Frankie Mancini / Gavel Media

You Won't Be Able to Drink At Mary Ann's, But You May Be Able to Smoke

What’s the first place that comes to mind when you think of BC students, $1.50 beers, and sloppy make-outs? Cleveland Circle’s finest: Mary-Ann’s Bar.

Once the pinnacle of college dive bars, Mary Ann’s has lost its glow. Following the death of its owner in January 2018, the space was purchased by the Greater Boston Bar Company in July 2018 for $1.5 million. The company has been working on minor renovations ever since, but the BC favorite can only be found open on a rare Thursday night. Even then, Mary Ann’s seems comparatively empty.

However, rumors have been circulating that the bar will soon become a marijuana dispensary. Happy Valley Ventures of Massachusetts, a marijuana retailer opening stores throughout Eastern Massachusetts, has reported that it has a purchase-and-sale agreement to buy the Beacon Street bar and renovate it into a recreational and medical pot shop. The company is still awaiting approval from the city of Boston and Massachusetts marijuana regulators.

These ruminations have not been met without resistance. Boston College spokesperson Jack Dunn expressed to Patch in October that administrators, merchants, and police are “in agreement that the proposal is not in the best interest of the community,” but declined to elaborate on specific reasoning. Chief Bill Evans of the Boston College Police Department concurred, explaining that access to the dispensary will “only lead to more serious drug use by young kids” and students will be encouraged to go to the “black market” for lower costs. He cites marijuana as a gateway drug, with significant unintended consequences both in health and safety.

Meanwhile, the presence of marijuana dispensaries is ever-growing in the Greater Boston area. On March 23r, New England Treatment Access (NETA) opened in Brookline, just a 10-minute drive away from Northeastern University. Around 100 people were lined up by its 9:00 a.m. opening, hoping to be the first to visit the first dispensary in the area offering both medical and recreational weed.

Customers in line praised the shop for its ability to provide a “sense of normality that any patient can get going to CVS for their prescription medication.” For many in line, recreational marijuana is not purely recreational—legal cannabinoids have helped them manage ailments such as nerve pain without needing to seek out a prescriber and pay fees for a medical card.

With local concerns in mind, NETA has established purchase limits on certain products. The legal state maximum for individual transactions is one ounce of flower or five grams of concentrate; the dispensary has limited their sales to an eighth of an ounce of flower per customer. These lower limits help to ensure they have enough inventory for recreational and medical users while also preventing massive resale on the black market that could come with buying larger quantities.

The Brookline store also has a rigorous security system to guarantee that all customers are of legal buying age. A dispensary in Cleveland Circle would likely follow suit. Considering the numerous underage drinking and bar brawl citations that Mary Ann’s faced throughout its time, a dispensary may reduce rather than increase legal issues.

As shown by decreasing prices in states where cannabis has been legal for several years, students turning to the supposed black market is likely unrealistic. Prices are incredibly low, with Nevada’s wholesale flower prices at $4 per gram ($113 per ounce) and Oregon’s at $1.33 per gram ($38 per ounce), according to Leafly. Prices are slated to fall even more as the industry grows and production costs decrease. Despite Massachusetts’s 17% tax rate comprised of a 6.25% sales tax and 10.75% excise tax for recreationally sold marijuana, the prices of pot will likely be less than half of the nation’s average for illegal transactions.

Chief Evans had also expressed concerns about potential effects of marijuana students’ mental health: “Research says that marijuana can have the greatest impact on adolescents’ brains…I worry about their mental health.” He believes marijuana will complicate his ability to uphold his commitment to protect and serve the BC community.

These concerns are not unfounded—studies at Washington State University and Colorado College have shown academic performance declining and dropout rates increasing following the legalization of marijuana. However, we must consider that studies have shown that alcohol has just as profound an effect on brain development as marijuana does, and has a stronger potential for addiction. Who’s to say that a dispensary is worse for students than a bar?

Aspiring Cher impersonator. Die-hard SZA fan. Cheese addict. Oh, and Editor in Chief of The Gavel. Need I say more?