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‘A huge change’: How Massachusetts’ first year of recreational marijuana sales went for consumers, police, neighbors

People waited in line for hours in the snow and rain on the opening day of sales of marijuana to the general public at New England Treatment Access in Northampton on Nov. 20, 2018.JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images

One year ago this week, Massachusetts’ first legal recreational marijuana sales began in Northampton and Leicester. Since then, the state has licensed 33 cannabis stores, which together have generated $364 million in revenue.

To mark the anniversary, the Globe asked a range of marijuana stakeholders to weigh in on how they think the recreational rollout is going. Responses have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Stephen Mandile, Uxbridge selectman, combat veteran, cannabis advocate seeking to open a marijuana store

“We’re still battling the idea that opening a dispensary is going to bring drug dealers and all sorts of crime to your town. Being a selectman in a town with a dispensary, the only complaint was the sign not being big enough to see where it is. There’s been no uptick in crime, people’s property values aren’t going down. Honestly, the biggest problem is finding a negative impact to spend the 3 percent impact fee on.”

Al Minor, 46, cannabis consumer from Roxbury


“Walking past those police officers [with just-purchased legal cannabis] and having them not looking at you like you’re doing something wrong, man — that, for me, is the biggest thing. We shouldn’t lose sight of that. It’s a huge change. . . . It’s a change you can see. You know it’s there. It’s tangible.”

Laurie McKinzey, Newton resident and businesswoman who opposed recreational marijuana stores

“If we’re going down this path of allowing stores in Newton, which we’ve decided to do, we should do it the right way. In addition to providing access, we should also be doing it in a way that we can ameliorate the damage that the war on drugs has done to communities and individuals. I don’t think we’re doing that in Newton, which is really surprising, given what a liberal community it is.”


John Carmichael.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

John Carmichael, Walpole police chief

“Some of the cruxes of legalization really haven’t panned out for us, public safety-wise. Reducing the burden on the criminal justice system, reducing arrests and people involved in marijuana crime, protecting youths from diversion or from access to marijuana products, OUI [impaired driving] hasn’t been resolved yet — those issues that really supported the purpose of legalization haven’t panned out yet, and hopefully they will. In five years, 10 years from now, maybe it will.”

Dr. Sharon Levy, substance abuse treatment director, Boston Children’s Hospital

“When you deliver a drug in a fast burst to the brain, that’s the most addictive pattern. At high concentrations [of THC, marijuana’s primary psychoactive chemical], the health consequences start to really raise safety concerns and public health concerns. I just don’t see any regulation moving in that area. Instead, we see an industry driving us to call everything ‘marijuana,’ regardless of what it really is. We’re telling everybody, ‘All this is fine,’ until we have a disaster and then, ‘Oh well, that’s not fine.’ We tend to be very reactive, not proactive.”

Vanessa Jean-Baptiste, Brockton marijuana entrepreneur and state economic empowerment applicant

“They don’t want black people in this industry. You have to really sell yourself for people to take you seriously, and that’s just not fair because if it’s a white man, all he has to say is, ‘I want to be in this industry,’ and more doors will open, compared to a black person trying to get into this industry. It really sucks. We just have to fight.”


Jim Borghesani, former spokesman for the 2016 campaign to legalize recreational cannabis

“Consumers are buying cannabis in a clean, regulated location that’s safe, from people who check IDs and pay taxes. We’ve seen no incidents of sales to minors, no incidents of crime around any of the locations, we haven’t seen any indication of surrounding businesses losing property value or business. All the doomsday scenarios voiced by opponents during the campaign simply haven’t materialized.”

Amanda Rositano.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Amanda Rositano, president of New England Treatment Access

“The real key for us, in dealing with challenges, is making sure that we are really collaborative with the communities in which we operate and making sure that we’re transparent and professional in our operations. We’ve had few challenges — with the exception of what we’re going through in Brookline right now.”

Dan Saltzman, neighbor of NETA in Brookline Village who wants NETA, one of America’s busiest cannabis stores, to require customer appointments

“Marijuana legalization is the right thing to do. We shouldn’t be arresting people for smoking pot. But the way we are selling it is not right. The stores should be smaller.”

Ruthanne Fuller, Newton mayor

“The most important decision we made was that [Newton’s cannabis store] Garden Remedies is appointment-only. That has made a significant difference in the impact. At the store itself, we’ve had no traffic issues, no parking issues, no loitering issues. We’re quite different from our neighbors in Brookline, which has had quite a different experience.”


David Narkewicz, Northampton mayor

“We’ve seen an uptick in visitorship to the city, which is a positive from an economic development standpoint. . . . [Our marijuana store, NETA, has] been good members of the business community and obviously have created high-quality, good-paying jobs in the community. So from my perspective, the first year has been nothing but positive — and obviously the city has benefited from the revenue.”

Terry MacCormack, spokesman for Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker

“The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to working with all stakeholders including the Cannabis Control Commission, the Legislature, and local officials on the safe and responsible implementation of adult use of marijuana. To address this evolving public safety landscape, the administration has introduced comprehensive legislation that would update laws to keep the Commonwealth’s roads safe, by adopting implied consent for chemical drug testing that has long existed for breath tests, expanding training of drug recognition experts, and filling other gaps in state law in this area.”

Nichole Snow. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Nichole Snow, Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance executive director and medical marijuana patient

“The fear is that the priority has been licensing adult-use stores and not keeping a balance with opening medical outlets and adult-use outlets equally. The patients don’t want to see a mad rush toward that more lucrative [recreational] market.”

Felicia Gans of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Naomi Martin can be reached at naomi.martin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @NaomiMartin. Dan Adams can be reached at daniel.adams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Adams86.