Mary Jane, Our Welcome Neighbor


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Marijuana dispensaries are slowly becoming an integrated part of many communities.

Stella Guest, Contributing Writer

Nowadays, marijuana dispensaries are everywhere, popping up at every corner, and opening in the storefronts where businesses that have been driven out by the pandemic used to be. According to WCVB, the newest dispensary opening up in Boston is going to be the biggest on the East Coast. Yet some people are opposed to the fast spread of dispensaries, claiming they are infiltrating and corrupting their communities, as well as arguing that they should not be legal in the first place. There are legitimate and serious concerns that marijuana is damaging and adversely affects physical health, as many research institutions have found that “long-term use of marijuana may alter the nervous system.” However, this only occurs after very heavy use of the drug, and it has been established that marijuana has many beneficial medical properties. Even so, many people do not fully understand the reason it was legalized or why now it is necessary to lower the marijuana taxes.

Before it was legalized, the number of people who smoked was increasing rapidly, along with the number of people buying marijuana laced with more damaging drugs, causing sickness or addiction to the more “hard” drugs. To avoid this dangerous situation, lawmakers in many states decided to legalize marijuana so people could buy from the safely-approved dispensaries. Another reason behind legalization was that the criminalization of marijuana use disproportionately affects people of color, specifically Black youth. In fact, the criminalization of marijuana is one of the leading contributors to mass incarceration. Ever since Nixon first waged the “War on Drugs” in the 1970s, the number of people incarcerated has increased from 300,000 to 2.2 million, one of five serving time for drug offences. Out of those 2.2 million, two thirds are Black or Latino, even though they make up less than 30% of the population. Half of those people of color are serving for drug related reasons. Now after legalization in many states the Drug Policy Alliance recorded that “arrests for marijuana have plummeted—saving hundreds of millions of dollars and sparing thousands of people from being branded with a lifelong criminal record.” Ultimately though, marijuana was legalized because it was what 67% of the American people wanted and have voted for over the ten years. 

Legalization also helps the states, not only by establishing safer protocols to handle the product, but by also generating a healthy tax revenue if properly administered.

Legalization also helps the states, not only by establishing safer protocols to handle the product, but by also generating a healthy tax revenue if properly administered. People will smoke regardless of whatever the government does, so why not make it safer, while also benefiting the state which earns the high taxes on the substance? The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, said, “The marijuana industry could eventually generate $350 million in annual taxes for the state” and a reporter commented that “if the governor’s estimate is right, pot will become a bigger source of tax revenue than alcohol,” which is already the case in Illinois. 

Yet today, two thirds of consumers still buy marijuana from drug dealers because it’s less expensive. If the goal is for people to buy drugs safely and legally, it needs to be easier and more accessible to go to dispensaries than to drug dealers. A big part of that is supporting the development of the rapidly-growing legal marijuana industry. These shops not only will bring in more taxes, but will also create more jobs and lower crime rates, as there would be less demand for drug dealers who currently sell at lower prices, but would be priced out if the dispensaries were more competitive. In 2019, according to the New Frontier Data, “the US legal marijuana industry was estimated at $13.6 billion … with 340,000 jobs devoted to the handling of plants.” Yet this still is only the first step; if states want to feel the full effect of those benefits they need to do more, such as lowering the taxes on marijuana to level the playing field. Otherwise, people will continue to buy possibly-laced products to avoid paying higher prices. As it stands, the markup on marijuana is a whopping 77%, and such high taxes can cause immense problems within the legal market. This is why lowering the taxes on marijuana is essential. While licensed sellers will never undercut drug dealers completely, people may decide to pay the small premium for marijuana that is thoroughly checked and is legal. Radical changes must occur, and accepting and supporting marijuana dispensaries into our neighborhoods is the first step.