Joseph C. Sullivan
Mayor of Braintree
To quote Albert Einstein, “What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.” As mayor of Braintree I support the ability of our municipality to opt out of recreational marijuana sales, and I believe it is in our best interest to enact such a ban.
In November 2016, when state voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana, a strong majority of Braintree residents voted “No” on the ballot question. This July, the Massachusetts Legislature passed “An Act to Ensure Safe Access to Marijuana,” one of whose provisions allows communities such as Braintree to “Opt Out” of recreational marijuana sales. Since ours is a community that garnered a majority of “No” votes on the recreational marijuana legalization referendum, the process involves the initiation of legislation by the town’s Executive Office and approval by the Town Council body.
I adhere to the stance of public safety officials who have been consistent in expressing a concern that allowing recreational marijuana sales to the public would require a significant shift in current police resource capability.
As mayor I’ve chosen to look at the overall marijuana usage issue in a sequential and deliberate manner. I begin by first supporting the will of Braintree’s voters, as reflected in their 2016 ballot vote, to prohibit the possibility of recreational sales of marijuana as allowed under the rules and guidelines spelled out in the new state marijuana law.
The next step is to take action to create new, safe, and responsible zoning designed to control the potential placement of any medical marijuana facilities within our community’s boundaries. This new zoning would be restrictive in nature, yet still allow for the proper placement of medical marijuana facilities in less densely populated or outlying areas of the community.
Individually, I support medical marijuana, as prescribed by a medical doctor, and its potential to help thousands of medical patients with serious medical conditions. Considering that there are a number of surrounding communities that have already implemented medical marijuana cultivation and/or medical marijuana dispensary facilities, a decision to venture into the medical marijuana area will be done carefully and with a thorough public vetting process.
The voters of Braintree didn’t want it, but the legalization of recreational marijuana won in the state last November. Within the compromised version of the law signed by the governor last month are options for Braintree and other communities. Among them, we can decide to ban all recreational marijuana facilities, we can ban retail sales but allow cultivation centers, or we can collect revenue from retail sales along with the rest of the state.
Banning retail sales in Braintree will lead cannabis shoppers out of our community. Braintree will be left behind to watch while those around us profit. We will idly count all of the potential dollars that we have lost before we decide that we have made a big mistake. Braintree will still have a thriving community of cannabis sales, but it will be in the illicit market, which is often dangerous, usually untested, and always untaxed.
It is possible that Braintree will prohibit retail sales but allow cultivation centers. But Braintree can do better. Banning retail sales would make the town ineligible to adopt the 3 percent local option tax the new law allows. Through host agreements, the town could collect up to 3 percent of the local growers’ revenues. But those agreements are limited to five years with no assurance that they would be renewed.
Braintree should instead consider aligning with the will of the majority of Massachusetts voters by implementing retail sales. Those sales would help to ease the opiate crisis by providing access to a safer drug, create jobs, and generate revenue for Braintree that would otherwise go to either the underground economy or surrounding communities.
If the town allows them, retail cannabis shops can be zoned to reflect the charm of Braintree and should not be a reason for alarm. The ability to patronize retail shops would benefit medical marijuana users including veterans, the disabled, and elderly people by providing them convenient access to a larger variety of cannabis products. We should also stand with the rest of the state and offer retail sales to many adults who legally use cannabis and want to support a strong Braintree economy.
Last week’s argument: Should the MBTA privatize its Quincy, Arborway, and Lynn bus maintenance garages?
Yes: 2 percent (15 votes)
No: 98 percent (645 votes)
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.