Anyone looking for a test case of how to legalize marijuana but then do everything else completely wrong — almost as if one were trying to un-legalize marijuana, almost! — should look no further than the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Mere weeks after 53.66 percent of voters joined majorities in California, Nevada, and Maine to allow adults 21 and over recreational access to the plant, lawmakers in Boston began picking at the law, looking for loose strings to start pulling.
First, in a special session called over the Christmas holiday, elected officials — most of whom went on record opposing legalization ahead of the vote — decided to delay by six months the opening of retail marijuana stores. Next, Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (both of them legalization foes) led an effort to pull a backroom “repeal and replace” of the voter-approved law.
Adults are expected to be allowed to enter the first retail locations to buy cannabis sometime next summer, a full year after recreational stores opened in Nevada and six months after stores are scheduled to open in California. When they do, there’s unlikely to be any marijuana for sale.
According to marijuana industry experts, cannabis buyers in Massachusetts will be greeted by a marijuana shortage. Unlike in Nevada, where stores ran out of cannabis thanks to a flaw in the state’s distribution system, Massachusetts’s pot crisis will be presaged by bad timing. There simply won’t be enough growers to supply demand.
The first recreational marijuana cultivation licenses won’t be issued until June 1 of next year, with stores to open a month later. Anyone with the slightest familiarity with grow cycles will tell you that a month isn’t enough time to grow, harvest, and cure consumer-ready cannabis, unless all you want to do is juice raw leaves. Current medical-marijuana producers will have first dibs at a recreational license, but as other states have demonstrated, adult-use customers far outnumber medical patients.
As a result, “The first places to open up will sell out in less than a week,” Peter Bernard, president of the Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council, told Masslive.com. Another expert predicted chronic chronic shortages for up to two years.
There are currently 12 dispensaries in Massachusetts serving a population of more than 6.8 million people, only 400,000 of whom are patients. Once recreational dispensaries open, demand is expected to increase by three to four times — and quite possibly more. For perspective’s sake: The city of Portland, Oregon, with a tenth of the people, has 10 times as many recreational dispensaries.
Why does Massachusetts keep making predictable mistakes? Again, it’s almost as if legalization isn’t something shot-callers in the state want. Almost.
TELL US, do you think Massachusetts want the recreational cannabis program to fail?