For the first time in American history, a state east of the Mississippi has begun to allow the sales and use of recreational cannabis. On Tuesday, November 20th, 2018, Massachusetts initiated its recreational cannabis program. The significance of a major East Coast state legalizing cannabis cannot be overstated. Tens of millions of adults on the East Coast now live within a few hours-drive of access to legal cannabis. At the program’s inception, only two cannabis stores will be open, though more are expected in the future. The limited number of stores is Massachusetts way of managing some possible issues like crime increases and secondary selling that other states have faced following legalization.
A Ceremonial Opening
One of the first cities to have a recreational cannabis shop open up in Massachusetts is Northampton. The mayor of Northampton, David Narkewicz, was actually the state’s first legal recreational cannabis customer. Outlining the benefits of cannabis legalization, Mayor Narkewicz said, “There has been marijuana use going on in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for a long, long time. What’s changing is it’s now being regulated. It’s now being tested. It’s now being strictly monitored. That’s really the major change that’s happening.”
Narkewicz, like many supporters, realize that Massachusetts recreational cannabis legalization provides a solid regulatory structure. Cannabis use will occur whether it is legal or not but legalization makes it safer for users and for sellers. Though he supports the legalization and regulation of cannabis use, Mayor Narkewicz said he won’t be consuming his first legal purchase. Instead, he is, “Actually going to probably preserve it and display it…because it is historically significant.”
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Trend of Normalization Continues
As reported previously, legalization and normalization of cannabis in America is continuing at a breakneck pace. The 2018 midterm elections proved that American voters are no longer apprehensive to the thought of cannabis legalization. States that many would never have been expected to legalize cannabis; Utah and Missouri (medicinal) and Michigan (recreational) all voted to legalize cannabis. The FDA recently approved a cannabis-based drug for the first time. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R) recently said that he would like to see industrial hemp legalized.
The multitude of cannabis related headlines reflect a drastic shift in narrative for the industry as a whole. Cannabis users and those who work with cannabis no longer are made to feel like lesser members of society and no longer have to stay hidden. This is not a fad. This trend will likely continue to pick up steam as more states legalize cannabis use and the federal government loosens its regulatory stance on cannabis.