The Voting Doesn't Lie, There's Hope for Barnstable's Cannabis Industry

Many think that a smart and safe cannabis industry in Barnstable is doomed. Well, we'd challenge that idea, and point to the 2016 Question 4 voting results as a strong, positive indicator of support both at the resident and Councilor level.

As you can see, 6 precincts voted YES, 6 voted NO, and 1 is "on the fence". That's a pretty even split, one that sets us up for a very healthy discussion, which we hope will result in smart and safe cannabis zoning in Barnstable

With that mission in mind, here's the letter I submitted from Precinct 2, which narrowly voted no on Question 4: 961 v. 1159. I encourage you to do the same, and to reach out to us if you have any questions, ideas, or concerns.

TOGETHER, we can do this! We'll be organizing some info session meetings soon, so please reach out if you want to help


Dear President Steinhilber:

I’m writing to urge you and your town council colleagues to resist any efforts to institute a town-wide ban on retail cannabis sales currently allowed under the marijuana legalization law that Massachusetts voters passed by a wide margin in 2016. Instead, the town council should work to implement a smart, safe, and, effective zoning and regulatory framework for cannabis, similar to the one that governs the sale of the more toxic and addictive alcoholic beverages that are sold out of dozens of legally permitted package stores and restaurants throughout town.

While Question 4 (the marijuana legalization ballot question) failed by a small margin in Barnstable, I would remind you that 12,432 Barnstable residents did vote Yes, with six (3, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13) of the 13 precincts voting in favor of legalization.

The key reasons so many Barnstable and Massachusetts citizens voted for legalization were simply that they could no longer find any moral or logical reason to keep illegal a substance that by every credible scientific standard is less toxic and addictive than alcohol or tobacco, and that they finally realized that only by putting the criminal black market out of business, and replacing it with a well-regulated and reasonably taxed system (just as we did when Alcohol Prohibition ended in 1933), could drug war violence be reduced, access by minors limited, and the desires of the thousands of Massachusetts adults who choose to use marijuana be honored.

Below are some of the more compelling arguments in support of allowing a safe, legal, and well-regulated cannabis market place to exist in the town of Barnstable.

Financial and Fiscal Benefits of Legal Cannabis

While it is challenging to attempt to predict the total potential tax revenues and other economic benefits that could accrue to the town if cannabis retail sales to adults (and/or other types of cannabis businesses) were allowed, based on what is happening in the Massachusetts medicinal cannabis marketplace and in other states that have legalized recreational cannabis sales, conservative town tax revenue estimates range from $750,000 to $1.5 million annually.

The potential sources of revenues/benefits to the town and its residents include:

  1. Up to 6% of gross cannabis sales (3% sales tax + 3% impact fee via the “host agreement”) 
  2. Property taxes 
  3. Jobs: 30+ year-round full-time positions with benefits.

There is also the ancillary benefit that flows to other local businesses when tourists or visitors from other Cape Cod towns stop in Barnstable to visit the cannabis store, and then decide to check out Main St. and Hyannis Harbor, perhaps shopping or having dinner.

At a time when Barnstable struggles to find sufficient tax revenue to fully fund its critical services, it’s the height of irresponsibility to reject the tax revenue that would come from legal adult cannabis sales.

Public Health and Safety Benefits of Legal Cannabis

All the financial benefits in the world, however, wouldn’t be sufficient to support cannabis legalization, if doing so would harm the public health or safety. In fact, the opposite is true. As a grandfather of two teenagers, I want them to be safe, and to have less access to cannabis, just as is the case now with alcohol and tobacco. Indeed, just as happened when Alcohol Prohibition ended in 1933, when the cannabis black market is eliminated and replaced by a regulated market place, the dangers, violence, and harms caused by the black market will be drastically reduced. The following further describe the health and safety benefits of legal cannabis.

✓ Criminal “black market” substantially reduced: The black market will collapse when cannabis consumers can purchase safe, reasonably priced cannabis from a convenient local location.

✓ Keeps potential poisons out of cannabis - avoids adulteration: It was recently reported that marijuana was found locally tainted with Fentanyl. That won’t happen if safe and legal cannabis is available.

✓ ID’s get checked: Our kids would be safer. Drug dealers don’t check ID’s.

✓ Buying local is better: The public’s health and safety will not be enhanced if Barnstable residents are required to get in their cars and drive miles to purchase their legal cannabis. From personal experience, I can remember during the 1950’s when my father would take me with him to leave our “dry” town to drive two towns over to the “wet” one where he could purchase his alcohol. I can assure you that the public was not safer than it would have been if he could have obtained his beer locally.

✓ Safer alternative to opioids and alcohol: Cannabis served as an “exit” drug that saved a close family member from his alcoholism and opioid abuse. Reports out of Colorado are describing similar results.

✓ Provides legal cannabis to adult patients who don’t want to use the current medical marijuana system: There are numerous Vietnam Vets and others who want to use cannabis medicinally, but don’t want to have to register with the government to get their medicine.

Local Control Ensured 

 The cannabis legalization law ensures maximum local control. The town has the power to determine the location, time and manner of cannabis operations, limit the number of cannabis facilities to 20% of existing package store licensees, negotiate host agreements with a 3% revenue share, and put reasonable restrictions on signage, with no window displays allowed. This is obviously more power than the town has over the many alcohol retail establishments in town.

