By Jean Bradley Derenoncourt
April 20, 2018
April 1st marked the opening of applications for businesses selling legal marijuana products in the Commonwealth. The law, favored by resident voters in 2016, permits Massachusetts, and its municipalities, to regulate the growth, distribution, and dispensation of these products.
I supported the initiative in 2016, as did a majority of our residents on Ballot Question 4, for many reasons. Current national laws have led to racial prejudice and discriminatory incarceration. The best scientific studies available have demonstrated clear medical benefits to cannabis use, including a potential decline in opioid deaths (an issue very close to us here in the Commonwealth). And states that have already taken action are seeing new tax revenue, and those revenues are growing every year.
Now, as the Council prepares for discussions on the issue, I want to make it clear that I fully support the city of Brockton becoming home to recreational cannabis businesses.
The progress that’s been made over the past several years has put to rest many perceptions about the dangers and pitfalls of recreational cannabis retailing and use. We can now safely and adequately measure opinion against evidence; we’ve tested old theories, and while public debate is critical in all matters, much of the debate around short and long-term impacts of legal recreational marijuana has become settled.
Cannabis retailers present no adverse effect on property values, nor do they lead to urban decay. Nor has the regulated sale of cannabis products led to any reported increase in underage use, crime, or as a pathway to opioid addiction and death.
The Massachusetts law, which went through numerous phases and was subject to significant debate, prohibits retailers from advertising to minors, and requires restrictive packaging against access to children. It allows for host communities to tax the product above the mandatory state tax, which will generate much-needed revenue for the city. Retail licenses will be offered and provided only to the most compliant and thorough applicants.
Massachusetts has positioned itself well, as other states have served as both precursors and models for what we may be able to expect and anticipate here. Leaving aside Colorado’s relative windfall of tax revenue, Massachusetts lawmakers focused their energies on a cautionary approach, postponing certain elements of the bill until further information was made available.
We’ve empowered the CCC (Cannabis Control Commission) to research perceived issues. We’ve set ourselves up to mitigate the risks presented in the legalization and regulation of any industry. And we’ve adequately and appropriately measured opinion and perception against available evidence. The best conclusion, now, is that we face a real opportunity to improve our local economy.
It’s true that Brockton is not Denver; Massachusetts is not Colorado. But based on all available data, it’s more than reasonable for us to expect similar benefits. All serious predictions, over time, anticipate a robust, well-regulated industry emerging. This new industry affords not just increased legal employment around cannabis, but jobs for contractors, electricians, builders, and workers across the community.
What we can and must do, on the City Council, is engage in the debate now. No more postponing. And we must ensure the process in Brockton is done correctly.
Most importantly, we must ensure that any tax revenue is directly appropriated into education, public safety initiatives, and infrastructure. I’ll fight hard for this.
While we can certainly understand reticence and caution, we must also understand that this is a clear opportunity for growth in Brockton. That growth is not limited to the short-term. What’s on the horizon for us is a sustainable industry, with proven models of success across multiple states and communities.
We should take advantage of this opportunity, for the benefit of our residents, our community, our city, and our future.