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.”
“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.”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.”