Voters in Massachusetts approved legal sales of marijuana and related products more than two years ago. On Tuesday, the state’s first two retail outlets opened for business. These stores are the first state-legal recreational marijuana retailers east of the Mississippi River.
First in line at a retail store in Northampton was Mayor David Narkewicz who said he planned to preserve and display his purchase “because I think it is historically significant,” according to a report from CBS News.
After a couple of hundred more words, the report closes with this:
[R]etail stores [in Massachusetts] had to meet a number of rigorous conditions laid out by the state before opening. The initial small rollout is intentional. Lawmakers are hoping to avoid problems other states, like Colorado, have faced such as increases in crime.
What about all that crime in Colorado? Crime rates are up since legal recreational sales of marijuana began in 2014. Between 2013 and 2016, the U.S. crime rate has declined to fewer than 3,000 crimes per 100,000 people. In Colorado, the crime rate rose 5% in the same period. The national increase in violent crime was less than 5%; in Colorado, violent crime increased by 12.5%.
In Denver, the crime rate is up 4% during the period and violent crime is up 9%. But the numbers don’t really prove anything Denver Police Commander James Henning told CNN back in April:
[Property crime is] the biggest driver of our [overall] crime, and of our increases. So, can you attribute that to marijuana? I don’t think you can. The data isn’t there. … The data is so tough to nail down and say this crime happened because of marijuana. It’s just almost impossible to do that.
Henning did comment that the police force has added more officers “to police the illicit weed market” that continues to grow.
What’s going on? Illegal sales rise because they undercut the price of legal weed that is taxed and regulated. And some law enforcement officials think the recreational marijuana sales attract an undesirable element into the state’s cities. Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith told CNN that one of three inmates in the county jail is a transient who is there for the weed. Are students at Colorado State in Ft. Collins (in Larimer County) transients?
So far police in Northampton and Leicester, the other city with a retail store opening today, report nothing more than long waits to get into the stores.