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Massachusetts makes history as first legal marijuana shops on East Coast open

Massachusetts makes history as first legal marijuana shops on East Coast open

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By Daniella Silva and Ezra Kaplan

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — The Bay State made history Tuesday with the launch of the first recreational marijuana stores on the East Coast — more than two years after voters decided to legalize non-medical cannabis.

Medical marijuana facilities Cultivate Holdings, in Leicester, and New England Treatment Access (NETA), in Northampton, opened their doors at 8 a.m. to kick off the state’s first legal recreational marijuana sales to people over the age of 21.

Two U.S. military veterans, one of whom is the mayor here, became the first customers to kick off a new, green era. Massachusetts first voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2012 and then voted to legalize recreational pot in 2016.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, who was in the Air Force, told reporters on Tuesday that he made a “symbolic” purchase of a cannabis-infused chocolate bar, which he would be preserving instead of consuming.

Store employees clapped and cheered after Narkewicz made his purchase at NETA.

“I’m proud that Northampton is playing a role in this historic day ending some 80 years of prohibition here in the commonwealth of Massachusetts and moving into a new modern era where we have safe, tested, well-regulated adult use of marijuana and cannabis,” he said, to more cheers.

At a news conference on the eve of the recreational sales, the mayor said he planned to preserve his purchase.

“My plan actually will be to preserve it and display it because it will be a historic purchase here in the city,” he said.

Stephen Mandile, an Army veteran who served in Iraq — and medical marijuana advocate — was the first to buy cannabis at the second store, Cultivate Holdings, in Leicester, on Tuesday morning.

“I probably dreamed about it back in high school that this day would happen sometime, but to be actually able to do it today is amazing,” he said, according to NBC Boston. “To have veterans be recognized, not just myself, but to bring other veterans with me and to have it focused around that, it’s super special to me.”

Leicester Police Chief Jim Hurley told NBC News Tuesday afternoon that officials “saw a much larger crowd than we had anticipated” at Cultivate.

“We had figured we could see between 600 and 1000 people and we were at the top end of that,” he said, adding that there were conservatively still 200 to 300 people in line when he left the facility just after 1:30 p.m.

“What really made it successful day was we planned ahead but everyone who came was very well behaved,” he said. “The crowd was excellent.”

By the time the doors opened at NETA Tuesday morning, the line wrapped around the building with hundreds of people stood in the cold rain and snow. Workers from the dispensary gave out hot coffee, donuts, and muffins.

A spokesperson for NETA said Tuesday afternoon that about a thousand purchases had been made at the business so far.

Amanda Rositano, NETA’s director of organizational compliance, said at the Monday news conference with the mayor that the business was still prioritizing its medical marijuana patients amid the recreational sales and would be working to inform customers about marijuana use as well as the rules and regulations for consumption.

Mitch Rosenfield, owner of nearby store The Hempest, which sells hemp, cannabidiol/CBD products and smoking accessories, said he welcomed the move.

Customers wait outside the Cultivate cannabis dispensary on Nov. 20.Steven Senne / AP

“Being the first state on the East Coast to do this, I think we’ll see a lot of people from New York, from all over the Northeast who want to check what this is all about,” he said.

Rosenfield said he was glad the state took the time to get things right but noted a few things may have been overthought and “we’ve missed out on a lot of tax revenue” with the delay.

His store did signature drives, fundraisers and education initiatives in support of legalizing marijuana ahead of the vote, he said.

“We’ve been trying to make this happen we fought pretty hard,” he said. “We’re thrilled to actually see it come to light.”



Full story is available here.

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