On pot, just say yes and no

While no one is yet declaring the wall of opposition to the retail sale of recreational marijuana has been demolished, there are a few cracks beginning to appear that are letting some smoke seep through.

In the year since statewide voters approved Question 4 allowing for legal adult use of pot, more than 100 communities have voted to ban or enact a moratorium against the sale in their borders, including nearly all the 73 towns that voted no.

But now the tide appears to be turning slightly, with many voters seeing the potential revenue flow that could stem some of the cuts in services and programs that local budgets are beginning to hit. Brewster is the latest town to reject both a ban and a moratorium when Town Meeting voters said no to proposals from selectmen.

What’s especially notable about the Brewster vote is town voters turned thumbs down on Question 4 in 2016. It was the opposite of what Milford voters did last month when the town, which favored the referendum by a 52 to 48 percent, enacted a ban in a special election.

The victory in Brewster, where voters there went 52 to 48 percent against the 2016 ballot initiative, followed a vote in Marshfield, where town meeting members also reversed the 51-49 percent decision to oppose the statewide question by rejecting a proposed moratorium.

Unlike Milford, which received enormous attention locally and nationally as a bellweather for the legal marijuana movement, Brewster’s campaign was a quiet grassroots effort that focused on the financial benefits. One advocate showed estimates the town could reap $700,000 or more annually from tax revenue from the sale of legal marijuana.

The cash question appears to be winning hearts and minds, albeit slowly, as the race to ban slows down. Last week, Dracut town meeting members rejected a proposal to enact a moratorium while voters in Amesbury went to the polls to turn down an outright ban. Both communities voted in favor of Question 4 last year, with Dracut narrowly approving the measure by a 51.5-48.5 percent margin while Amesbury loudly declared they wanted pot, voting 59-41 percent in favor.

One problem for both sides is the disinformation that is being offered by proponents and opponents of legal marijuana. In Dracut, for instance, one official told the Town Meeting that state officials “encouraged” communities to “hold off” on opening the way for sale, cultivation, and manufacturing of retail marijuana products until the Cannabis Control Commission drew up regulations. That appears to be untrue. No one at the state level has made such a pronouncement and, in fact, the commission chairman Steven Hoffman said he is agnostic on community votes and would not counsel cities or towns one way or the other when to hold a vote or whether to approve or reject bans.

On the other side, proponents declare that the black market is thriving and can only be curtailed by the legal sale of regulated and tested marijuana. Many concur with that, but one speaker in Brewster took it a step further by claiming illegal marijuana is being laced with the potent drug fentanyl, causing untold overdose deaths by unsuspecting users.

That claim has been debunked by a number of news outlets, which found no evidence of fentanyl-tainted pot involved in overdoses despite claims by some law enforcement officials, including the Yarmouth Police Department.

While the recent votes to reject bans and moratoriums aren’t countering the wide-scale implementation of bans, it indicates that there may not be the wholesale “marijuana deserts” some proponents are fearing. And, if the experiences of some towns in places like Colorado that are starting to reverse decisions to ban pot sales are any indications, the communities here that just said no may rethink their actions.

JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL

The House approves legislation giving inmates early release options. (State House News) A Herald editorial calls on the Legislature to include expanded wiretapping powers for law enforcement officials in the final criminal justice bill being worked on.

Robert Cordy, a former Supreme Judicial Court justice and chief legal counsel to Gov. William Weld, cautions the Legislature against swinging the pendulum too far the other way and reversing or weakening laws that he says played a role in the state’s dramatic crime reduction of recent years. (Boston Herald)

Gov. Charlie Baker said Democratic Rep. Paul Heroux’s plan to serve out his term while also serving as mayor of Attleboro is “insulting.” (State House News)

Massachusetts lawmakers appear poised to appropriate $45 million to complete broadband work in western Massachusetts. (Berkshire Eagle)

The Baker administration awarded a $1.7 million Massworks grant to the Greylock Works mill complex in North Adams. Greylock Works is an old mill complex undergoing an overhaul in preparation for redevelopment. (Berkshire Eagle)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Arena football is coming back to Worcester and the DCU Center, as the Massachusetts Pirates are launched. (Telegram & Gazette)

As crime concerns grow in Pittsfield, town officials consider building a youth center. (Berkshire Eagle)

Haverhill is preparing to purchase the streetlights in town from National Grid and install more efficient bulbs. (Eagle-Tribune)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A fifth woman has accused former Alabama judge Roy Moore of sexual misconduct when she was 16 but, unlike other women who said their encounters didn’t go beyond kissing and touching, the new victim claimed Moore tried to physically force her to perform oral sex. (U.S. News & World Report) Despite Moore’s refusal to drop out of the US Senate race, Republicans were looking at ways to either force him out or, should he win, immediately expel him and replace him with former senator and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (New York Times)

A sixth woman said George H.W. Bush groped her at age 16. “What does a teenager say to the ex-president of the United States?” asked Roslyn Corrigan.

