The plan attempts to quiet any political blowback by containing social consumption businesses to pot-friendly cities and towns whose leaders are eager to be pioneers in the space. That’s a frustration to some advocates, who argue marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and should not be regulated more strictly — bars, after all, are pervasive in Massachusetts.
But other proponents noted that the commission’s initial attempt to authorize a greater variety of social consumption businesses around the state in 2018 fizzled amid criticism from the administration of Governor Charlie Baker, which called the facilities a public safety risk and insisted the agency should focus first on licensing marijuana retail shops. They said the commission’s current, more cautious approach gives the idea a greater chance of succeeding.
“Are they being cautious? Sure — but based on the feedback they’ve gotten and how difficult this is going to be regardless, it makes a lot of sense,” said Kamani Jefferson, president of the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council.
Under the commission’s plan, cannabis cafes could only open in a dozen municipalities whose elected officials opt in. That will take a change in state law, which currently says cities and towns must hold community-wide referendums asking local voters to approve such facilities. (Secretary of State William Galvin, whose office oversees elections, has said the language of that provision is unworkable as written, and has discouraged municipalities from organizing votes.)