Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: Opening of recreational marijuana stores moves state forward, but overdue

After many months of anticipation, two recreational marijuana stores in Massachusetts will finally be opening their doors to the public Tuesday.

The two shops — Cultivate Holdings in Leicester and New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Northampton — have been planning this day for a while. This morning, throngs of crowds will have lined up, ready to get their hands on some of the first for-sale legal cannabis.

While this is an exciting time for the Commonwealth, the opening of recreational stores has been long overdue. The Cannabis Control Commission, the committee responsible for advocating for the measure ever since it was passed in 2016, has taken its time with bringing plans for retail marijuana dispensaries to fruition.  

Even though the opening of the dispensaries reflects well on a liberal state like Massachusetts, we cannot assume that all politicians are on board. Several state politicians, such as Rep. Joe Kennedy III and Gov. Charlie Baker, have voiced their anti-marijuana stance. In 2018, it’s disappointing to see that fairly liberal politicians are still skeptical about marijuana when there has been research done that shows the positive health impacts of cannabis.

Nevertheless, retail marijuana stores will definitely bolster the local economies of these communities, which is promising for people who live there and business owners as well. Diners around these Massachusetts towns might even see an uptick in customers tomorrow.

It’s important to keep in mind that while these specific shops are opening tomorrow, there are still many hoops that interested owners of recreational shops have to jump through: products being sold at stores have to go through testing at new labs that have opened. While these labs opened to ensure there is nothing additionally laced with the products, testing is yet another step that slows down the opening of pot shops. In addition, the Commonwealth has only allowed two of these labs to exist so far for all of the potential Massachusetts-based shops to open.

With so many people descending upon the shops tomorrow morning, it will be a chaotic day for people working there. This begs the question of why the two stores didn’t decide to open up for business on separate days, as that could have tamed crowds in general. But it looks like the cities have planned for some of the chaos and will be setting up heated tents, providing food and shuttle to and from the parking lot and store.

Unlike many other cannabis shops in other parts of the country that only take cash, Cultivate in Leicester will be accepting debit cards. Not only does this increase access to cannabis products for people who may not have cash readily available, this also presents an interesting role for banks and how these sales will affect them.

Moreover, the president of Cultivate said he wants those with medical marijuana cards to still have access, aligning with this initiative’s supposed purpose. Hopefully, these recreational shops will provide those who need cannabis products for health purposes with increased access.

While it’s exciting that the East Coast will finally be witnessing legalized recreational weed sales, it’s upsetting that Suffolk County has been struggling with allowing permits. There is currently one recreational shop proposed to open on Beacon Street, but many Brookline residents have protested it. The city of Boston in general still seems to be falling behind in taking an initiative in opening pot shops.

Overall, these recreational shops are moving Massachusetts in the right direction and prove that we could be moving forward as a nation. As long as crowds are monitored tomorrow and the commission continues to move along with retail shops applications, the state will probably see more of them in the future and maybe some even in Boston.

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