Alcohol: A road map for marijuana in Mass.
If you’re curious about the future of legal marijuana in Massachusetts, the liquor industry might offer some guidance.
Like marijuana, the manufacturing, sale and transport of alcohol were once illegal. The 13-year period, known as Prohibition, ended in 1933, and there are similarities between the years that followed and what’s happening today with the rollout of adult-use marijuana, also known as recreational marijuana.
“There are some really interesting parallels between the end of Prohibition and the legalization of marijuana,” said Stephanie Schorow, author of “Drinking Boston: A History of the City and Its Spirits.”
Today, more than 74 Massachusetts municipalities have banned retail sales of adult-use marijuana, preventing retailers, often referred to as “pot shops,” from opening within city or town limits. The same thing happened after Prohibition, as cities and towns decided to remain “dry,” meaning alcohol sales were not allowed.
Ultimately, over time, the local decisions were largely reversed. It happened most often when an economic boost was needed, according to Ms. Schorow, a Medford resident.
“When towns needed revenue, they opened up the liquor laws,” she said. “It stimulated the growth of local restaurants.”
Fast forward 85 years and there are a still a few holdouts. Eight towns remain dry: Alford, Dunstable, Chilmark, Gosnold, Hawley, Montgomery, Westhampton and Mount Washington. Another eight don’t have a single alcohol retailer. But the 16 boozeless communities pale in comparison to the 335 wet ones.
As of March 3, the state counted 12,098 retail liquor licenses, including package stores, restaurants and clubs, according to data shared by the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. Per capita, Cape Cod was the “booziest” region, led by Provincetown. The iconic seaside town at the tip of the Cape boasted roughly one liquor license for every 34 residents.
Among towns with at least one liquor license,