September 18, 2017:- This evening the Select Board held a listening session to hear suggestions from the public on the subject of local regulation of marijuana stores. Before opening the floor to public comment, the Select Board heard from Geoff Kravitz, the Town’s Economic Development Director, who identified places where recreational marijuana license-holders would be able to site their stores. Several of the possible locations are on University Drive. One is on Pray Street (where I have my law office, coincidentally).
The state law prohibits towns from limiting the number of marijuana stores to fewer than 20% of the number of alcohol-package stores. So if Amherst has, say, 40 such stores it cannot set the maximum number of marijuana outlets at fewer than eight (20% of 40). That is the very number that Rob Crowner said the Planning Board would likely recommend. So, if Town Meeting concurs, over the next few years Amherst could become home to eight recreational marijuana stores.
My request to the Select Board was a simple one: Dedicate all the funds that Town receives from marijuana stores (taxes and impact fees) to harm reduction. Adolescents who use marijuana regularly face an increased risk of depression and suicidal ideation, and tend to suffer from diminished cognitive skills, according to the American College of Pediatricians. The cost of trying to remediate that damage is likely to consume every dollar we receive from marijuana taxes and then some.
That would be better than becoming dependent on marijuana, the way the Commonwealth as a whole depends on the State Lottery to pay for public education. If you were ever curious about the source of Local Aid, look no further. About $980 million comes from the people who buy lottery tickets. All sorts of people buy lottery tickets, of course, but the typical purchaser is not a champagne-swilling, yacht-sailing member of the One Per Cent with a weekend getaway on Nantucket. For an overview of who wins and who loses in the lottery, click here.
It is bad enough that we have opted to flout the Controlled Substances Act and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution of the United States in the knowledge that our course of action will result in widespread harm. It would be even worse to profit from that harm and get hooked on the resulting tax dollars the way we are hooked on the State Lottery. Let’s not supplement our institutional gambling addiction with a marijuana addiction. Better to set the money aside, I think, and use it to try to undo some of the damage we have chosen to cause.
Expect to see at least two marijuana-related articles on the warrant for Fall Town Meeting, which kicks off November 6. If you would like to chime in, just complete the form below.