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT
Posted: July 03 2010 at 8:27 PM

badguy

If it is wrong to have the stuff then get rid of it.
Posted: July 04 2010 at 12:43 AM

Douglas Witt

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe that they are free" Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

and there is no freedom in a policed state, especially one with Fascist tendencies!
The police are in place to be shepherds to the flock, to serve and to protect them. but instead they are wolves preying on the flock for the state and it's corporate interests. This is nothing more than than a shakedown, thugs collecting revenue for the state in the form of fines! Law enforcement should be ashamed of what they have become.
Posted: July 06 2010 at 10:56 AM

Anonymous

matalon will get it sorted, til then we still have suga daddies...
Posted: July 08 2010 at 1:04 PM

Anonymous

The paranoid cynic in me thinks, "Sounds like _someone_ forgot to pay their protection, or else the more established shops had some sort of pull with the Allston police...."
Posted: July 23 2010 at 1:57 PM

Anonymous

I don't understand how the BPD can get away with using such scarce resources for a campaign like this after the citizens of the Commonwealth voted - quite emphatically - to stop using limited police resources for minor marijuana-related crimes. Regardless of what the goods sold by these shops are used for, the fact remains that BPD and other law enforcement agencies of MA were issued a mandate by the citizens they serve. Stop harassing local business owners and start protecting us from actual criminals! In a city where domestic violence, gun-related incidents and homicides increase every summer, you'd think that the police would have better things to do.
Posted: August 04 2010 at 12:53 PM

Anonymous

its called 'donations' people, you can do it the slippery way, or you can do it the 'sandy-paper' way
Posted: August 19 2010 at 10:35 AM

Jay Belmosto

This shit didn't go on when good Chuck Turner was around
Posted: January 27 2011 at 12:40 PM
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