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Upscale College Learns to Love Loathed Dive Bar, Thanks to Cannabis Legalization

Boston College Learns to Love Dive Bar Thanks to Pot  
PHOTO Jorge Gonzalez


Upscale College Learns to Love Loathed Dive Bar, Thanks to Cannabis Legalization

What’s better than a pit of a dive bar synonymous with lawlessness and drunkenness? Anything, according to Boston College, if the alternative is cannabis.

To generations of Boston College alumni and students, Mary Ann’s — a dive bar on the very edge of Boston, and one of the closest watering holes to the upscale university’s campus — is an indelible part of the college experience.

Like sleeping in the library, getting roaring drunk on a Saturday morning before a football game, sleeping through graduation, going to Mary Ann’s at least once or many, many times (and, quite likely, getting roaring drunk) is a rite of passage.

I can tell you this, for I attended that esteemed institution and did these things and saw many thousands of my peers also doing those things. If I were to judge — and I am — I would say more students did these things than did not. If you were a weedhead, as I was, you slunk off campus with a glass pipe in your pocket and a furtive look on your face and prayed that nobody — not a suitemate with a GameCube-induced grudge or an RA with nothing to do — narced you out.

To generations of Boston College administrators and the Boston Police Department, Mary Ann’s — a haven for underage drinking, dollar-draft-fueled bar fightsgambling scandals and general debauched behavior — has been far less popular. And yet this fall, according to both the chief of Boston College’s (fully sworn and fully armed) police department and the university’s chief of community affairs, Mary Ann’s is a beloved cultural institution, a neighborhood landmark, and, really, not so bad at all… at least when the alternative is a recreational marijuana dispensary.

Over the summer, the bar (which apparently also had issues with staffing, and was frequently closed for random stretches, according to BC Interruption) was purchased by a group of local property developers who also own a few other Boston dive bars.

One thing Boston does not lack for are places to get bombed. Something the city has few of are legal recreational marijuana dispensaries. Recognizing this market inefficiency, as any first-year business student would do, this fall, those developers announced a plan to flip the bar — which apparently enjoyed the right zoning — to a cannabis dispensary company called Happy Valley. Happy Valley already owns a dispensary in East Boston, and floated a plan in October to local merchants as well as the deciders at BC to convert Mary Ann’s into an upscale cannabis dispensary.

And that was right around when Mary Ann’s reputation enjoyed a very swift and very stark rehabilitation. This was when Mary Ann’s fights and shouts and drunks all but became an official stop on the BC campus tour, judging by the vehemence with which Boston College’s administration is opposing plans to stop pouring drinks and selling cannabis instead.

“We are going to fight this and fight this and fight this,” said Tom Keady, the university’s vice president of external affairs, according to The Heights, the campus newspaper. Most of his arguments ran the predictable gamut — pot smoking is bad, dispensaries harm a neighborhood, all the same old dusty exploded myths — but Keady then added an academic twist: Since marijuana is federally illegal, a marijuana dispensary within a bus ride of BC campus jeopardized the college’s 9,000 students’ financial aid.

That’s nice Keady is worried. College is expensive and BC is more expensive than most! However, generally speaking, financial aid is only at risk if the recipient is, say, arrested for marijuana, which is not something that happens when marijuana is legal and when, say, campus police officers do not prowl residence halls sniffing for terpenes and do not conduct illegal searches of students’ dorm rooms. (It appears that BCPD continued to routinely cite students for marijuana even after Massachusetts law was altered to downgrade possession to a civil penalty.)

For his part, BC Police Chief Bill Evans channeled Mayor Marty Walsh, who adamantly opposed 2016’s successful marijuana legalization measure, in suggesting that marijuana was responsible for his “good friends who were well-educated who developed mental illnesses.” One well-known condition that leads to minds disintegrating is called alcoholism, and a good place to learn to drink to excess is college. Imagine the lessons learned at a college dive bar!

Evans apparently also cited a “recent New York Times op-ed” to defend his supposition that pot causes the crazies. We can only assume he meant a recent promotional broadside from former NYT reporter Alex Berenson, who is currently selling a book based mostly on a syllogistic fallacy that since most of the mentally ill patients his psychiatrist wife saw were cannabis users, cannabis must cause mental illness. (To reach Berenson, who spends most of his day very mad and very online, we urge you to send him a tweet.)

It’s not yet clear what will become of Mary Ann’s grand conversion, but things look good — if you like old stanky dive bars. Dispensaries need a letter of non-opposition from elected officials in order to open, and more than a dozen area merchants have signed onto a letter opposing the dispensary, according to reports in the Heights and the Boston Globe.

BC authorities have always hated weed and almost always tolerated ritualized alcohol abuse, so it’s both disappointing and unsurprising to see the university official opposed. It is doubly disappointing for a university to resort to dishonesty and dissembling — even if it means enjoying the spectacle of sacrificing their integrity to embrace a once-loathed dive bar — all for the sake of opposing a legal place to buy recreational marijuana. Campus dealers rejoice: You have a friend in Boston College.

TELL US, do you notice a hypocrisy when it comes to the acceptance of drinking versus cannabis?

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