Opponents Concerns?

You will no doubt hear from prohibitionists on the losing side of Question 4 who’ll spout the typical cherry-picked and exaggerated anecdote, or the results of some unsupported study demonstrating how “evil and dangerous” cannabis is. But when you actually dig down into the current research and data that’s available from states that have legalized recreational cannabis, you’ll find that teen cannabis use hasn’t increased, tax revenues are greater than forecast, traffic fatalities haven’t gone up as a result of cannabis use, opioid use hasn’t increased, and there is no evidence of any preexisting business ever having been harmed because a cannabis-related business moved into the neighborhood.

The police and other legalization opponents have had almost 100 years to make Prohibition work. They’ve failed miserably. It’s time to try a smarter strategy.

Conclusion

If the Barnstable Town Council institutes a permanent cannabis ban, it won’t stop Barnstable residents and others from using cannabis, nor will it make our children and the rest of the community any safer. It will only keep the dangerous black market alive and flourishing.

While the town council is obviously entitled to implement a ban, that decision should be fully informed and not based on misinformation, or “reefer madness” fueled fear-mongering, as happened recently when the Harwich Police Chief incorrectly told his Board of Selectmen that the “the level of the chemical compound THC in marijuana now is at 95 percent compared with 1 percent in the 1970s.” For the record, he wasn’t even close. There are no commercially available cannabis strains with a THC level higher than about 24% - most are much lower.

The obvious hypocrisy and inconsistency of allowing 24 beer, wine, and spirits licenses ((and numerous other establishments (including at least two craft breweries) that sell alcoholic beverages onsite)) to be permitted in Barnstable, but not allow a single retail establishment to sell marijuana would be appalling and without rational justification.

Eric, the way to keep our kids and community as safe as possible lies not in continuing the failed policy of cannabis prohibition, but instead, in safe, smart, and reasonable zoning and regulation. I hope that when the town council has concluded its due diligence on this important issue that you, and at least six other councilors, will agree.

Best regards,

Richard Elrick

Precinct 2 Resident


So that's what I sent. If you'd like to send your own letter, PLEASE DO, and feel free to use any of the above, or pull from some of our other articles and letters on this topic:

A Letter to Barnstable: We're Here to Help with Smart & Safe Cannabis Zoning

The Next Steps Are Clear After Barnstable Town Council Cannabis Workshop

And to make things easier, here is the contact information of each Councilor, by precinct. If you don't know your precinct, you can look it up on the Town of Barnstable Website, or check out the map below.

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Precinct 1: John Flores
Councilor

Term: 2019
PO Box 444
Cummaquid, MA 02637
Phone: 617-686-6916
Email: johngflores@town.barnstable.ma.us

Precinct 2: Eric R. Steinhilber
Council President

Term: 2021
PO Box 974
Barnstable, MA 02630
Phone: 781-859-9103
Email: ERSteinhilber@gmail.com  

Precinct 3: Paul Hebert
Councilor

Term: 2019
142 Strawberry Hill Road
Centerville, MA 02632
Phone: 508-862-4738
Email: council@town.barnstable.ma.us

Precinct 4: Britt Beedenbender
Councilor

Term: 2021
415A Main Street
Centerville, MA 02632
Phone: 508-375-7934
Email: britt118@outlook.com

Precinct 5: James H. Crocker, Jr.
Council Vice President

Term: 2019
PO Box 496
Osterville, MA 02655
Phone: 508-428-8800
Email: Wiannore@verizon.net

Precinct 6: Paul Neary, Jr
Councilor

Term: 2021
1 Henry F. Loring Road
Centerville, MA 02632
Phone: 508-428-1091
Email: NearyPrecinct6@gmail.com

Precinct 7: Jessica Rapp Grassetti
Councilor

Term: 2019
PO Box 1310
Cotuit, MA 02635
Phone: 508-360-2504
Email: Precinct7@comcast.net

Precinct 8: Debra S. Dagwan
Councilor

Term: 2021
PO Box 897
Hyannis, MA 02601
Phone: 508-778-6824
Email: Debra.Dagwan@town.barnstable.ma.us

Precinct 9: James M. Tinsley
Councilor

Term: 2019
12 Grove Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Phone: 508-237-9226
Email: jtinsley@baliseauto.com

Precinct 10: Matthew P. Levesque
Councilor

Term: 2019
PO Box 3
Hyannis, MA 02601
Phone: 508-771-8499
Email: matthewlevesque02648@gmail.com

Precinct 11: Philip Wallace
Councilor

Term: 2019
PO Box 519
West Barnstable, MA 02668
Phone: 508-367-1022
Email: Philip_N_Wallace@hotmail.com

Precinct 12: Paula Schnepp
Councilor

Term: 2021
956 River Road
Marstons Mills, MA 02648
Phone: 508-773-3475
Email: pkschnepp@aol.com

Precinct 13: Jennifer L. Cullum
Councilor

Term: 2019
327 Sea Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Phone: 617-276-4977
Email: JenLCullum@yahoo.com


What does this mean for Cape Cod?

It means we need to accelerate our efforts to ensure there is an industry hub for our region. If you're a stakeholder interested in bringing a smart and safe cannabis industry to our region PLEASE REACH OUT and let's see if we can work together. 

GOOD LUCK OUT THERE!

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