Voters passed the legalization of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts way back in November 2016. Since then, the legalization movement has overcome a number of obstacles, leading to a July 2018 legalization date. But just because recreational Mary J will be legal in Massachusetts doesn’t mean that it will be accessible. As of March 2018, most of Massachusetts’ municipalities have banned marijuana retail.
What Specifically Is Being Banned?
According to reports issued by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, 189 of Massachusetts’ 351 municipalities have banned cannabis businesses.
This extends to marijuana retailers and cultivators.
130 of those bans expire on July 1st and were put in place to give local legislators time to pass marijuana zoning laws.
The other 59 bans don’t have a fixed end date and could resemble the prohibition-style dry municipalities in Massachusetts where alcohol sale is not permitted.
Who Supports These Bans?
In 2016, 54 percent of Massachusetts residents voted to legalize recreational weed. Despite support for legalization, it would seem that few want marijuana to be sold in their neighborhood. Even the 162 communities that haven’t banned marijuana retail have their own, often stringent, marijuana sale regulations.
As Adam Chapdelaine, Arlington’s town manager told The Boston Globe, “There are definitely people who say, ‘Yeah, I want it legal, but I don’t want it next door.’ ”
Locally, the anti-marijuana movement—made up of parents, public health campaigners and conservatives—has gained ground. According to the Boston Globe, out of 100 anti-pot statutes in the state, all but ten have passed.
Additionally, not all towns require their residents to vote on marijuana bans. In municipalities that voted against legalizing marijuana, elected officials can decide whether to ban it or not.
For Those Hoping To Buy Weed This Summer …
You’ll have way fewer options than anticipated.
An attorney representing cannabis companies Jim Smith predicts, “By Labor Day, I can’t imagine there will be more than half a dozen stores. I’m concerned because the public expects something different.”
It seems that legalization in Massachusetts will be disappointing, at least initially. Most people will only have access to legal recreational marijuana through preexisting medical dispensaries that acquire recreational licenses.
What Does This Mean For The Marijuana Industry?
This is bad news for anyone hoping to set up shop in Massachusetts. Many of the municipalities that haven’t banned weed are urban, which translates to higher rents.
Even those who can afford the high rents have to worry about zoning regulations. For instance, local laws can dictate that marijuana retailers be a certain distance away from one another, and from schools.
Municipalities can also set a cap on the number of cannabis businesses.
The Impact of Massachusetts’ Marijuana Bans
Short term, experts predict because most of Massachusetts’ municipalities have banned marijuana retail, the state won’t gain as much in taxes as predicted.
Originally, the state expected to reap between $44 and $82 million annually. In reality, the figure will be much more modest, despite the 17 percent tax on marijuana.
Long-term, marijuana enthusiasts are more optimistic. Many of these restrictions are temporary. Local government will pass more permanent measures after the Cannabis Control Commission finalizes marijuana legislation.
Final Hit: Most of Massachusetts’ Municipalities Have Banned Marijuana Retail
Legalization does not translate to accessibility, at least not immediately. Experts predict that bureaucracy surrounding marijuana sale and cultivation will get worse before it gets better.
This will have a serious impact on state and municipal tax revenue, and reduce business opportunity.
But with the renewed support of marijuana activists on the local level, Massachusetts will hopefully substitute bans for zoning laws.