A federal jury subpoenaed extensive documents from the City of Boston Thursday in relation to alleged marijuana dispensary license corruption, according to The Boston Globe. The office of U.S. District Attorney Andrew Lelling is investigating possible bribery in the office that distributes permission to open marijuana businesses in the state.
The legalization of marijuana has had varying reactions from Massachusetts residents, especially in the neighborhoods and suburbs that now house dispensaries. Long lines at the Brookline dispensaries has led to a demand for more locations, but residents are wary of increased crime and other consequences of more dispensaries.
This costs of legal dispensaries in their neighborhoods seem to outweigh the benefits of the legalization of marijuana for these communities and will likely continue to until the burden is lifted from those areas.
It is so difficult to get a marijuana license in Boston that only one applicant has been able to do so yet, which is another reason change in the city’s process could benefit both residents and the industry. Residents have been put out by the inability to access marijuana despite the long period since the statewide vote for legalization in 2016.
No one is protesting the opening of new liquor stores that have eventually been assimilated into society, certainly more than marijuana use that has even been approved for medical use.
The current system leaves the decision of which dispensaries can open up to a small amount of officials that make the choice in private and without having to report their reasoning for their decision. This leaves the door open for extensive corruption and bribery, which as it turns out, likely occurred.
City Councilor Kim Janey has introduced a plan to implement a council that evaluates applicants for marijuana dispensaries, publicly discusses and then votes on their approval. It is always better to publicize government processes as much as possible and leave as little to be unknown by residents.
Additionally, since the arbitrary nature of the decisions cannot be completely eliminated given that not every dispensary that applies and meets the objective requirements can open up shop in the city. But this is a good step forward to involve the population more in the decision-making process.
Ultimately, Boston’s trend toward corruption charges under Walsh is an unfortunate look for the city that could have been easily prevented if the policies that led to the situations had been more carefully considered. The city councilor’s plan to publicize the process is the right kind of reform needed to address the issues at hand in the distribution of marijuana dispensary licenses.