By Kris Washington
Recreational marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts during the 2016 national election. Now, cities and towns must decide whether to change existing bylaws to prohibit recreational stores within their borders. Towns whose residents voted against recreational marijuana legalization–like Bedford–are allowed to ban recreational marijuana stores from operating in town, impose a moratorium, or pose no opposition. The Special Town Meeting on November 6 is your chance to prohibit recreational marijuana stores from opening in our town.
The onus of deliberating the potential effects of retail sales and presenting this issue to Bedford voters falls to the members of our Finance Committee, Planning Board, and Selectmen. Allowing recreational marijuana shops has implications for Bedford’s finances and property values, zoning regulations, and town resources–not to mention perceptions of residents and neighboring communities.
In recent meetings, the Finance Committee and Selectmen voted to recommend prohibition. The Planning Board voted to recommend a moratorium.
Those surprised to learn that Bedford is considering recreational marijuana can take comfort in the knowledge that all Massachusetts cities and towns must do the same. Our boards and Selectmen are required to implement this state law by deliberating the issue, making recommendations, and bringing the issue to a Town Meeting vote.
The November 6 vote is not about whether marijuana is good or bad for the health of its users–the risks are known and widely reported. This vote is about whether allowing the sale of recreational marijuana is good for the health of the town. Here are some of the reasons allowing recreational marijuana sales in Bedford seems like a bad idea.
Reason 1: Banning recreational sales does not limit medical marijuana availability. This vote is to allow recreational marijuana stores–not medical dispensaries. A medical dispensary is conveniently located just 15 minutes away in Lowell. Bedford has already passed zoning for a medical dispensary and nothing–including a ban on recreational sales–is stopping a medical marijuana dispensary from opening here.
Reason 2: There is an important difference between marijuana sales and alcohol sales. Some argue that if alcohol can be sold in Bedford than marijuana should also be allowed. But alcohol is not being positioned and sold as medicine. Since the marijuana lobby began spending millions convincing people that marijuana is medicinal, the number of high school-aged people who perceive any danger from marijuana has dropped consistently.
Reason 3: There is nothing natural about today’s commercialized and refined marijuana products. The marijuana being sold in recreational stores is genetically-engineered to contain exponentially more THC than naturally-occurring plants. But much of what’s sold in these stores are highly processed distillates (“dabs”), candies, gums, lotions, pills, and other products. Pictures are available in a previous article. Resident Erica Liu provides excellent commentary and examples of commercial products in her October 10th article. Commercialized recreational marijuana is not about selling naturally occurring plants that have been consumed by humans for eons. It’s about selling high-potency THC products that have never nor could ever exist in nature.
Reason 4: Potential tax revenues are not significant. Bedford does not need whatever taxes may be gained from allowing the sale of marijuana. Commercial real estate activity, local businesses, increasing population, and high housing values support the town’s healthy tax base. Not only could a recreational marijuana store in town deter families or businesses from locating here, but taxes from the sale of recreational marijuana may not outweigh the town’s need for additional drug education, law enforcement, and emergency medical resources.
Reason 5: It would send a bad message to young people.Allowing the sale of recreational marijuana normalizes the drug and reduces the perceived risks. It also sends the message that the majority of residents do not believe that the potential risks of selling recreational drugs in town outweigh the potential benefits.
Reason 6: Minors are at greater risk where recreational marijuana is sold:A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics entitled “ER visits related to marijuana use at a Colorado hospital quadruple after legalization: More than half of teens’ marijuana-related visits also involved psychiatric evaluations.” published May 4 indicates that previous assertions that legalization does not adversely affect teens needs to be reevaluated. Marijuana gets into the hands of minors and leads to adverse health effects in areas where recreational marijuana has been legalized.
Reason 7: Drugged driving and traffic increases. Drugged driving accidents and deaths have increased in places where recreational marijuana is sold. “In Colorado, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 48 percent after the state legalized recreational use of the drug.” according to an April 16 article in the Washington Post. Traffic in Bedford may also increase from drug tourism.
Selling recreational marijuana in Bedford seems like a bad idea. But don’t take my word for it. Take the word of the Massachusetts Senate who strongly cautioned against recreational legalization in its 2016 “Report of the Special Senate Committee on Marijuana”. Please attend Special Town Meeting November 6 to make your vote count.