There are already more than a dozen marijuana dispensaries in Boston, but many readers think there should be more, and they support municipal changes to make that possible.
Mayor Michelle Wu supports a push to streamline the licensing rules to open new dispensaries in the city by removing the requirement for businesses to be approved by both the Boston Cannabis Board and the Zoning Board of Appeal. Should the new rules pass the state legislature, only the Boston Cannabis Board’s approval would be needed.
This move would simplify the process, particularly for “equity applicants,” or local owners disproportionately impacted by drug arrests, according to the Boston Globe.
We asked Boston.com readers if they support the city’s attempts to make it easier for dispensaries to get their licenses approved, and 54% said they think it’s a good idea.
Philip W. from South End, like many other readers, said he’s all for a less complicated licensing process, as long as it benefits small businesses and not large corporations. He argued the proposed changes should only be for “small businesses with a Boston-only base.”
“Neighborhood groups have way too much say in where a dispensary goes,” he said. “But big corps should be prohibited [and] local corps should have priority.”
Critics of the city’s plan say removing the Zoning Board of Appeal’s approval from the process will cut Bostonians out of the decision-making about how dispensaries will impact their neighborhoods.
In our poll, 57% of readers said they’d be OK with a new dispensary opening in their neighborhood, although even those that did acknowledged that not everyone would be comfortable with the smoke and smells that might invite.
“As long as the government understands many people don’t like the smell of marijuana, just like many don’t like the smell of cigarettes, it’s fine to streamline the process,” Kevin from Cambridge said. “Probably should have more restrictions on how to contain the smell from leaking into public areas from the dispensaries.”
Aside from the licensing process, readers had other suggestions for how to better manage the city’s cannabis industry. Danny from Quincy said efforts would be better spent on deregulation.
“Although I am for less obstacles towards opening a dispensary, the city should be prioritizing work with the state Cannabis Control Commission to deregulate the industry,” he said. “The amount of testing and regulations in place drives prices up and quality down. Farm to table? My latest jar of flower was packaged FIVE months ago. This is why people continue to make the trip to Maine.”
The cost of the products came up with other readers as well. Streamlining the licensing process to open a dispensary is good for business owners, but Vann from Dorchester said the city should also be concerned with improving the experience of consumers.
“Hopefully, with more stores, the prices will go down. The Massachusetts politicians have totally messed up this process. The entire system is anti-consumer,” he said. “If there was a textbook on the cannabis industry, Massachusetts would be the chapter on how not to open the cannabis industry in your state. People are still buying from the black or grey market because it’s cheaper, more convenient, and just as good.”
Boston.com readers shared their thoughts on the current cannabis landscape in the city. You can find some of their responses below.
Some entries may be edited for length and clarity.
Should Boston streamline the marijuana licensing process to allow for more dispensaries?
“Southie has liquor stores on every corner, why can’t it be the same for marijuana? This is what we call capitalism, let the market decide if there are too many.” — Phil, Southie
“Marijuana has to be accessible to all in order to be accepted by all communities in Boston. If dispensaries only open in rich or poor neighborhoods, then the stigma of marijuana will only get worse. Furthermore, more dispensaries mean more opportunities for passionate small businesses to thrive. If all dispensaries are small businesses, then many people are much more likely to support their neighbors and less likely to buy marijuana illegally.” — Andrew B., Dorchester
“I think it would be good for consumers. More competition helps with fair pricing. Also, more convenience for consumers.” — Bob H., Arlington
“Anything that can lead to lower prices, as well as easier access, is appreciated. This is especially important to the elderly who use these products for aches and pains.” — Carol N., East Cambridge
“I don’t see how it makes good business sense to open another dispensary right now — we already have so many! But if someone has the desire and the capital to open a dispensary, then we shouldn’t get in the way of them. Just like we should not be limiting the number of establishments that can get liquor licenses. We should make it easier for local entrepreneurs to open businesses. Instead, the red tape leads to outside investment from larger corporations that care more about profit than they do our city.” — Kevin, East Boston
“Let the supply and demand dictate the number of dispensaries. Right now the people with an abundance of resources are securing the dispensaries. Let good service and good product prevail!” — John A.B., Brighton
“There are already too many, way too many young people are on it, way too many people behind the wheel while under its influence. I am for legalized pot, but there have been serious unintended [issues] we need to address before expanding dispensaries. It is still a drug and if you want legalized drugs we need to develop a greater culture of responsibility and courtesy around them. For instance, subjecting people who do not smoke pot to your marijuana smoke is just not polite and can affect people with health issues.” — Brian, Malden
“The city is only concerned about how to milk all of those applying for dispensaries licenses. However, I don’t see any efforts on regulating marijuana consumption in public spaces, or driving.” — Isah M., Arlington
“Seriously, why is this necessary? Twenty years from now new studies will point to the damage to adolescents because of this time in which the government and marijuana dispensaries normalized usage.” — Phoebe S., Jamaica Plain
“There are too many already and the smell is everywhere when you walk outside in many neighborhoods. It’s terrible.” — Bob, Somerville
“There are enough already. Why do we need more? Although I have no problem with responsible marijuana consumption and the legality of it, why do we need a dispensary on every corner? You cannot walk through a park without smelling weed in the air, which for many (including myself) is a very unpleasant odor and one that children shouldn’t necessarily be exposed to when playing. Secondly, just as someone shouldn’t be out and about in the city in a drunken state, nor should people be getting stoned in public places and then driving, cycling, or riding public transport. The more dispensaries there are, the more it encourages public consumption which is not what this was supposed to lead to, and not a social benefit.” — Joyce, Cambridge
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinions.