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One-Third of All Massachusetts Communities Restrict Marijuana Businesses

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Nearly one-third of cities and towns in Massachusetts have implemented moratoriums or full bans on recreational marijuana businesses. Another 47 localities are considering it. A majority of the restrictions are temporary so that local officials can have time to properly craft regulations.

Twenty-nine local areas have voted to permanently ban recreational marijuana businesses, according to The Boston Globe.  In 39 municipalities, the residents didn’t want a ban or moratorium, but local officials chose to act on their own agendas. There are also cases where local leaders made decisions regarding bans/moratoriums without much feedback from residents.

These bans will force residents of some areas of Massachusetts to drive a considerable distance to make legal purchases once they begin. If current legislation to give local municipalities more power in determining their own stance on recreational marijuana becomes law, it may further hinder the industry before it even gets started.

Jim Borghesani, part of the group that sponsored recreational marijuana legislation, said, “If people have to drive 40 miles to get legal marijuana, they’re just going to drive 2 miles to get illegal marijuana. We’re going to see the criminal market stay in business, and we’re going to see tax revenue lost. It simply doesn’t make any sense.”

Opposing Mayor, Martin J. Walsh, is concerned about legal marijuana being unfairly concentrated in Boston. Question 4 requires a community vote to instill bans and limit the number of recreational marijuana businesses allowed in the community. That changed in June when the House approved changes allowing the elected officials to make the decision, not the voters. The Senate, however, doesn’t agree with this.

Governor Baker supports the House’s version. Also supporting the House version is the Massachusetts Municipal Association. Their support comes as they say local governments don’t have enough time to put the decision on the local voters.

Geoffrey Beckwith of the Massachusetts Municipal Association said, “Forcing the inefficient and extremely difficult process of zoning by referendum would only force communities to delay for months or years, which works against the interests of the industry.”

Even with some compromises in place, the House and Senate are still deadlocked on several issues. These issues may further delay the rollout of recreational marijuana.

John Napoli, who runs a hydroponics shop, said, “At the town level, decisions are made more on emotion and irrational fear. If local officials can just obstruct and obstruct, Massachusetts could easily lose this golden opportunity to be the first place with recreational sales on the East Coast.”