September 19 2017

Letter: Town Meeting Should Ban Sale of Recreational Marijuana

The following is a Letter to the Editor: 


There has been much discussion about the new regulations for the recreational sale of marijuana. It is important that Burlington residents and town leaders take the time to thoroughly assess our options and look at what is best for the community.  

One question being asked is if Burlington does not allow recreational marijuana dispensaries to locate in Burlington, how will that affect the sale or use of medical marijuana?  The answer is, “Not at all.”  Medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed to open.  Banning recreational sale of marijuana in Burlington will also not hamper anyone's right to possess or use recreational marijuana. Our residents over 21 can still possess 10 ounces of marijuana and can have 12 plants in their residences.  This means with 10 ounces of marijuana, our residents can still possess around 300 joints legally even if the sale of recreational marijuana is banned.  Our residents will also be able to possess edibles and concentrates that average 62-95 percent of THC levels.  

It has been suggested that if Burlington bans the recreational sale of marijuana, the black-market of marijuana sales will continue.   First, only about 90 communities out of 350 in the Commonwealth voted against Question 4 and therefore it is highly likely that dispensaries will locate in many communities in the Commonwealth, so legal marijuana will still be readily available. Even with legalization of recreational marijuana though, Colorado continues to see the black-market operating in their state.  According to the Colorado Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman, the legalization of recreational marijuana stores and grow operations has enabled cartels to grow the plant in Colorado and then illegally sell it out of state.  “They use the law”, she says, “to break the law.”  Burlington’s ban would prevent that illegal activity from taking place at least in our community.

Another point made to allow the sale of recreational marijuana is that these businesses are similar to liquor stores.  However, unlike the liquor business, recreational marijuana is a cash-only business.  Many law enforcement agencies are concerned with the crime that is associated with high cash businesses.  

Furthermore, the town needs to remember that Massachusetts is the only New England state where it is legal to sell recreational marijuana.  Burlington is located easily off Route 3 and Interstate 95.   It would be naïve to think that Burlington would not have people from out of state driving in to purchase marijuana. 

A study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, looked at ER visits at more than 100 hospitals in CO in which there was a diagnosis of patients having used marijuana.  It found marijuana-related ER visits by out-of-state visitors grew by 109 percent with residents at a 44 percent increase. 

Marijuana dispensaries are outnumbering Starbucks, McDonalds and Seven Eleven combined in Colorado.  We have 3 Starbucks in Burlington.  Burlington is in a position to house many marijuana stores in town..

Burlington is also in a position to say “not now”.  The vote to ban these businesses can be reversed with another vote at a time when the state has decided on the details of this law, our police departments have found accurate testing protocols for those driving impaired, health departments have found effective programs and other surrounding states have voted to legalize marijuana.  

The majority of Burlington residents voted “no” to Question 4 in November.  It is time to uphold the “no” vote and ban recreational marijuana stores in Burlington for now.  Please contact your Town Meeting representatives and urge them to vote in favor of Article 16 and 17.  

Thank you for your time.

Kristin Russo

5 Kingsdale St


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