He now comes off as a gentle and doting husband and grandfather, but we should not, writes Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic, “forget the sex crimes of which the younger, stronger Bill Clinton was very credibly accused in the 1990s.”

Justice Department officials said they might appoint a special prosecutor to look into allegations from right wing groups about donations to the Clinton Foundation and actions by the Obama administration in allowing a Russian company to buy uranium. The announcement set off fierce reaction that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was being manipulated by President Trump to investigate his political rivals and take the focus off probes into his ties with Russia. (New York Times)

Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs says the Republican tax cut proposal would be the “daylight robbery by the super-rich against the rest of society.” (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

All of the knocks on him notwithstanding, Joe Biden might be the Democrats’ best hope for 2020, says Joe Battenfeld. (Boston Herald) His colleague Jaclyn Cashman disagrees. (Boston Herald)

CommonWealth alum Gabrielle Gurley, now at the American Prospect in Washington, explains how proponents pulled off a decisive 59-to-41 percent win in last week’s ballot question to expand Medicaid in Maine.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Public defenders rally in Roxbury, Worcester, and Springfield demanding the right to collectively bargain for higher wages and job security. (Telegram & Gazette)

General Electric’s new CEO calls 2018 a “reset year” and confirms that dividends will be cut in half. (Boston Herald)

Walmart finally files plans for a supercenter at the William Stanley Business Park in Pittsfield. (Berkshire Eagle)

A new report by Fidelity Charitable based on surveys of 3,200 donors says two out of three would like to give more but money constraints and lack of transparency by nonprofits stops them. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

It is counties in the country’s midsection, not on its coasts as many believe, that have experienced the biggest income gains since 1980. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

The president of Berklee College of Music says 11 faculty members have been fired for sexual assault or harassment over the past 13 years. (Boston Globe)

The debate in Brookline over where to site a new elementary school has become a full employment act for lobbyists and PR firms who are cashing in on the strong views by various groups and institutions. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The state Department of Public Health reported that opioid overdose deaths were down 10 percent in the first nine months of this year compared to the same period a year ago. (State House News)

The FDA approved a pill with a sensor that can track when it was swallowed, which should allow caregivers to know whether medications are being taken. (Bloomberg)

New guidelines from the country’s leading heart associations will mean that half the nation’s adult population will meet the criteria for high blood pressure. (New York Times)

TRANSPORTATION

The state is spending $800,000 a year shoring up a structurally deficient elevated section of the Massachusetts Turnpike in Allston that is used by 145,000 motorists each day. Replacing the roadway won’t be easy because it is now part of a complex $1 billion initiative to remake the Turnpike and the area surrounding it. (CommonWealth)

The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board reached its first impasse on Monday over whether to allow alcohol advertising on the T. (CommonWealth)

Massachusetts is preparing to hire a debt collection firm to pursue out-of-state toll evaders. (CommonWealth)

Seventy-four percent of Massachusetts adults support Boston-Springfield rail service. (MassLive)

CASINOS

With 3,000 people to hire, MGM Springfield opens a career center. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Margaret Monsell of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute reports on how the Trump administration is targeting undocumented Bay State residents. (CommonWealth)

An FBI report said Massachusetts had the highest rate of hate crimes in the nation last year. (WBUR)

A Fall River police officer shot and killed a 19-year-old New Bedford man as he was driving away from a loud outdoor party at an industrial park. Officials gave no reason why the officer shot and police found no guns at the gathering. (Herald News)

Federal officials are targeting the pension of a former Quincy police lieutenant to try to recover money they say was stolen as a result of his corruption conviction for  double-dipping. (Patriot Ledger)

A Lowell Sun editorial is highly critical of State Police Col. Richard McKeon for ordering that the arrest report of a judge’s daughter be edited to remove embarrassing comments she made. McKeon could collect a pension of $188,000 a year after quickly announcing his retirement last week in the face of the controversy. (Boston Herald)

PASSINGS

If you didn’t know why it was important to note the death of former state Veterans Affairs secretary Thomas Hudner at the age of 93, read Peter Gelzinis’s column. (Boston Herald)

Red Sox Hall of Fame second baseman Bobby Doerr, the last surviving member of the quartet of players and lifelong friends that included Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, and Dom DiMaggio who were forever memorialized in David Halberstam’s book The Teammates, has died at the age of 99. (Associated Press)