As of today, there are zero medical or recreational cannabis shops operating in New Bedford. The city has just implemented a May 6 deadline for applications.

The city of New Bedford has been cautiously proceeding forward on allowing recreational marijuana shops to operate within its borders. This is a major cultural change and the tight living quarters of an urban environment require a thoughtful and deliberate process.

The city of Boston is also without a single operating recreational marijuana shop, too. There is a shop open for business in Fall River and one in Wareham.

There are complaints from some hopeful marijuana entrepreneurs that the city is too restrictive with its zoning by-laws and with its marijuana business regulations. Some of those complaints are rooted in a lack of understanding about how zoning by-laws are crafted and from a lack of experience with government regulations.

The people of New Bedford voted in the current mayor and city councilors and those elected representatives put together the rules and regulations. This is how the system works. This is how the system has worked for generations. Long before pot was legalized, the city was electing local residents as mayors and councilors and those local folks were making decisions on zoning and local regulations.

The city voted in 2016 to legalize recreational marijuana. That was the beginning and the end of the voters' direct involvement in the question of recreational marijuana and that is a good thing. The details of each local rollout are properly left up to the local elected officials in each city and town.

Mayor Jon Mitchell and the city council have set a high bar for who they are willing to grant the right to sell marijuana legally in their city. Are high standards a bad thing? They are looking for people who have experience, good character, and the financial ability to operate properly.

The deadline for applications is an important and smart development for the city. The conversation on recreational marijuana will move from the abstract to the concrete once the city sees exactly what the future looks like.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 

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