The recreational use of marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cannabis products was legalized in Massachusetts in 2016. Since 2018, over 50 dispensaries have opened in the Boston area, and their positive impacts are finally starting to show. A healthy dispensary industry boosts the economy, increases jobs, and may even impact crime rates.
In 2021, tax revenue from adult-use cannabis sales totaled nearly $4 billion in states where marijuana was legalized, almost $1 billion more than 2020’s total. When weed was legalized in Massachusetts, the state added a 20% tax on sales comprising 6.25% sales tax, 10.75% excise tax, and 3% local tax. With this tax, Massachusetts specifically contributed over $1.2 billion to the national total in 2021, with the money going toward the state and local governments.
A significant amount of the additional tax revenue from cannabis sales in the state has gone toward the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to improve public transportation, particularly for Boston residents. Individual cities and towns in Massachusetts have used the 3% local tax, which totaled nearly $4 million statewide in 2019, to improve town operations and support their general funds.
As of 2022, the cannabis industry was responsible for over 428,000 full-time equivalent jobs across the country, employing over 0.1% of the U.S. population. The industry added over 107,000 new employees in 2021, and that number only seems to be increasing every year.
Boston’s numerous dispensaries don’t just help combat the city’s unemployment rate, which rose to 2.9% at the end of 2022, but they also ensure employees have reliable, well-paying jobs to go to. Dispensaries in Massachusetts pay retail employees an average of $21 per hour, which is significantly more than other applicable retail jobs.
Tourism and Community Benefits
The economic benefits of legalizing weed extend beyond direct tax revenue. States and major cities where cannabis is not only legalized but also readily available attract additional tourism. According to a study in 2020, 29% of leisure travelers have cannabis in mind when deciding where to travel and would even be interested in cannabis-related tourism. This increased tourism helps other local businesses like restaurants, shops, and hotels.
Beyond tourists, dispensaries positively increase community engagement. Some dispensaries give community organizers a platform to post information, offer artists a place to display and sell their work, and provide customers with information about cannabis outside of the stigmas that have clouded marijuana use for countless years.
Reducing Crimes Rates and Redirecting Spending
With the legalization of cannabis, significantly fewer local and state efforts need to be put into deterring its use and sale. Realistically, fewer people will seek illegal means for purchasing cannabis products now that there are many businesses that sell them legally at affordable prices. On top of this, the spending that previously went toward enforcing cannabis prohibition can now be better directed toward the community and economic-boosting activities.
While some community members may still have their concerns, the economic benefits of legalizing weed have undeniably improved Boston’s economy, job creation, and transportation. With more money and tourists coming into the state, one can only wonder where Boston would be today without dispensaries like Harbor House Collective.