History was made Tuesday with the grand opening of the very first recreational marijuana storefront on the East Coast. It has been a long time coming, voters legalized non-medical cannabis two years ago.
Kickoff starts around 8:00 am for Medical marijuana facilities, Cultivate Holdings, in Leicester, and New England Treatment Access (NETA). In Northampton the state’s first, legal recreational marijuana sales to people over the age of 21.
The mayor who is a U.S. military veteran became the first customer to ignite the green era. Massachusetts first won the legalization vote back in 2012 and then voted to be legalized to recreational use in 2016. Mayor David Narwekwicz, who served in the Air Force said to the reporters this morning that he made a “statement” purchase of cannabis-infused chocolate bar, which he would save rather than consume for historic reasons. He purchased the marijuana candy bar at NETA.
“My plan actually will be to preserve it and display it because it will be a historic purchase here in the city,” he said.
After his purchase, he commented, “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.”
Another honorable costumer known by Stephen Mandile, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and a huge supporter of marijuana was the first to buy weed at the second store opening, Cultivate Holdings, in Leicester, on Tuesday morning. He also shared how he suffered from PTSD and how he was able to kick his opioid addiction with the use of marijuana
After buying his cannabis he told NBC Boston reporters, “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, 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 has a population of nearly 10,500 people, and Northampton’s population is more than 28,500 according to the 2010 census.
NETA’s director of organizational compliance, Amanda Rositano, said during a Monday news conference with the mayor that the business was still in the process of prioritizing its medical marijuana patients despite the recreational sales and would be working to educate customers about marijuana laws and regulations for consumption.
Many business owners in the surrounding buildings have welcomed the shops in hopes of boosting sales in their own stores. Mitch Rosenfield one of the owners of a nearby store called The Hempest, which sells Hemp, CBD products and smoking accessories says he has been waiting and promoting the opening of these stores.
He noted that “we’ve missed out on a lot of tax revenue” with the delay. However, he is happy the state took its time to solidify everything before opening. His store was a huge contributor in fundraising and driving signatures in support of legalizing marijuana.
“We’ve been trying to make this happen we fought pretty hard,” he said. “We’re thrilled to actually see it come to light.”
During an interview with NBC news, Steven Hoffman, the chairman of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission said it had been, “pretty intense” and “nonstop” process to get to this point since the commission was appointed in September 2017. He added, “I think the biggest challenge is just trying to get it right there’s no roadmap here, plus this is a very controversial issue.”
According to Hoffman the. Commission was working to “balance the will of voters in term of accessibility, with public health and public safety issues.” He said, “It’s not going to be in every city and town in the state, it’s not going to be on every street corner, but it’s going to be accessible.”
Massachusetts has “benefited enormously” from the surrounding states who have legalized marijuana before but highlight that all states were indifferent in demographics and laws. With that being said he shared, “So you can’t just lift and shift from other states, but we certainly can learn lessons about things that they’ve done that worked well and things that they wish they could have done differently.”
Just like in California Massachusetts pot shops will be limited in how much they can sell to a single buyer and both public consumption and driving under the influence of marijuana is still illegal.
Marijuana has been legalized almost nationwide with 10 states including Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use, while only 33 three states allow it for medical.
Hoffman believes that strict Massachusetts’ law was set apart for diversity, “not just in terms of employment in the industry but in terms of equity ownership.” He added which will include a requirement, to help those communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the previous war on drugs to make sure they’re full participants.”
Just like most states, Massachusetts would require a multi-step application process with intense background checks and inspections to make sure new businesses would be safe and compliant with the law.
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