Not only Westport: Many Massachusetts communities holding off on recreational marijuana sales
By Eli ShermanGatehouse News Service
Although commercial sales of marijuana will be allowed beginning July 1, most Massachusetts residents will find it difficult to find a retail shop open for business that day.
That’s in part because, as of May 8, nearly two-thirds of the 351 Massachusetts cities and towns had either banned or implemented a moratorium on the local retail sales of adult-use marijuana, also known as recreational marijuana, according to data compiled by GateHouse Media, the Massachusetts Municipal Association and the Attorney General’s Office.
Westport town meeting voters recently reaffirmed the consensus of an April town election ballot question to ban the sale of recreational marijuana in town. Meanwhile, in Dartmouth, the Planning Board is drafting a recreational marijuana sales zoning bylaw ahead of the year-end expiration of its own moratorium.
“It’s a whole new industry with multiple concerns and considerations,” said Geoff Beckwith, executive director and CEO of the Massachusetts Municipal Association based in Boston.
Local decisions so far signal widespread caution and rejection of commercial sales, one of the latest iterations of adult-use marijuana legalization. Voters approved adult-use marijuana by referendum in 2016 and the state has since established a series of regulations and guidelines.
July 1 marks the start of commercial sales, meaning cannabis products will be available to retail consumers similarly to alcohol, although on-site and public consumption will continue to be prohibited. Much to the chagrin of cannabis advocates, at least 74 communities, including Westport, have already taken pre-emptive measures and permanently banned such sales.
“The illicit market is still going to be there, so they’re really just sticking their heads in the sand,” said Maggie Kinsella, spokeswoman for The Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, a cannabis advocacy group based in Reading. “They’re not keeping it out of their towns. They’re just keeping legal