Until now, only registered medical patients could buy lab-tested marijuana from dispensaries under government oversight. Everyone else had to grow their own or text their “guy” to see if he was holding; it was an underground economy, accompanied by an underground culture that’s still cherished by many veteran cannabis consumers.
Beginning Tuesday, however, anyone 21 and older will be able to pick up a pack of joints or bag of THC-infused lozenges on the way home from work — the same way they’ve long been allowed to grab a six-pack of craft beer or a nice bottle of Chardonnay from the local package store.
With the rest of the world poised to walk into what had previously been a sacred space for those in the know, some advocates can’t help but feel a sense of loss even as they cheer the opening of stores.
“There’s been a big underground counterculture that’s evolved around marijuana over the last 5o to 60 years,” Jefferson said. “Now that it’s being legalized, that culture is being withered away. The folks who are running the business, a lot of them don’t come from that culture. They see it as a way to make money. That’s OK — we live in America, that’s what people do — but hopefully the people running these businesses hire those who understand the culture, because it will preserve it and make their companies more successful in the long run.”
Jefferson and other advocates are also concerned about a lack of equity and diversity in the nascent Massachusetts cannabis industry — a problem across the US economy, but one that’s particularly poignant in the marijuana space, given the drastic racial disparities in how cannabis prohibition was enforced.
Most of the companies that have received licenses from the commission so far are established medical dispensaries led and financed by white men. State medical marijuana regulations mandated that those firms build out vertically integrated operations which grew, processed and sold their own marijuana; along with other onerous and expensive requirements, including the necessity of winning approval from skeptical local governments, that meant less established operators were largely shut out.