Grow, Gift, Repair

Community Members Speak out in Roxbury

The other side includes the Massachusetts branch of the Marijuana Policy Project, which sponsored the successful 2016 ballot initiative that legalized marijuana. The group plans a rally outside the State House Thursday morning to step up the pressure on Baker, accusing the governor of launching a “coordinated intimidation campaign” against the cannabis panel’ independence and misusing statistics about driving under the influence of pot.

And one of Baker’s potential Democratic opponents in the 2018 election, Jay Gonzalez, is trying to make the governor’s position a campaign issue, saying that Baker is “trying to undermine the law passed by the voters.”

Activists at the hearing argued that because using marijuana in public is banned, not allowing pot bars and other venues would leave many renters and tourists without a place to legally consume the drug.

“If only [dispensaries] can provide the space or the cannabis product, we shut out small businesses while boosting the illicit market,” said Beth Waterfall, an activist and marijuana business owner. “Variety and a robust supply chain will also boost our tourism industry.”

And because delivery services and social consumption venues are cheaper to start than large pot farms or retail stores, activists said delaying them would freeze out small entrepreneurs and minorities.

“Delivery really is key to equity and small business — it is the lowest barrier to entry,” said Amber Senter, who owns a dispensary in Oakland, Calif., and flew to Massachusetts for the hearing. “It’s how I started my own business in cannabis.”

If anything, the activists want the cannabis commission to go even further and allow for pot consumption at events such as weddings and parties, as well as at bring-your-own-cannabis venues where home-growers could swap and consume marijuana. They argued that people are already consuming pot at such places, and those operating such venues and events now should have a chance to join the new, legitimate industry.

“I’ve been to three or four events around the corner from here,” said Kamani Jefferson, president of the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council, at the hearing Tuesday night. “We should be creating pathways for experienced local residents instead of targeting them.”