Why I'm voting Yes to ban marijuana retail sales in Acton on Monday

I voted to approve legalization of marijuana in 2016, but I will be voting Yes at Monday’s Special Town Meeting to ban retail marijuana sales in Acton.

I’m not a marijuana user. The last time I tried it was in Amsterdam about 10 years ago, and it was not a pleasant experience. But I do believe in adults having as much freedom as possible, and since marijuana is not a dangerous drug (no more dangerous than alcohol, say) I was in favor of legalization.

That part of the debate is now over, settled. We no longer need to discuss the issues recently raised by Gregory Hutchins in his Acton Forum article. (See http://www.actonforum.com/story/opposing-ban-pot-shops-special-town-meeting-article-one). He is probably right on every point he makes, but his arguments are on topic for the 2016 decision on legalization, not Monday night’s decision on retail sales.

I have three major reasons for voting Yes to ban Acton retail sales of marijuana.

1. It is not hypocritical to vote in favor of legalization but against local retail sales.

Just because someone supports making an activity legal for adult use does not mean they necessarily support its legal distribution in their town. “Not in my backyard” (NIMBY) is not irrational thinking.

For example, we all believe in incarceration of dangerous criminals. How many would vote to put a jail in town? Not me, that is for sure. But jails have to go somewhere, so towns that have the right setup, available land, whose residents don’t care that much, or who want the revenue or jobs generated by such a facility can do so. If no town steps forward, then the state has to just impose it somewhere. But marijuana shops are going to easily find plenty of locations, and we already have two retail stores operating and at least four more are close to being approved statewide.

So adults can legally travel for half-hour or an hour, buy their marijuana, and drive back home to Acton to consume it, without fear of breaking the law. Legalization gives them this right, and the only advantage of retail sales in Acton (for the consumer) is convenience.

Because this argument is so important, let me make one more comment on it. Marijuana is legal now in Canada. If a Massachusetts resident wanted to drive to Canada, buy marijuana, and bring it back home, this would be illegal except for our vote in 2016 to legalize marijuana. So legalization allows transportation and use; it is not necessary to also allow sales.

2. My second point is that many towns have already opted not to allow retail marijuana sales, just as many towns once opted to prevent local alcohol sales. Some towns have banned certain forms of charitable gambling (bingo games). Residents of "dry towns" can go to a bar or liquor store elsewhere, buy or consume alcohol, and bring it back home if they wish. Legalization gives them rights to consume and own, even if their town prevents retail sales.

(If you are interested, there are eight remaining "dry" towns in Massachusetts according to Google. They are Alford, Dunstable, Chilmark, Gosnold, Hawley, Montgomery, West Hampton, and Mount Washington.)

Since legal marijuana use is new, there are fears about whether kids will gain easier access or believe it is more acceptable to consume it if it is sold locally. Plus, there are still unknown repercussions on cost. Will we need to hire more police officers, social workers, or see property values drop because towns similar to Acton have banned retail sales but Acton allows it? Since families make up such a large percentage of our residents and home buyers, this is not an irrational concern. Once the shops are legal, we can never go back because they will be grandfathered in. So it is better to wait and get more data.

"Waiting" was the main argument in Acton Forum’s second article on the “pot shops,” by Corinne Hogseth and Acton Cares, which is opposed to retail sales of marijuana in Acton. You can read their article here: http://www.actonforum.com/story/not-sure-about-recreational-pot-store-acton.

3. I have been reading stories about Juul, the vaping product which delivers nicotine and is sold as a way to help adults quit smoking cigarettes. It turns out that vaping has become very popular with kids. In fact, I first heard abut Juul from my kids.

Juul is now a $15 billion “start up” that seems to have grown so quickly because of teenage use. Nicotine is a very addictive drug and this is quite troubling. Will retail marijuana sales and the ready availability of Juul devices somehow increase teenage marijuana use if it is more readily available through local sales?

