Most people know that last year, Massachusetts voters passed a ballot initiative to allow regulated sales of marijuana. What fewer people appear to realize, however, is that the same initiative also allows cities and towns to permit on-site consumption.
By the end of 2018, the Commonwealth is expected to at least have open adult-use cannabis dispensaries similar to liquor stores. Less certain, however, is whether any of them will be allowed to offer on-site cannabis use similar to what bars offer today for drinkers.
As Jim Borghesani of the Yes on 4 campaign breaks it down, “Right now, social clubs can allow on-site consumption. The definition of a social club would be that members pay dues and the consumption takes place in the club by members who supply their own product. No sales allowed on site.”
He continues, “A cannabis cafe, where you can buy and consume on site, is allowed under the law. But there’s a process. First, you’d have to gather the signatures of 10 percent of local voters based on the prior statewide election to get it on a local ballot. Then you’d have to win the ballot vote. Then you’d apply for a license from the [state’s Cannabis Control Commission].”
Good luck doing that in Boston under the current city leadership.
Prohibitionist BPD Commissioner William Evans recently complained on radio that he smells marijuana being consumed all over the city. Considering that Boston hosts many college and graduate students as well as renters who aren’t typically allowed to use cannabis in their dorms and apartments, it’s not that surprising that many feel safer smoking outside on the common rather than in their leased units. If Evans and his boss, Mayor Marty Walsh, had any sense about sensimilla, they would consider that increased access for on-site consumption could help alleviate that public use issue. But again, don’t count on it.
With Boston being the largest city in the Commonwealth, a municipality whose residents voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana last November, it would seem to be a prime locale for those wishing to open such a green establishment. With that in mind, I asked City Councilor Tito Jackson, who is running for mayor against Walsh, about the issue on my WEMF Radio show, The Young Jurks. Would he support on-site consumption of cannabis in Boston?
“I think it is something we should explore,” Jackson answered. “As you know, there would be a ballot initiative. I think it is something we should pose to the people of Boston.”
He continued: “The other interesting piece here is we saw democracy in action with the cannabis initiative, we saw individuals who are supposed to be forward thinking and deal with these issues who were not; nobody wanted to move it forward, and it was the people who made it happen. This is literally one of the best shows of democracy we’ve seen in a long time in our state.”
As for places where people can consume…
“I believe these are things we should explore,” Jackson added. “I look at the cannabis industry as part of the innovation economy, and we need to think of it in the same way as we treat startups and the same way as we think of them with the economic upside. I also think there is an opportunity for equity. I want to see Boston-based businesses sprout up, businesses run by women and people of color. I’d also like to see a cooperative run by people with [criminal records]. We need to define success as real inclusion and ownership. I think we should be open to it and explore it, and the best place to do it is with a ballot question. We are talking about grown folks, for adults.”
Asked about Jackson’s cannabis bona fides, Borghesani reminded me, “Tito endorsed Question 4, attended numerous rallies and editorial board meetings to speak for the legalization effort. He was a strong and visible advocate.” As for Mayor Walsh, Borghesani calls him a “staunch opponent.”
At the same time, Walsh has waffled. As Jackson noted on my show, “Within days of The Young Jurks endorsement of my campaign, Mayor Walsh changed his mind about adult use cannabis, and now for some reason he’s now on track with cannabis … Sadly, that’s the issue of the leadership, or lack thereof, in the city of Boston. If you remember, he was for [bringing] the Olympics [to Boston], and after he was against them.”
Borghesani sums it up, “It seems clear to me that Tito’s early embrace of the legalization effort would make him a stronger natural ally for the new industry.”
Indeed. And especially if you care about on-site use.