Buying marijuana for recreational use will become legal in Massachusetts on July 1 — but not everywhere in Massachusetts.
Many, if not most communities in the state, have taken steps to prohibit or delay the sale of marijuana within their borders. Citizens or governing bodies concluded they’ll be better off in the end without pot shops.
That split is occurring in the Attleboro area. These town-by-town decisions are still to come in some cases, so it’s not possible yet to know how much of the state will be open to marijuana sales.
That’s not to say, of course, that residents of what would be called a dry town in the days of Prohibition can’t buy their pot in a nearby city or town that sanctions marijuana sales. It just won’t be as convenient.
Foxboro, Wrentham and Norfolk are three of the communities which decided last year not to facilitate marijuana sales. Norton and Mansfield town meeting voters will consider bans next week.
Attleboro, meanwhile, is eager to capitalize on legalization of recreational marijuana for its tax revenue.
This sets up an interesting dynamic. It’s possible that five contiguous communities could end up without pot shops while others in The Sun Chronicle area will have them.
Which group will be better off in the end? Since momentum seems to be toward legalization, time will tell.
The statewide referendum on marijuana legalization in 2016 was favored by 54 percent of voters.
State government then created the Cannabis Control Commission to come up with regulations for sales, production and marijuana-related services for businesses effective July 1.
Unlike the simple up-or-down vote in 2016, implementation is complicated and it’s not surprising there have been delays and hitches along the way.
This frustrates marijuana advocates but they’re not the ones who have to have rules in place for location and operation of the businesses.
Norton town meeting voters will be asked Monday if the town should allow retail sales. If that measure fails, voters will then be asked whether to extend a moratorium on retail shops until Dec. 31.
Mansfield town meeting voters will be asked Tuesday whether to permit recreational marijuana businesses in town. If they do, they will then be asked to decide where in town to allow them.
But that’s not the end of the process for Mansfield. If the recreational marijuana businesses are prohibited, the question has to be put to a townwide referendum because the town’s voters favored legalization in the state referendum.
That step is not necessary in towns that voted against marijuana legalization in 2016.
Unlike many communities, Attleboro officials have been gung-ho about legalized marijuana use. In fact, they have been accused of trying to draw business from Rhode Island which allows marijuana sales for medical but not recreational use.
Mayor Paul Heroux has said he wants as many marijuana businesses established locally as can be safely handled by the city.
“The city of Attleboro voted 57 percent in favor of it, and so considering that we need the revenues to come from somewhere to help pay for police, fire, schools and all the other city departments, this is a new revenue source,” he told The Providence Journal last month.
Marijuana use may have been legalized in Massachusetts, but it remains controversial.
It appears legal sales will come in fits and starts across the state.
Add to that the mixed signals coming from the Trump administration about federal enforcement of laws against marijuana sales and the situation is, well, very hazy.