The first marijuana dispensary in Berkshire County opened its doors to the public on Jan. 11, more than two years after Massachusetts’ legalization of recreational marijuana. Temesca Wellness, another dispensary, has opened in Pittsfield.
Both dispensaries are much closer to the College than other recently-opened dispensaries in Leicester and Northampton. These were the first stores to sell recreational marijuana on the East Coast, though many such stores already existed in western states. Both students and Campus Safety and Security (CSS) have expressed doubt that the new dispensaries would significantly affect campus life or disciplinary processes.
The opening of the dispensaries are the culmination of a long and slow movement for legalization. Marijuana was outlawed in Massachusetts in 1911 and remained illegal for over 100 years despite frequent use and wide social acceptance. The drug was decriminalized in 2008, legalized for medical use in 2012 and finally legalized for recreational use in 2016.
Despite marijuana’s legalization in 2016, there were no dispensaries in Massachusetts for about two years. This created a somewhat contradictory legal situation in which possessing, growing and even buying small amounts of marijuana were all legal, but nobody could sell the drug legally. If someone bought a small amount of marijuana from a dealer, the customer was not breaking any laws, but the dealer was.
Despite the proximity of the dispensaries, many students still believe their presence is unlikely to be significant.
Ben Ward ’22 explained that he believes the presence of the dispensaries nearby will not make it any easier for students to use marijuana. “It’s going to make it hard on the dealers,” he said, “but other than that it’ll stay the same. People have no problem getting weed [as it is].”
Ward does think, however, that the presence of legally-purchased marijuana on campus may have some benefits. “It’s safer, it’s higher quality [and] you know what you’re getting,” he explained.
Another student, Benton Leary ’20, added, “I think it’ll increase accessibility because right now you have to know a dealer by more illicit means. I would expect it to make marijuana more accessible, which will make it easier for people to get logistically because they won’t have to know somebody, and I expect it will also lower the price of marijuana.
“I don’t know that the current marijuana situation on campus is unsafe. I think the extent to which people get their stuff from states where it’s already legal and regulated is high. The marijuana on campus is already safe. One change that I do expect when I think about people’s relative safety [is that] it’ll release the need for ‘dealers.’ In the past, students have gotten in trouble for having it for ‘distribution purposes.’ I think it’s a good thing.”
In addition to the dispensaries’ likely minor impact on campus life, its effect on discipline will be nonexistent. David Boyer, head of CSS, stressed that marijuana is still not allowed on campus despite its legal status in Massachusetts and the presence of the dispensary nearby.
“That marijuana is still considered an illegal drug federally means it is prohibited for students by our code of conduct,” said Rachel Bukanc, senior associate dean of the College. “It is also important to note that smoking of any kind indoors is prohibited.”
“It will be treated the same, regardless of whether it is purchased on-campus or off,” Boyer said. “Any student caught selling marijuana or other (sic) illegal drugs is subject to suspension from the College.”