Some of the most controversial laws to be passed in the 2014 national elections were the legalization of recreational marijuana in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C. These states joined two other states, Washington and Colorado, where marijuana was legalized in 2012. While no new legalization occurred in Massachusetts, it is important to be aware of the changes and campaigns in our own state as laws around the country change.
The results of this election are reflective of the widely growing support for the integration of marijuana into mainstream US economic culture. Today, medical marijuana is legal in 23 states including Massachusetts, whose rapid acceptance of marijuana has put it on the fast track to becoming another state with legalized marijuana use. In 2008, Massachusetts decriminalized the possession of the drug, and the legal sale of medical marijuana was approved in 2012. 35 dispensaries, five per county, are expected to be established and open for business in the state by 2015.
In August, The Boston Globe reported that state-approved medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Massachusetts have found it difficult to find banks that will permit loans and assist in funding their business. This is because many banks still see marijuana, especially the sale of marijuana, as illegal and morally irreproachable, despite numerous medical uses of the drug, such as treating epileptics and decreasing stomach pain in cancer patients.
Despite how the drug has been proven to treat these types of conditions, it still falls under the federal government’s Controlled Substances Act. The FDA states that “the illegal importation, manufacture, distribution, and possession and improper use of controlled substances have a substantial and detrimental effect on the health and general welfare of the American people.” CSA was put into effect to monitor the “importation, manufacture, distribution, and possession” of controlled substances, like marijuana. Banks are reluctant to fund a medical marijuana dispensary because, while it legal in some states for medicinal purposes, marijuana itself is still an illegal drug according to the Federal Code.
In February, The Patriot Ledger stated that a dispensary will open in West Quincy by the non-profit company Ermont, Inc. Needham’s Wicked Local confirmed that this dispensary will most likely open in early 2015. The 36,000 square foot dispensary expects to serve over 2,000 patients within its first year of operation. While it expects to lose money during its first year of operation, the dispensary anticipates a profit of at least $9,000 in its second year. Overall, Jack Hudson, CEO of Ermont, Inc. anticipates a total revenue of over $3.5 million in the first year. The dispensary will not only sell marijuana to be smoked, but also marijuana infused commodities such as drinks, gummy bears, brownies, jerky, and pill-forms.
Along with Ermont, Inc. in Quincy, the state has approved 11 more dispensaries that will open in nearby cities such as Brockton and Brookline. The Patriot Ledger reported in early October of this year that with doctor’s approval, a patient may purchase and carry “up to 10 ounces of marijuana over a 60-day period” at $350 an ounce.
Politicians and marijuana advocates are already planning ahead to the 2016 elections. Although recreational marijuana wasn’t approved in Massachussets in the 2014 elections, many are optimistic about what 2016 has in store. Massachusetts, Arizona, California, Nevada, and Maine are serious contenders for the newest states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, according to reports from The Washington Post. Campaigns that support legalization have spent upwards of $2 million dollars. According to The Boston Globe, the Marijuana Policy Project, which spent nearly $2 million in the Colorado legalization campaign, plans to invest in the Massachusetts campaign as well.
While the future of legalization of recreational marijuana remains unknown, representatives of the campaign in Massachusetts have expressed that the drug would be taxed in the same way that alcohol is currently taxed. While many residents lean towards a universal agreement for legalization, there seems to be just as much financial and physical support for campaigns that oppose the future legalization in Massachusetts. Lawmakers and police forces have spoken out against it already, saying that legalization will “have detrimental effects on families, especially youth,” according to A. Wayne Sampson, executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. The many voices of opposition will ensure that having a 2016 ballot question about the issue is, at this point, very much up in the air.