Green Rush! State braces for crush of marijuana shop applicants today

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The Cannabis Control Commission is bracing for a “Green Rush” of applicants today vying to be among the first to open marijuana retail stores as Massachusetts becomes the new frontier for recreational pot on the East Coast.

“I do anticipate a significant number of applications. There will be a great deal of interest in opening facilities in Massachusetts,” said Jim Borghesani, a pro-pot advocate and spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. “For one thing, the states in New England are small. There will be customers coming from other states because in Massachusetts it’s tough to be 20 to 30 miles from a state line. You will see Massachusetts leading in all of the New England states in going toward a safer system of legal sales.”

The commission today begins accepting applications for the first time for prospective pot shops. The applications accepted today are limited to registered marijuana dispensaries and those eligible to apply through the commission’s economic empowerment program for people and businesses disproportionately impacted negatively by the prohibition of marijuana.

Anyone who wins approval can move to the next step April 16, ahead of others wishing to sell or grow pot for the state’s planned July 1 launching of legal weed sales.

Horace Small, a Cannabis Advisory Board member, called recreational marijuana sales a “game-changer. It brings hundreds of millions of dollars into the state coffers in tax revenue.” He wants to ensure minority-backed businesses get a fair shake.

“Equity is a major part of this work. Communities of color participating in this new economic engine. …. We’re at the table,” Small said.

Police chiefs have been sounding the alarm on the new dangers these shops could bring, including an increase in impaired drivers behind the wheel and the enforcement difficulty on roadways. A defendant in the 2016 highway death of state trooper Thomas Clardy is awaiting trial on manslaughter and driving while drugged charges.

Arlington police Chief Frederick Ryan said yesterday pot shops will create a logistical nightmare. He said he needs about six officers who are certified drug recognition experts.

“I remain concerned that we don’t have the training or capacity to keep impaired drivers off our roadways and to ensure public safety on our roadways,” Ryan said. “It requires a very high level of training. It’s costly, time-consuming and complex.”

Borghesani disputed what he called the “reefer madness” notion of increased fatalities due to high drivers. He argued cops in Massachusetts have dealt with high drivers for decades. A Washington state traffic commissioner, however, is expected to tell an audience at the University of Massachusetts Amherst today that his state has seen an increase.

By: Antonio Planas, Boston Herald

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