Walsh: Legalizing marijuana ‘huge mistake’

Mayor won’t block pot shops, but not welcoming them

SOME WIRES APPEAR TO BE CROSSED at Boston City Hall.

One of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s top aides said at the end of last month that the mayor has changed his tune about pot, that the one-time opponent is now embracing the industry as an economic engine and comparing it to alcohol in its social and commercial impact.

But on Wednesday, after a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Walsh stated emphatically that his view about pot has not changed. He said he is not going to try to block the opening of pot shops in Boston, but he is not happy about them coming to the city.

“I personally think it’s awful and a huge mistake,” he said. “I would rather not have any pot shops in Boston, but the voters of Boston spoke. They voted the law in.”

Walsh said he wouldn’t consider leading a referendum campaign to keep pot shops out of Boston, but he sounded as if he wouldn’t mind somebody else playing that role.

“If somebody wants to start [a referendum campaign], they can start it, but I’m not going to start it,” he said. “It’s not a battle that the mayor of Boston should get into initially. If somebody started a referendum to end pot shops in Boston, would I make my position known? Probably. But I’m not going to be out there pushing it.  The people of Boston spoke, so I don’t think it’s my place to go out there and try to stop it.”

Walsh’s tone on Wednesday was very different from that of Jerome Smith, Walsh’s chief of civic engagement, who told CommonWealth at the end of August that the mayor was embracing the pot industry.

“This is a new industry that is going to provide jobs for residents,” Smith said then. “These dispensaries are also going to be economic generators, same as alcohol licenses. There’s social ills with both products, but when we as the city look at economic drivers, the mayor told us to treat it how we treat our alcohol establishments.”

Smith also said Walsh was no longer concerned about Boston becoming the destination for people wanting to buy pot, but the mayor on Wednesday said that’s not true.

“I get worried that, as more cities and towns back out of this, everybody comes to Boston. We don’t need that,” he said. “I think there’s 102 or 103 towns that have already voted out of the law. Many of those towns voted [originally] for the pot law. You can’t have it both ways. We can’t have Boston, Springfield, Worcester be the places that are going to absorb all of these shops.”

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Walsh said he wants Boston to pocket 6 percent of pot sales. The marijuana law imposes a 20 percent tax on marijuana sales, with 17 percent going to the state and 3 percent to the host community. Host communities can also negotiate agreements with pot shops to recover 3 percent of sales to cover administrative costs.

“A lot of people are going to be upset about these shops coming to our city,” Walsh said. “A lot of people are going to be upset about where they will be located. But there’s not a lot we can do. The voters of Boston and the voters of Massachusetts supported bringing these shops to Boston.”

  • VM101

    Perhaps he will be pleasantly surprised.

  • Don Jumpsuit

    When you use the word “Pot” for Cannabis, nobodies going to take your opinion seriously anyway. It is kind of the same word(s) I use for Mayor Walsh, unfortunately none would pass censorship filters here in this forum. A weak coward of a politician gets what he deserves in the end.