Big Fish in Small Ponds Impact Cannabis Access in Too Many States

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BEvery attempt at legalization of cannabis has had its flaws. Each state has had to develop its own systems for the legal production, sale, cultivation, and consumption of cannabis. Some states have created dispensary systems that operate under tight state control. Others create more of a private marketplace opportunity and allow for both state and local regulations of cannabis businesses.

While the decentralisation of cannabis businesses may seem like a great idea, unfortunately, it is letting local officials in many areas impose their personal opinion, however uneducated, on other people in their communities. In many states with legalization on the books, from California to Michigan, local communities have the authority to ban cannabis businesses.

Far too many small communities seem enthusiastic at the opportunity to curtail their own ability to benefit from legalization. In Michigan alone, 400 municipalities and communities have already banned cannabis businesses. Unfortunately, the people who hold power in many small communities are often uninterested in change. More importantly, their situation is low-profile enough to avoid the drama and pressure from constituents that state and federal lawmakers face on issues like legalization and save access.

Town council members, mayors, and trustees can make sweeping decisions at meetings attended by only a handful of the local population. The problem is that the people in these communities often don’t realize they have an opportunity to speak their mind on issues like a ban on dispensaries. Even when they do know about their rights and exercise them, hours of testimony and pleading from constituents at council meetings are all too often in vain.

There is very little recourse when elected officials in municipalities choose to advance their own agenda instead of what would benefit their community. There’s little question that between the creation of jobs, the potential reduction in crime, the generation of tax revenue, and the competition for the unregulated market that dispensaries would benefit almost every community in which they exist.

Unfortunately, many people in local government seem to have knee-jerk reactions to legalization. Those living in small communities that have banned cannabis shops and businesses should consider running for local government positions. Cannabis activists should also remember that voting in local elections is critical to protecting their own interests, including safe access to cannabis. Remember that voting is your civic duty and a way to improve your local community at the same time!

For more articles that discuss voting and civic duty, click here.