OPINION | Chris McCarthy: Hit Pause on Pot in Massachusetts
State and local officials are calling on the state marijuana regulators to pause the rollout of some recreational options for consumers.
Mayor Walsh of Boston, Governor Baker, Speaker DeLeo and all of the District Attorneys are urging caution on the upcoming retail sale of recreational marijuana. They want to limit the sales of recreational pot to storefront operations only. The Cannabis Commission wants to offer a multitude of options including on-site consumption and delivery service to customers in addition to storefront businesses.
Advocates of recreational marijuana have a lot of legitimate reasons to feel frustrated by the process since the voters legalized pot in 2016. The legislature tried to raises taxes immediately on the industry. The Cannabis Commission has been slow to develop regulations and that has forced many municipalities to enact moratoriums on marijuana sales. For many marijuana enthusiasts, this is their first time closely following the give and take of lawmaking too.
It is in the interests of the supporters of recreational marijuana to see this roll out is done correctly. A disastrous rollout risks a public backlash and a legislative reaction that could kill this industry off before it gets a chance to prove itself to the public.
Think about the legal alcohol business in Massachusetts when you think about retail pot sales. Today, an adult over 21 years old has multiple options to purchase and consume alcohol. They can walk into a liquor store and purchase all different types of alcohol in various strengths and quantities and consume it on private property. They can go into a bar or restaurant and consume alcohol on site.
All of the retailers of alcohol are licensed and regulated by local and state government. The complex system of alcohol distribution to consumers and its governance has developed over decades and been adjusted occasionally for the benefit of the public.
Now imagine if we had just legalized alcohol and tried to open all of the bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and liquor stores at one time? It would be impossible to manage all of the brand new establishments providing consumers with an intoxicating substance. What once wasn't there, people using alcohol would suddenly be everywhere and it would be shocking to the public.
The experienced public officials know the state isn't ready to properly govern all the options for retail marijuana the Cannabis Commission wants to authorize. Remember, before they were the Governor and the Speaker, Baker and DeLeo were Selectman in their hometowns and they oversaw liquor licenses on a daily basis.
Editor's Note: Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m.-Noon. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.