The problem is that recreational sales account for the vast majority of revenue for stores, and since medical marijuana is not taxed, revenues to the state and the municipalities that host the stores have dried up during the shutdown.
When selectboard Chair Steve Bannon opened the floor to comments from the audience, most seemed to agree that, in addition to placing restrictions on the stores, the larger question remains about what kind of image the tourism-minded town wants to project.
Proposals for how to use the cannabis revenue windfall will be discussed by the selectboard and the finance committee in the upcoming deliberations for next year’s budget, with voters having the final say on how to spend free cash at the annual town meeting in May.
At Monday’s selectboard meeting, member Kate Burke noted that the money cannot be spent yet because it was not budgeted for. The disposition of the funds will be discussed during budget deliberations this fall.
New zoning bylaws would prevent some cannabis retailers from opening merely by restricting the number of available locations. On the other hand, a policy from the selectboard placing a numerical limit would clearly prevent more retailers from opening.
“Ultimately, it costs so much money for people to start these businesses, that it’s just another way for rich people to make more money. That’s not a great thing for a town that touts itself as progressive.”
In the push for medical cannabis approval in 2012 in Massachusetts, and then to the passage of recreational in 2016, the ACLU, Drug Policy Alliance and others stressed the racial and class disparities of the war on drugs. It is a fair guess that many of the more than 60 percent of Berkshire County voters who checked “yes” on the 2016 ballot question did so at least in part to help right these wrongs.