Public health and addiction prevention professionals have been closely watching the development of regulations for, and roll-out of, a recreational marijuana industry in Massachusetts. Many concerning policies are being institutionalized with many public health and prevention professionals sounding the alarm regarding the “Social Equity Program” and all associated components included in the Cannabis Control Commission’s regulations, driven by industry representatives, both internal and external to the process. These regulations increase availability and access of marijuana to populations who are already disproportionately affected by youth marijuana use: One quarter (24.5%) of Massachusetts youth (grades 9-12) used marijuana regularly (past 30-day). LGBTQ and Latino youth have higher use rates and students who identify as “multi-racial” are almost twice as likely to use marijuana regularly (45.8% compared to 24.5%) (Monitoring the Future 2015). Although, on the surface the “Social Equity Program” sounds like a good idea, the Cannabis Control Commission’s regulatory language drives market growth, targets communities with high unemployment rates (low income), minorities, veterans, the LGTBQ population, and is counter-productive to the state’s addiction prevention goals.
UPDATE May 13, 2018: It is becoming increasingly important to act quickly if your community wants any measure of local control over commercialized, recreational marijuana establishments. The temptation to ban just retail establishments and to allow cultivation and testing is to be avoided.
If it is believed that the sale of this drug is in not keeping with your prevention goals and in conflict with the character of your community, then it is hypocritical to allow it to be grown and taxed in your community and then exported for sale to your neighbors. The pot lobby is actively promoting and over promising possible tax benefits. Oversupply in Oregon has caused a dramatic price collapse. [“How do you move mountains of unwanted weed?”] Taxes are tied to revenue which is tied to price. As prices collapse, so does your tax revenue. Your costs escalate regardless. Your town is likely to get very little in revenue to offset regulation, inspection and enforcement of these establishments, let alone undo ill effects of increased youth and adult use. Where there is more pot, more kids use. Some revenue is not worth taking.
UPDATE: April 20, 2018–Added links to public service announcement, parental advisory ad, local town opt-out page.
UPDATE: November 16, 2017: Updates include addition of the excellent opt-out language passed by Longmeadow; and a link to a video of testimony to Bridgewater Town Council: “Commercial Marijuana Opt Out | What Every Elected Official Should Consider”
UPDATE: October 31, 2017–Having received an interpretation from Beacon Hill we have updated this post to once again advise that both a General Bylaw and Zoning Bylaw with identical language be voted on by your community’s legislative body. Nowhere in the recreational marijuana law does it explicitly require a Zoning Bylaw as the confirming action of a local legislative body. Therefore a General Bylaw, only requiring a simple majority vote (51%) is believed to be sufficient to confirm a community’s desire to Opt-Out or ban recreational marijuana establishments. Zoning Bylaws require a super majority (2/3 affirmative) vote to pass. It is recommended, out of an abundance of caution, that your community in addition to voting a General Bylaw vote on a Zoning Bylaw (after voting on the General Bylaw). Regardless of the outcome of the vote on the Zoning Bylaw, the General Bylaw is expected to be sufficient to uphold an Opt-Out intention of a community.
UPDATE: October 9, 2017–After the passage of House Bill No. 3818 that became the recreational marijuana law in July 2017, the process for opting out of commercial recreational marijuana activity has changed slightly since Westborough became the first of about 30 communities to do so before this compromise law was signed by Governor Baker. A growing number of more than 100 communities have either Opted-Out or have passed moratoriums on recreational, commercial marijuana establishments citing among their reasons:
- incompatibility with the character of their community
- addiction for profit during a national addiction and overdose epidemic
- impacts of marijuana on brain development
- health and mental health harms of heavy use
- increased availability and reduced perception of harm as a driver of youth and heavy general population use
- increased community costs of enforcement, regulation, and hospitalization
- some revenue is not worth taking
The law applies differently to each community based on whether that community voted in opposition (No On Q4 Community) or support (Yes on Q4 Community) of ballot Question 4 in November 2016.
Here is our understanding now based on information from the Massachusetts Municipal Association: Continue reading Massachusetts Commercial Marijuana — How to “Opt-Out” — An Action Plan
State House News Service
BOSTON — One year ago, the battle over whether marijuana should be legal for adults to use was raging in Massachusetts. Now that it’s settled, the combatants are still engaged in a skirmish over how the legal marijuana market should be structured and regulated in Massachusetts.
The Cannabis Control Commission is in the middle of a series of listening sessions around the state and organizations from both sides of the legalization debate are hoping to pack those sessions to sway the commission’s regulations in their favor.
“We need the prevention community’s voice heard at these meetings,” the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance, which opposed medical marijuana and adult use legalization, wrote to supporters in an email Tuesday. “PLEASE arrange your schedules to attend the remaining four of seven sessions THIS WEEK.”
Jody Hensley, policy adviser for the Prevention Alliance, said the organization wants to make sure community health supersedes interests of the marijuana industry as the CCC writes the rules of the budding industry.
“The overarching point is that the Cannabis Control Commission needs to be very clear that this drug is not harmless,” Hensley said. “Our government is here to protect us from the excesses of industry that could harm the public, and the Cannabis Control Commission is here to protect the people, not the industry.” Continue reading Opponents speak out as pot-control panel tours state
VOTE YES to OPT OUT to KEEP OUT Pot Shops:
When do we vote?
TOWN ELECTIONS BALLOT – Tuesday, March 7, Westborough High School, 8am-8pm
TOWN MEETING – Saturday, March 18, Westborough High School, 1pm, (potential continuation to Monday, March 20, 7pm)
Do we have to vote twice?
We encourage you to vote twice. The two voting venues are independent of each other. If you are unable to vote twice, it is absolutely fine to just vote in one of the two voting dates.
Why do we need 2 votes – Town Ballot: Tues, Mar 7 and Town Meeting: Sat, Mar 18-20th?
To avoid the state mandate in the new marijuana law that our community host pot shops, we must “opt out.”
To “opt out” of commercial pot sales requires a “vote of the voters” to pass a “bylaw” preventing pot shops. A “vote of the voters” occurs at the ballot box. A “bylaw”, however, must be passed on the Town Meeting floor. To withstand legal challenge, Westborough, under the current law, must do both. The Board of Selectman and Town Manager are referring to it as a belt and suspenders approach.
Who can vote?
To vote you must be a U.S. Citizen, age 18 and older, and a Massachusetts resident. You must register 20 days prior to the election. Continue reading Massachusetts Commercial Marijuana Law Opt Out — Westborough Voter Guide