Because of this, whether we allow sales in the town of Acton or not, I strongly urge parents with pre-teens or teenagers in the house, to safely secure any marijuana they purchase for their use. I would suggest buying a small "legal documents" safe and hiding the key. (This is a good place to put your important papers, if you don't have one already...)

Monday's Special Town Meeting starts at 7 pm at the High School auditorium. The Town Moderator published a message urging people to arrive early because he expects a large crowd. So doors will open at 5:30 pm. If you wish to read the town warrant, go to the town's website. There are four warrant articles but what happens to articles two, three, and four depend on the voters' decision on article one.

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Comments

NIMBY promotes illegal distribution

I am NOT a cannabis user. But let's be more real.

If you need to drive an hour, perhaps one way, and given the limited amount you can buy, I'd say why not have 1 or 2 stores per town, including Acton. The more the merrier.

Essentially, by making cannabis hard to buy, all you are doing is one of 2 things: 1. Grow your own. 2. Buy from illegal sources.

And where do you think below 21 folks buy marijuana currently, it is from illegal/unregulated sources? Similar to making moonshine, with no oversight. This trade will not be changed, and it exists. The only question is over 21 and giving reasonable/timely access.

I cannot think of a single rationale where alcohol in town can be bought by any of us within a 5-minute drive, but we need to drive to 60 to 75 minutes each way to buy cannabis, as currently allowed.

State residents have decided it should be legal.

To not have it readily accessible is just supporting drug cartels.

My 2 cents.

Bill Troy
Willow St.

Hour drive for pot?

Hi Bill,

I agree, if the closest pot shop were an hour away, that would be a pretty stiff barrier for most people. But that goes for teenagers too, so I could live with that.

But I don't think that will be the case for long. My guess is that many medical marijuana dispensaries will get licenses sooner rather than later, if retail sales are allowed in the town. So while there may be a temporary inconvenience, it will be rectified quickly. However, if we legalize it and come to regret the decision, there is no turning back.

Thanks for your comments!

Allen

Allen Nitschelm has lived in Acton since 1998 and writes about fiscal issues at the
local and state level. He is a former member of the town's Finance Committee
and is an Associate Publisher of Acton Forum.

FOR OR AGAINST SELLING POT IN ACTON

Allen, good to read your words again. I've missed you.

You should buy some pot in Canada and try to bring it back to Massachusetts. Pot is illegal at the Federal level so it should be a crime to import it. If pot isn't legal in the states you'll be driving through you will be subject to imprisonment.

I honestly don't care if pot is legal and sold in Acton, on my street even. But I do know, with time pot will be as much a problem as alcohol. You know alcohol? The drug denied children which many of them drink every week (see all the nip bottles on the sides of our roads)? We all know drugs are drugs and a percentage of people will cause problems for all of us if given access to them. As a doctor I see often says to me, a member of AA and NA, "There is no problem alcohol can't make worse". I believe pot fits in this saying.

I will not be attending our SPECIAL TOWN MEETING which is suppose to address the opening of pot selling stores in Acton for a few reasons:

1. The decision for or against has already been made (IMO)

2. Acton Town Meetings have not been fair (or legal?) for decades (see earlier editions of Acton Forum) and only a fool (IMO) allows him/herself to be duped continually

3. The building in which the town meeting will be held is not sufficiently handicapped accessible(no auto opening doors)

4. I am hitting my 80s and can't waste my time on something as silly as where a pot shop can open when we are very busy trying to make the Earth uninhabitable for humans, after being so successful making it uninhabitable for some other species! When so many people in the world (including in the US) do not have potable water (if you want some interesting reading about potable water look into Acton's efforts with formaldehyde run-off back in the 70s and beyond). When so many people in the world (including in the US) go to bed hungry every night and how many die from starvation. The list of things worth my time is much longer and will never include time to assist in deciding if pot shops should invade Acton.

Doug Williams (a once user of the green weed)