Massachusetts voters gave a big thumbs up to Question 4 on the November 2016 statewide ballot legalizing cannabis use for adults 21 years and older. The ballot initiative also established the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission to regulate the sale of marijuana. Retail sales began two years later, in November 2018.

So here it is September 2021, and you still can't buy a joint in New Bedford – unless, of course, you buy it illegally on the street from a dealer. Why is that? That's a good question.

Many of those eager to roll up to a brick-and-mortar establishment to purchase a dime bag, if there is still such a thing, believe there is a conspiracy to keep legal pot out of New Bedford. They might insist that crooked politicians are pocketing payoffs to keep you driving to Fall River or Wareham to get the ganja.

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The reality is the folks who are permitted to sell legal pot in New Bedford are having a tough time executing their plans. So far, only one has secured the financial backing to open a pot shop. That would be Ascend, which is rehabbing a property on Coggeshall Street. That will likely be the first retail marijuana shop to open in New Bedford.

Financing for a planned retail marijuana shop on Hathaway Road collapsed, forcing the developers to begin the process all over again with new investors. In fact, they were before the New Bedford Planning Board for a permit this week.

Ian Abreu, the chairman of the City Council's Cannabis Committee, told me of the four host agreements approved by the city, only the Ascend project is progressing. Two other developers had issues with property owners and have failed to launch. Abreu said there are four new host agreement applications currently pending with the Mitchell administration.

To be blunt, the inability of project developers to move their projects forward is why New Bedford has no pot shops at this point. It's as simple as that.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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