In 2016, voters of Massachusetts, through a ballot initiative, had approved the opening of pot lounges across the city where cannabis users could get together and enjoy their cannabis.
The public seemed to be highly appreciative of these centers known as ‘social consumption sites’, but the plan did not immediately materialize. Now, more than five years later, new legislation is being introduced to make the plan a reality.
According to Jim Borghesani, Chief Cannabis Officer and part of a team that runs campaigns for making access to cannabis easy, said that the ballot question for bringing cannabis to Massachusetts was included to let voters make their choice.
Despite the choice that voters made, cannabis cafes have not started appearing all across the state because there are legal snags that prevent people from making their choice in the opening of the cafes within the state.
Last week, the Cannabis Policy Joint Committee, a standing committee of the Massachusetts State Legislature, returned to the legislative body favorably after discussion, a bill that would clear the obstacles in the path of opening the cafes, establish a Trust Fund for bringing about social equity in the cannabis industry, and introduce tighter restrictions on the contracts entered into between cannabis businesses and their host communities.
Through the work of the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) of Massachusetts, the regulatory framework for the programs is already set up. Once the bill becomes law, it will be possible for six to 12 municipalities to be part of a pilot program on a trial basis for three years.
Groups that are likely to get licenses first are microbusinesses, economically underprivileged groups, and local Massachusetts cultivators of cannabis formed as a corporation and known as craft marijuana cooperative.
The towns of North Adams, Amherst, Somerville, Springfield, and Provincetown, are the ones likely to get the license first as they have already partaken in a group activity relating to the issue. However, more cities are bound to be interested in having cannabis cafes, and it will take time to get more details of interested communities.
Tito Jackson, CEO of Apex Noire, the first fully Black-owned marijuana business in the Boston area, and a former member of the City Council of Boston, has expressed his keenness in having a consumption site in Boston. He has already started discussions with hotels and other centers on providing discounted rides for those unable to drive back on their own.
Sen. Julian Andre Cyr, who represents the Cape and Islands district, and had introduced legislation regarding the matter, opined that though summer visitors to the place had dispensaries to purchase cannabis, they had no proper place for consuming it.
According to him, the opening of the cafes does not require high investment, and they are one of the best ways for helping communities, which were disproportionately affected by the earlier drug policy, by encouraging small businesses. He also added that having a proper public space for consumption would help those without their own residence, or who were unable to consume it at home because of the presence of children or other issues.
According to Jim Borghesani, the laws that govern dispensaries would govern cannabis cafes also. The sites will not be allowed big advertisements and will not have inside windows that would make the purchases visible. Zachary Ments, who currently owns a cannabis dispensary, has his own unique ideas on a good cannabis consumption experience.
Doing yoga under the influence of cannabis, a multi-course meal that contains cannabis, a massage parlor, and a brewery-type café where visitors can see the stages of cultivation of cannabis plant, are some of his ideas.
As a dispensary owner, he is already used to being asked all types of questions on cannabis consumption, and he is interested in giving his customers the best experience.
However, all voices are not supportive. Dennis Galvin, a retired police officer, expressed his concern about not having a breathalyzer test for marijuana users the way law enforcement has one for testing alcohol levels. He appeared worried about the accidents that could happen by driving under the influence of marijuana.