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Sam Virzi: State should stop denying services to people with pot-related offenses

  • Cannabis leaf, marijuana isolated over white background Kai_Wong

Published: 9/9/2019 3:28:56 PM

I’m happy to read that there are so many businesses that want to open in Northampton.

I see that people with the means to sell marijuana legally are so confident in investing here that they are willing to pay property owners rent for their preferred location for as long as it takes the Cannabis Control Commission to make up its mind.

Northampton is to that degree worth betting on. So many people are now scrambling for good odds here that there’s a risk of oversaturating the market. Well, Northampton is already oversaturated with coffee shops and restaurants. Nobody seems to worry about that.

Throw a dart downtown and you’ll find a place that’s hiring for a position that doesn’t pay what you’d need to afford to shop there. Are any marijuana shop workers going to marijuana shops that don’t give them employee discounts? Could they still make the rent if they did every week?

Meanwhile, the cities and towns where dispensaries have opened are waiting to see how reliable the tax revenue is going to be before they decide how to spend any of it. Will they reach a decision before there is only one company that owns every dispensary in America? I guess time will tell.

It’s too easy to engage with these issues theoretically and abstract them somewhat from the material reality of peoples’ lives and futures. It is morally indefensible to make money selling legal marijuana when people can’t get jobs, can’t get housing, can’t get a loan for a car or a house or an education, in some places can’t even vote due to the intended consequences of our intergenerational and disastrous drug war.

The commonwealth denies essential services to people with marijuana-related offenses on their criminal records. A legislative solution exists, but it’s been in committee for more than a year. Who knows if it’ll ever see the light of day? It is shameful and mortifying to wonder how much money will be made before then. I would be very interested to hear how our state representatives stand on this issue.

Sam Virzi


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