When Massachusetts voters went to the polls last month, they ended cannabis prohibition by an 8 point margin, 54%-46%, notching a resounding victory for liberty.
Cannabis reformers were rightfully elated. But for many, feelings of circumspection quickly followed. Would the Feds intervene? Will Donald Trump’s surprise victory ultimately subvert the state’s progress? More urgently, would statehouse leaders delay implementation of the law?
That last concern proved unfounded when Beacon Hill leaders vowed to not stand in the way of democracy.
“The voters spoke in favor of legalized recreational marijuana on November 8th and we fully intend to respect the will of the voters,” State Senate President Stan Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a joint statement.
Near midnight on Wednesday night, Leafly headed out into the streets on a bone-chilling Boston night to find fellow travelers looking to take their first legal toke on Massachusetts soil.
The goal? Take Boston’s pulse as cannabis prohibition crumbles in Massachusetts. Will it go out with a whimper or a bang? How will the locals commemorate this milestone?
Let’s find out!
The 50-something year old lady on the elevation going down to my hotel lobby seemed nonplussed.
“Is that today?” she asked with a shrug, before adding sotto voce: “It’s always legal in my house!”
For his part, the hotel valet was indeed aware that Legalization Day was a mere two hours away. He thought the new law would make cannabis “much less attractive to kids. They’ll be less attracted to something that’s no longer seen as rebellious. Don’t you think?”
On the ride over to California Pizza Kitchen, my driver shrugged off the historic nature of the change.
“The only difference now, is that people who already smoke won’t have to worry about it as much anymore.”
And that’s a good thing.
A fellow diner named Erica Radcliffe, a medical cannabis user from Lowell, suggested that sick patients in Massachusetts would benefit most from the new regime. She told me that “a lot of sick people in Massachusetts deserve better access. Plus, this ushers in a more progressive era here in all of New England.”
Ms. Radcliffe’s dining companion, Mark Ward, a writer, agreed.
“Those patients have to pay a doctor and the state for the right to medicate,” he said. “And many have privacy issues with their name being on a list, a registry of patients who are sick. Is that information secure? Would [a breach of confidential info] make it hard to, I dunno, get a job or something?”
Tim McCarthy, an AIDS activist from Provincetown, wasn’t inspired by Massachusetts’s track record. That what was on his mind as the clock counted down.
“There are so many people still waiting for their medicine in Massachusetts,” he told me. “I truly hope that the state has learned from the debacle with medical marijuana and will implement the now certified ballot initiative that legalized adult use in a better way. The next step is to get insurance companies to cover marijuana like other medicines.”
But for every mindful reply about tomorrow’s milestone, there was a blank stare or more likely, a shrug.
The restaurant hostess had no idea cannabis was (almost) legal here. She didn’t recall it being on the ballot.
“I had no idea,” the waiter replied when queried about the new changes. He shrugged, winked, and dropped a dessert menu.
“Just in case,” he cooed.
As midnight drew near, a cozy bar beckoned, a place where cannabis smokers might converge at midnight for a group toke, to celebrate Legalization Day in Massachusetts.
Or not so much.
“You could try Cambridge,” the bartender quipped. “They’re always smoking something over there!”
An especially lubricated bar patron squealed in delight.
“Marijuana!? Oh my god how thrilling! I’m from San Diego I’m just so glad to be here for this! Where do I find some?”
Bless her heart.
“I don’t smoke,” the bartender added, “but isn’t that money, some of the tax going to fund our schools?”
Yes ma’am that’s affirmative!
When the clock finally stuck midnight, the streets of Boston were largely empty. Chalk it up, perhaps, to freezing weather on a school night. Or maybe, just maybe, legalized cannabis has ceased to be novel. It’s an exciting milestone to be sure, but at the end of the day, it’s just that, another milestone on the long journey to the end of cannabis prohibition.
There will be group tokes and reverie later today. But for now, all’s quiet and very cold in Boston.
And life marches on.
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