May 2, 2019 9:59AM

Political Influence in Retail MJ Industry

This article from the Boston Globe describes, and implicitly criticizes, the large role of political connections in determining who can legally sell marijuana in Massachusetts:


Lobbyist Frank Perullo had good reason to believe his client’s proposal to open a medical marijuana store would receive a warm reception from the Cambridge City Council. After all, Perullo counted six of the nine councilors as his political clients, including Leland Cheung, whom Perullo served as campaign treasurer.

Cheung was ready to do his part. He planned to offer a resolution supporting the marijuana shop.

But Perullo wasn’t going to leave anything to chance at the August 2016 council meeting. So his staff sent Cheung an e-mail labeled “talking points,” describing Commonwealth Alternative Care’s exotic marijuana products.

“LC, please see attached for this evening,” a staffer wrote, addressing Cheung by his initials. “Let me know if you have questions.”

Nothing happens quickly in Massachusetts politics, or in the business of pot, for that matter. But Perullo’s diligence — and carefully cultivated relationships — paid off. Today Commonwealth Alternative Care’s pot shop is under construction in Inman Square.

divThe Globe's concern about political insiders benefiting at the expense of competition is understandable.

But the true villain is regulation that limits the number of legal marijuana sellers. 

Absent this government-created barrier to entry, political influence would be irrelevant.

Instead, legal marijuana would be available at pharmacies, coffee shops, Walmart, stand-alone pot shops, and any place where consumers might wish to purchase it.