Marijuana regulators in Massachusetts are trying to find a balance between getting pot stores open by next summer, and making sure all residents have a chance to get involved in the industry.
That was the message during a meeting of a marijuana advisory committee Monday night in Springfield.
A couple dozen people aired their thoughts on how the state should regulate the new industry, as a Cannabis Advisory Board subcommittee gathered in Springfield.
Most western Massachusetts residents at the meeting said they want to make sure legalization benefits their community.
“We want to make it accessible, [so] that realistically speaking, a group of us can get together, and make some money,” Wilfredo Lopez of Springfield told the committee. “We’ve been getting locked up for this stuff forever. We want to make some legal money doing it.”
Lopez said it's important to keep licensing fees low enough for budding entrepreneurs to open up dispensaries. Otherwise, he worries big-money investors may be the only people who can open a store.
A similar concern came from Michael Cutler of Northampton, an attorney who worked on the Question 4 ballot initiative, which legalized recreational pot.
Cutler referenced a letter sent to the Cannabis Control Commission by a lawyer representing existing medical marijuana dispensaries. The letter asked for rules that would allow the dispensaries to sell recreational pot before new competitors.
“They got their head start,” Cutler said. "They’ve got their protocols developed. They’ve got their intellectual property rights solidified. I would suggest anything you do to protect them further is only going to burden your other objectives.”
Those other objectives include making sure the new industry is economically and ethnically diverse, he said.
Springfield resident Michael Jones said that if the new industry benefits local entrepreneurs, it should also find a way for it to benefit local youth. Jones runs an after-school program, and had a suggestion for where to spend marijuana tax revenue.
“We need alternatives for these kids to not become violent, and to not become street entrepreneurs,” Jones said. “One [way] is city-wide sports.”
Members of the Cannabis Advisory Board sat quietly for most of the 90-minute meeting. They said they’ll use the public comments to guide suggestions they make to the state’s marijuana regulators.