The 96-year-old co-founder of this Massachusetts cannabis dispensary wanted to give people jobs and ‘a better – masslive.com


Everyone at the Western Front cannabis dispensary in Chelsea looks up to Marvin Gilmore.

Not many would guess that a 96-year-old who has never used cannabis would want to build a dispensary. But for Gilmore, breaking into the cannabis industry was just another way to create opportunities for communities of color. As he put it, a way to find people who needed jobs and a better way of life.

“You take them off the street and give them something to do. Very important,” Gilmore said in a phone interview from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where he was recovering from a recent surgery. “There’s not many opportunities or ideas for us and so this came about when cannabis went mainstream, so we took it and we ran with it.”

Gilmore’s name is not a new one in Greater Boston, and this venture just another addition to a resume rife with accomplishments. He’s a World War II veteran and was the President and CEO of the Community Development Corporation of Boston for decades, staying involved from the 1970s until December 2014. He’s also a co-founder of the Unity Bank and Trust Company in Roxbury. And, Gilmore ran the Western Front club in Cambridge, a popular spot for reggae until it closed in 2013.

“I’m a workaholic, by the way,” said Gilmore, his charisma seeping through the phone. “My life, I’ve been working and bringing jobs to the community and changing the lives of people. That has kept me young.”

When the opportunity to start a dispensary, one that is part of the state Cannabis Control Commission’s economic empowerment program, came up, Gilmore and Dennis Benzan worked to get a team together.

Benzan, the former vice mayor of Cambridge, and Gilmore are co-founders of the dispensary. Western Front has more than 20 investors, the majority of whom are Black and

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