Baker’s reasoning on marijuana is incomprehensible
Treating cannabis differently than alcohol makes no sense
I AM TRYING, like everyone else affected by Gov. Charlie Baker’s shutdown of adult-use cannabis sales, to understand his reasoning. As a cannabis grower with two dispensaries and 90 employees, I can’t.
Baker cited long lines at dispensaries and out-of-staters coming into Massachusetts; both are easily fixed. Broadcasting that out-of-state sales will not be allowed will stop the influx of out-of-staters and the long lines will disappear as soon as the governor allows adult-use sales to continue. The lines were caused by fear of closure, just as there were lines for medical marijuana as well as alcohol, lines that disappeared when they were allowed to remain open.
Deeming alcohol essential because the risk of death to alcoholics, if cut off from their supply, seems to imply that if marijuana were addictive and deadly, like alcohol, then adult-use sales would have been classified as essential. I cannot even begin to understand that argument or the underlying policy statement.
It is interesting to note that the regulations, which were implemented to govern legalized adult-use marijuana in Massachusetts, specifically provide its purpose to be regulation in a manner similar to alcohol. It is unfair to now deny the shared history and purpose.
Little to none of this is being implemented at grocery stores, take-out restaurants, or liquor stores. Punishing an industry that has set the standard for protecting the health of its employees and customers is incomprehensible.
Equally incomprehensible is the economic costs of the cannabis shutdown. I recently presented $88,000 to my hometown of Millis, my first payment of the 3 percent payment levied as part of our host community agreement. On top of that, our retail marijuana sales are subject to a 10.75 percent excise tax plus the 6.25 percent state sales tax, plus an additional 3 percent tax levied by the state that is returned to the town.
That’s 23 percent in sales taxes and other payments alone in a state-wide industry that was projected to pump $1 billion into the economy by 2021. We are at least as valuable to the economy, and probably more, than the liquor industry, which last year paid $97 million in excise tax. Yet liquor stores enjoy “essential business” protection under indefensible rationale and illogical reasoning.
The irrational cannabis shutdown disproportionately affects the few of us that are home-grown, independent, women-owned, and economically empowered. Unlike multi-state operators, we cannot issue more shares of stock or engage in another round of financing. We cannot go to traditional banks and ask for a bridge loan to tide us over. The $2 trillion dollar stimulus package just passed has no provision for cannabis companies.
And, most important, where will those customers who now can’t get legal cannabis turn? One very dangerous aspect of the adult-use ban is the return to the black market. The street dealers will seize this opportunity to regain those customers who switched to the legal market and prey upon those new to cannabis. Their untested product and devices may lead to the same scenario considered when the governor instituted the vape ban not long ago.
Why not just get a medical card? Many can’t afford the consultation fee with a doctor to get the license. Some do not want to be on a list kept by the government. Others have designations that won’t allow medical cards, like veterans who will lose their benefits. Others cannot maneuver the steps involved and still others don’t believe that they qualify.The point is, many people use marijuana, purchased on the adult-use side, for medical purposes. Anxiety tops the list, but many others suffer from depression, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, migraines, insomnia, and chronic pain. I know firsthand from speaking with many customers over the last few weeks that anxiety and panic attacks were worsening with each passing day. It is difficult enough for many people to get through a normal day; it is outright cruel to deny people the products that they need during a time of crisis.
Ellen Rosenfeld owns CommCan – The Commonwealth Cannabis Company – with her siblings Marc and Jon. CommCan operates a recreational and medical marijuana store in Millis and a medical marijuana store in Southborough.