Two years after voters approved recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, sales began on November 20. Customers lined up early in the morning in the rain and cold before two licensed dispensaries opened, and by the end of the day sales totaled more than $400,000. One dispensary claimed it sold to 2,000 customers, the other 1,000.

Among the first day’s customers was Stephen Mandile and David Narkewicz, the mayor of Northampton. Mandile and Narkewicz are veterans. As the Boston Globe reports, Mandile is an advocate of medical marijuana, having used it to overcome an addiction to painkillers that were prescribed to treat his “PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and chronic pain.”

Mandile made his $79 purchase at Cultivate in Leicester, saying to WCVB “It’s an honor, it’s something amazing.” For Narkewicz, his purchase at New England Treatment Access was less personally moving; he pointed out that he also attended a ribbon-cutting for a new pub the week before and planned to attend another for a restaurant in the near future. As he does with purveyors of beer and food, however, he welcomes the new marijuana business to his community. As the Globe reports, he said: “I’m proud to go to new businesses that create new tax revenue for the city and be there for their opening. I’m not going to act any differently because the new business happens to be adult-use marijuana. It’s a legal business in our Commonwealth. If we’re going to destigmatize marijuana, it’s even more important that I be there and treat it like every other company. I’m honored to do it.”

Substantial tax revenue

The same source reports that the state’s tax agency has anticipated revenue from the first fiscal year of recreational sales of between $44 million and $82 million. The state taxes recreational marijuana at 17%, and municipalities are allowed to tax it at 3%. One reason for the range of the estimate is that the law allows for municipalities to opt out of recreational sales, and as a consequence, many have done so. Other towns have made it difficult for marijuana businesses to obtain licenses, for example by asking for “community impact” fees or donations to local agencies.

On the other hand, Leicester and Northampton are not alone. In the town of Charlemont, the Recorder reports that after considerable debate, voters have decided to end a moratorium on marijuana businesses. Some residents objected to large-scale cultivation, expressing concerns about water use and the potential loss of small-scale cultivation. For Bob Handsaker, however, the question was simple: “What’s the downside in treating this like any other business?” And in reference to the 3% tax available to municipalities, Jon Hoffman had a similar question: “Why would we want to go to the back of the line, when it comes to having a revenue stream?”

In addition to new tax revenue, recreational marijuana may bring roughly 20,000 jobs to Massachusetts, according to estimates. Cultivation, extraction, compliance, retail, management, and sales are among the job categories. Although only two dispensaries were open on the first day of recreational sales, close to 200 license applications have been filed in the state, and more recreational dispensaries are sure to open in the near future.

What do you think? What’s in store for recreational marijuana in Massachusetts and the East Coast? Leave a comment below.

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