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Cannabis and Crime: Worcester’s Transformation for a Safer Community

Cannabis and Crime: Worcester’s Transformation for a Safer Community

Major Bloom is serving as a conduit to help the Massachusetts cannabis community connect with Worcester businesses as the entities work toward a shared goal of improving quality of life for their neighbors. 

Businesses in Worcester’s vibrant Green Island and Canal District neighborhoods recently gathered for a community meeting and discussed strategies to contribute to impactful changes in the area. Residents hope to assist the houseless population, direct people struggling with substance use to resources, and ensure the neighborhood is safe for everyone.

Though this meeting was not cannabis-specific, it took place just blocks from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission headquarters at Union Station. The commission has recently changed power and organizational structures while seeking to enact less restrictive regulations for equity license holders. Equity businesses are seeking one major change: reducing the agent requirement from two drivers to just one for cannabis delivery.

Worcester’s iconic Kelley Square intersection connects the Canal District and Green Island neighborhoods. These spots link with the newly developed “peanut-shaped” rotary and Interstate 290, which was constructed in the 1970s.  

In the ’60s and ’70s, the neighborhoods supplied more than 30 venus for drinking and partying in roughly a mile radius. Bars were raging as fans soaked up performances from notable rockstars like Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers (with Mick Taylor a week before he joined the Rolling Stones) and James Taylor.

Over the years, these areas have changed significantly — now, the area is rife with weed dispensaries, the Worcester Public Market, tons of eateries, and multiple thousand housing units and apartments. Less than ten years ago, in MassDOT’s “Top Crash Locations” report, the intersection with the Commonwealth’s most significant number of motor vehicle crashes was Kelley Square, with 138 reported collisions between 2014 and 2016.

Since then, the new rotary has been completed, along with the Worcester Red Sox’s Polar Park, among other attractions. At the recent community meeting, business owners voiced concern about the quality of life for those living on the streets as the neighborhoods continue to develop. The area is undergoing a revitalization, however, the party-all-the-time lifestyle from the ‘70s still exists and lingers among some locals.

After years in these neighborhoods, the business owners have gotten to know many of these people who live or hang out on the streets. They’ve learned that solutions for neighborhood improvement do not fall solely to homeless shelters. 

Can cannabis help alleviate some safety and well-being concerns? Local communities and states that legalize marijuana realize diverse economic benefits. As of Sept. 3, operating Marijuana Establishments have generated $1,046,732,984 in sales for the calendar year 2023. A $5 billion sales milestone, aligned with the Commission’s sixth anniversary, comes at a pivotal time.

The state’s industry employs thousands of workers overseeing the cultivation, production, distribution, and retailing of cannabis. These cannabis facilities are outfitted with security and technology systems to help deter crimes from their locations and abutting neighborhood businesses.

With the help of careful research, cannabis has the potential to help alleviate substance use and related crime. For those addicted to substances such as alcohol or opioids, studies have implied that cannabis can help reduce chronic use.

The neighborhoods surrounding Kelley Square are transitioning into an excellent destination for residents around Worcester and travelers passing through from Maine to the Metro New York/Tristate area. The businesses dedicate time and resources to providing the best service to their customers. However, there is help needed from the City to keep improving quality of life here.

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