Recreational Pot: Bay State’s New Billion-Dollar Industry

Clayton Anderson

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Souvenir shop in Boston T sells shirts that say “Bostoner.”

BOSTON, MA. Recreational pot sales could create a $1 billion industry in the Bay State within two years, marijuana experts predicted during a panel broadcast on Facebook Live Monday.  Sales will not only benefit marijuana growers and processors, but also contribute to  other established industries such as construction and food, said Jay Wexler, a Boston University law professor who studies cannabis public policy. 

But not all businesses are welcoming legalization. Beer and wine retailers fear that they could see a precipitous drop in  sales.  

“The alcohol industry is like borderline freaking out at this point,” said Dan Adams, a Boston Globe reporter who covers marijuana issues. Some beer companies are so worried that they are  are starting to invest in the marijuana industry and even experiment with concoctions such as CBD beer.  

In many ways, the cannabis industry is expected to largely resemble the alcohol industry. There will most likely be craft marijuana, just as there is craft beer.  

Recreational marijuana will officially be legal in Massachusetts on July 1, making it the seventh state in the nation to allow such pot sales. But marijuana shops won’t be popping up any time soon. 

The state has not given any stores licenses to sell marijuana yet, and there are a lot of legal tic issues that still need to be resolved. 

While the state has legalized marijuana, local communities in Massachusetts still have the authority to ban it. Cities and towns technically have until next June to decide whether to allow the drug can be sold in their neighborhoods. But marijuana companies may be able to challenge temporary bans, Adams said, arguing that such moratoriums amount to an “unreasonably impracticable” restriction.

The legalization of recreational sales may not even  crack down on the illicit marijuana market, Wexler said. The illegal trade will continue to thrive if cannabis from legal dispensers are too heavily taxed, he said. 

The law’s rollout will be slow and steady, Wexler said. Even though the process is taking longer than expected, officials are working diligently to make and enforce laws that are fair and considerate to all sides of the cannabis debate. 

“We’re gonna get it right,” he said.