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Newton City Councilor Susan Albright, who is chair of the council’s Zoning & Planning committee, had some enlightening comments on an earlier thread about the research she conducted in her role as chair of the committee charged with determining where adult use recreational marijuana shops could locate, if Newton voters reject the Opt-Out referendum Tuesday.  It seemed interesting and timely, so I republishing most of it here. 

I have talked to many people from states that currently allow adult use. I asked one woman in the Dept of Public Health in Oregon (whom I had called to find data on teenage use) whether there was an adult use shop in her town. She said yes – I asked her what happened there, was she scared to go there? Were there kids hanging around? Were the police frequently called? Was there Trouble with a capital T that rhymes with P that stands for Pool? (sorry I didn’t ask her about Pool). I wanted to get a sense for how she felt about this shop. She said she never went there but it was totally quiet and caused no problems in the town. I got similar answers from whomever i called, including the son of one of my Tufts college friends who works in one in Denver.

I imagine this is what life was like when they were deciding to prohibit liquor. The prohibitionists scared the public that liquor was the foundation of all our problems and the ruination of society – hence we got prohibition. And then had it undone years later.

Our marijuana zoning ordinance was done with care to protect our citizens and to put a store – which is what an adult use shop is – in a place where it was appropriate. As we all know – our zoning code is OLD and we are in the process of updating it. Most of our Villages are Business 1 where adult use shops would NOT be allowed. There are small smatterings of Business 2 in a couple of our villages. We will be able to straighten this out in the new code. In the New code there will be Village specific codes that will apply to a whole village so we can fix those smattering of B2’s in villages and get them out of there. Please don’t forget that any marijuana shop whether it is medical or adult use has to get a special permit. There was so much public uproar about the proposed shops in Newton 4 corners and Newton center that those two proponents have gone on to greener pastures in other towns. This public uproar often stops special permits from even being filed as they did in these two instances. The petitioners knew the road to success was far too difficult.

People in Newton want to and no doubt will purchase marijuana in adult use stores. OON wants them to drive to Waltham, or Watertown or Belmont or Natick or Brookline or Boston or to all the other cities and towns that will be allowing them. So – more cars on the road driving hither, thither, and yon (wherever that is) to purchase what could be purchased right here in Newton.

I’m so tired of hearing about how Weston and Wellesley and Needham won’t be selling marijuana. With the exception of one or two shops recently opened in Needham there are no liquor stores in those towns either. They are and have been driving to Newton to buy liquor. Is anyone upset over that? Have we noticed huge traffic jams all these years because of that? I’m sure the Newton liquor stores are very happy that those towns sell no liquor.

For OON, the sky will fall and Newton will go straight to the dogs if we open any adult use shops in Newton. I’ve stood at City Hall and listened to the dire consequences described by OON about our future. As far as I can tell from my many many conversations with people in other states – the only dire consequences from NOT having shops in Newton is that all Newton’s tax revenue will be going to our neighbors. Frankly, I don’t care if the dollar amount is $200,000 or $2,000,000 – Newton could use that revenue. The schools need the money, our roads need the money, our parks need the money etc.

I have heard many adult use shop supporters say to me during this campaign – don’t come to me asking for an override for the schools if you turn this revenue down. I understand why they are saying this.

I don’t use marijuana (although I have gotten several emails saying nasty things about that to me). I tried it once in college many moons ago – like many of us and haven’t used it since. I know that in 2016 Newton voted to approve retail shops by a large majority and I respect that vote. I’ve done my research and learned that the sky does not fall when a city or town allows it. Teenage use goes down. Oh – and yes – when Canada made adult use legal in the whole country they trained all their police on a new test which does tell if people are driving under the influence – google it if you don’t believe me. The rest is up to the voters.