In November of 2016 the residents of Massachusetts voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Nearly two years later, there’s still nowhere to buy it. A variety of regulatory hurdles still need to be cleared before the people of Massachusetts will be able to purchase marijuana legally, including state inspections of all licensed dispensaries. In addition to state barriers, local zoning boards are getting in the way, largely due to unfounded worries about where the dispensaries will set up shop.
Despite the November 2016 vote, actual marijuana sales only became legal in Massachusetts on July 1 of this year. Yet so far, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission has only granted one retail license, and it went to a dispensary that currently distributes medical marijuana.
The state’s slow progress is matched by some local governments. Some municipalities, such as the town of Boxborough, have temporary bans on recreational marijuana so they can fit dispensaries into their zoning laws. Any temporary bans were supposed to expire this December, but Massachusetts’s attorney general recently gave local governments permission to extend their bans until June of 2019.
So why the slow progress at the local level? Like other “undesirable” businesses such as bars, strip clubs, and tobacco shops, some residents in towns and cities across Massachusetts are worried that marijuana dispensaries will pop in places they don’t want them. Several residents in Boxborough and New Bedford are worried that dispensaries may locate near schools, playgrounds, senior centers, or places of worship. Locals also don’t want dispensaries in residential areas for fear that they will compromise the character of neighborhoods.
The state has already taken care of the school concern by making it illegal to locate a dispensary within 500 feet of a school, and local