Who’s to say new opportunities aren’t a good thing? This recent article from WGBH News discusses the positive and negative aspects of the new marijuana store set to open in Dorchester’s Grove Hall. For reference, Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood is 43% African-American, and 23% of residents report being affected by poverty. This new marijuana shop sets out to “even the odds” in marijuana sales and give autonomy to those in communities that have been over-policed and over-surveilled in regard to drugs. Currently, the only other marijuana store in the Boston area is in Brookline, a town that is approximately 73% white and boasts super-wealthy residents like Robert Kraft and Tom Brady. Brookline has seen around $1 million in taxes pour in since the opening of its marijuana shop. Government officials believe that opening a shop in Dorchester would not only bring revenue, but equity in the emerging marijuana industry to the neighborhood.
This article is a good example of why it is necessary to have black reporters who can talk to community leaders in areas like Dorchester. Describing the opening of this new pot shop sounds like a dream – One might think, “Wow, black and brown people are jailed at disproportionate rates for miniscule drug crimes. Finally, the power is back in their hands with this shop!” But that is not the case.
Saraya Wintersmith, the reporter on this piece, details how community leaders are against the shop. Wintersmith says that community leaders believe this only brings in more harmful vices to Dorchester, much like a liquor store or a tobacco smoke shop. Other criticisms include the shop’s proximity to a local high school, and what the real effects of the store will be. Sure, it will bring in revenue – but how will that reach the communities who need the money? Wintersmith does a good job in letting community leaders and activists tell their side of the story – something a reporter who did not have access to those communities might not be able to do. Ultimately, Dorchester community leaders fear they will be left to “clean up a problem” among the youth once the store’s products are more accessible. Understanding the nuances of the black community is necessary in this case too – how vices have kept people down for years and not necessarily “empowered” them. This shop is set to open next month. I am interested – but still concerned – about what the effects of the store may be on the community.