I am an Amherst Town Meeting member. This past Monday we started deliberating at the Special Fall Town Meeting. There are seventeen articles on the warrant including five that deal with marijuana.
In 2016 Massachusetts voters legalized recreational marijuana. A few years earlier the state permitted medical marijuana. In the years following passage of medical marijuana, Amherst received four applications to establish medical marijuana dispensaries. The four are in various stages of development but none are open yet.
With the legalization of recreational marijuana, all four dispensaries have the option of either adding retail sales to their practice or converting to a solely retail establishment. I believe that at least some of the four applicants knew recreational retail use was coming and wanted to be first in line to access the large sales market that is likely to exist in a college town.
Three of the four will be located on a road that leads to the University of Massachusetts. The state voted for legalization with a little over fifty percent while Amherst voted for it with a seventy percent margin. Some municipalities have rejected having any retail marijuana outlets while Amherst is moving ahead with both medical and recreational facilities.
In the Town Meeting discussion about how many retail outlets to have (we decided on eight) as well as what zoning restrictions to place on retail establishments, I noticed a lot of fear. Unlike alcohol, the legal sale of marijuana is a new thing. Some people spoke about marijuana being safer than alcohol while others pointed out the problems with alcohol use that should not be repeated.
It is interesting that alcohol is the frame of reference for most people. If alcohol was being newly legislated would there be such easy access? It is possible that one hundred years from now marijuana will occupy a comparable level of acceptance.