“Millennial Referendum on Marijuana Retail Stores in Lawrence”

By: Tomas Michel – June 2019

The Lawrence Police Department made 755 drug related arrests in the community it serves, according to their annual report for 2018.

A statewide referendum swept through Massachusetts, which thanks to a consensus of 1.8 million voters, the recreational use of marijuana became legal. As a result of this update in the Massachusetts General Law, a new market automatically established itself as a collateral “benefit”. Opening way for retail stores that want to sell Marijuana or CBD-oil-infused edibles, a break-through in the food industry and a threat to the illicit market.

Yet in Lawrence, the City Council unanimously banned the new business model from developing inside the municipality, to the belief it would further affect the image of the community or its public relations. A decision that was ultimately made with religious bias, and leaders with third world country mentalities. A measure that was only possible thanks to the lack participation of the younger residents and voting members that such decisions will directly affect. In this fashion, leaving the decision-making power to only a demographic of the whole population that does not necessarily understand the best interest of our microeconomic development, and we shall suffer the consequences of such arbitraries.

Yet without a single pot shop opened in the city, in March of 2018, President Donald Trump accused the City of Lawrence of being a direct source of drugs conduit towards New Hampshire, during a speech at Manchester Community College. Even the 45th Commander-In-Chief of the nation, who has far more critical things to pay attention to, of national and international relevance, could tell that drugs are a common denominator in Lawrence; an ever present one, with several visible indicators that we cannot hide. None the less, us, the residents, instead of taking reasonable decisions on how to manage the opioid crisis with logic, allowing direct business competition to the underground market, rather act visceral, and want to cover the sun with one finger. We’d rather wage a war on drugs —Reagan-style— to the detriment of the Lawrence residents.

No surprise why even in Llana Barber’s book Latino City, which studies the immigration and the urban crisis of Lawrence in the second half of the 20th century, one can find a Jeanne Scinto reference alluding to Lawrence as “the third world”. I often catch myself referring to the city, as the Unincorporated Territory of the Dominican Republic —in the Commonwealth—.

We already have the miscues on micro-economy policy, which certainly do not follow Thomas Jefferson’s separation of church and state nor the Lawrence residents’ best interest, so might as well make it official. We would just be missing the motorcycle taxies, transiting through Broadway Ave. and Essex St.

Heather Hannon, a businesswoman that is endeavoring in the legally new field of marijuana related edibles with her franchise of retail stores, Essex Apothecary, is going to open three branches in the near future. One of which will be established in the City of Lynn, scheduled to open for business in summer 2019. The two other locations are yet to be determined, which leaves the door open for an opportunity of investment nearby, after due process. Since “It is not money, but the volume of goods and services which determines whether a country is poverty stricken or prosperous” as Thomas Sowell would say in his books Basic Economics, we should organize to fight the illicit market, accurately, which currently affects the legally operating businesses that inject the local government tax revenues into its budget. Which raises the question, based on the city income per capita which is only 17,000 according to the U.S census Bureau, are we producing enough? Are we on a path to be sustainable and self-sufficient?

It would be ideal that the municipal government would find a way to compete in a systemic manner with the underground opioid market, that as far as I can observe in the Lawrence Police Department’s arrests statistics, and the regions newspaper headlines, has a notable supply-demand relationship. There is an ongoing supply, because there is an ongoing demand, regardless of the one hundred and ten cameras installed in the traffic lights, despite the remarkable resources misused to buy drones for the local law enforcement officials, the opioid market will prevail.

Without the right economic oriented approach to deter customers from its use off the grid —with effective incentives, on a reformative and not punitive scale. Ultimately, we do not need more policing against our colored families, friends and neighbors, just ask the creator and coach of the academic and athletic non-profit Sueños Basketball, that provides reformative guidance on youth at risk from our local school systems, “The district’s court system is inflexible with our minority children, whom need guidance and love instead of imprisonment” he states.

I invite my fellow younger generation of citizens of this country and residents of Lawrence, to develop sense of ownership of the community’s economic future and start making your voice heard. We do not need more inmates in the county jail, but rather jobs and a positive input towards the implementation of wealth development.

It is time that we put up a front to the New Jim Crow modus operandi that the establishment has engraved onto the local legislatives activities and we start creating our own empowerment through economic growth without outdated stigmas, subjective reasonings and biased ordinances. ◊

Tomas G. Michel is a writer and community organizer with finance experience in municipal government, non profit organizations a veteran of the U.S. Army, and a student at UMASS Lowell (Pre-law).