“This is an attempt to strongarm the City Council into giving them money whenever and for whatever they want.”
Just this week, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission “announced adult-use Marijuana Establishments in Massachusetts surpassed $3 billion in gross sales, according to the information that licensees report in the state’s mandatory seed-to-sale tracking system and is publicly available through the Commission’s Open Data Platform.”
“These sales figures illustrate the steady growth Massachusetts residents expected when they voted to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2016, and the Commission was appointed in 2017,” Commission Executive Director Shawn Collins said in a statement.
Meanwhile, in cities and towns across Mass, officials are having a field day with the host agreement and impact fees that have come with those sales. An impact fee is exactly what it sounds like—money that dispensaries must pay to local overseers who are legally extorting them. Those monies are then designated for programs and purchases that prohibitionist elected leaders deem related to the impact of recreational cannabis. As will surprise nobody, cops across the commonwealth have feasted on these funds.
In Easthampton, the city took in more than $1.4 million in impact fees between 2020 and 2021, plus more than $1.5 million in excise tax revenue that has come back to the city since 2019. They also have funds from a so-called “drug forfeiture account,” some of which the Easthampton Police Department recently used to purchase a Tesla SUV. One Muskmobile wasn’t enough though, and so the chief showed up at last night’s City Council hearing to order a second Tesla, along with police kits and charging stations for two Teslas, for a total of $89,864.
Claiming that the purchase “plays into the climate emergency resolution” that the Council previously passed, the environmentally-minded top cop said that the Teslas would mostly be used for traffic details, and had the city’s conservation agent on hand to back the initiative. For this prudent purchase, the city will receive about $15,000 in eco grant funding, they told the council, and explained that the purchase will not only ultimately save taxpayers money but is completely necessary since the only alternative is an electric Mustang sedan. They also noted how Ipswich police have Teslas, and say they’re awesome.
Not everybody bought into the bullshit. One resident, Donavan Lee, testified, “Not only does the Easthampton Police Department not need another vehicle at this time it’s another incident in a pattern of the Easthampton Police Department acquiring funds and equipment with a lack of public input. The EPD has repeatedly applied for grants with no public process and then come to the City Council and said, We need this money or the grant money is going to go to waste.”
Lee politely trashed the councilors for frequently turning down schools and libraries for money they need for operations, all while giving the police a blank check.
“This is an attempt to strongarm the City Council into giving them money whenever and for whatever they want in an attempt to bolster their already large stockpile of weapons, vehicles, and hi-tech surveillance equipment with as little oversight as possible,” Lee added. “It would not be an ecological benefit to buy another car we don’t need.”
In a subsequent testimony, resident Shelby Lee added, “There is no way that appropriating this money is a reflection of the majority of the community. The funds you are using—whether they’re from cannabis revenue, the city’s free cash account, or grant funding—that money belongs to the people of this city.”
In the end, councilors approved the funding, with just one dissenting vote.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.