Questions Surrounding Recreational Marijuana on Cape Cod

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Through a 2016 ballot initiative, Massachusetts joined a small group of states that allow the sale of recreational marijuana. However, as the state gets closer to the opening of its first recreational pot shop, many regions in the Commonwealth are second guessing the sale of cannabis within their boundaries. In fact, about 70 communities have a recreational marijuana ban in place, and about 160 more cities and towns have a moratorium of some sort. Cape Cod’s towns have similar feelings, as many questions have arisen over the future of pot shops in the region.

Residents on Cape Cod have been hesitant to introduce any type of legalized marijuana, primarily because of the concern that easier access could lead to increased exposure to children. Despite the state currently having 32 registered medical marijuana dispensaries, Cape Cod has only one. While a few Cape towns are beginning to engage in talks about introducing more medical marijuana dispensaries and transitioning them into the recreational business, 9 of the 15 Barnstable County towns have either banned recreational pot sales or have no plans to enter the business.

Cape Cod residents have varying opinions on the future of cannabis in the region, which makes it difficult for communities to pass ordinances on the issue. In fact, many towns cannot even agree on medical marijuana. For example, in Provincetown there are currently four applications for medical marijuana dispensaries, and three of the applicants have told law enforcement officials that they plan to add recreational operations in the future. However, in neighboring Truro, there was a proposed moratorium on any building or structure being used for recreational or medical marijuana.

This variety in opinion is not only creating doubt among Cape Codders, but also complications for those trying to enter the business. While at least eight towns on the Cape have been approached by entrepreneurs hoping to obtain recreational retail or cultivation licenses, no agreements have been signed because officials continue to struggle with how to regulate them.

Many people on the Cape are intently tracking the decision the Barnstable Town Council is contemplating. Local officials are considering an amendment that would ban the sale of recreational marijuana but make exceptions for research, testing, and cultivation. With six of the 15 Cape Cod towns already having voted to ban recreational pot altogether, Barnstable’s action would hold special significance as the town generates the most revenue and has the largest population of all Cape towns. Barnstable’s decision will likely influence many others in the region.

Town Status of Recreational Marijuana
Chatham Banned
Dennis Banned
Falmouth Banned
Harwich Banned
Sandwich Banned
Yarmouth Banned
Brewster Approved
Eastham Approved
Provincetown Approved
Barnstable Undecided
Bourne Undecided
Mashpee Undecided
Orleans Undecided
Truro Undecided
Wellfleet Undecided

While Massachusetts voters approved recreational marijuana sales, Cape Cod voters were overwhelmingly opposed to the concept. It is no wonder that implementing the law on the Cape is an uphill climb. It’s likely that questions on the future of pot shops will abound there for quite some time.


Harris Foulkes is a Pioneer Transparency Intern and is a rising freshman at Amherst College where he plans to study economics.