LECIESTER, MA — Colin Sage doesn’t even like to smoke. Still, he woke up at 5:30 a.m., put on a gray beanie cap and drove 90 minutes from his home in Rockland to be among the first in line at Cultivate, one of the two recreational marijuana dispensaries opening today in Massachusetts.
It’s history, after all.
“I wanna try something edible,” Sage said. “I’ve never done anything edible before and I hate smoking.”
People came by the busful and got in line in dreary gray cold to be among the first to legally buy recreational pot in the Bay State. Cultivate, in the Central Massachusetts town of Leicester, and New England Treatment Access, in Northampton, both opened at 8 a.m., the first recreational marijuana retailers to open on the East Coast.
Despite pouring rain and muddy ground, the atmosphere stayed bright. Customers said the line moved fast, and several confirmed that it took only 10 minutes to get to the counter.
Over 1,000 customers made it through that line by closing time, according to Cultivate Francy Wade. The most popular marijuana products sold opening day were Chocolate OG, which is a weed with over 26 percent THC and the gummy cube edibles, she said.
The staff at times looked like they were the ones having the most fun. One employee even went to a local party store and bought giant costume sunglasses.
“The staff was helpful; I’m definitely coming back,” customer Matthew Ryan said, holding a bag with two types of marijuana and some pre-rolled joints. “You can’t put a price tag on legalization.”
The line for Cultivate at one point grew to more than a quarter-mile long, Police Chief James Hurley said shortly before 9 a.m. He estimated that 1,000 people were already waiting.
“This was a very big day for our town,” Hurley said.
As of 9 a.m., no incidents had been reported. The customers aren’t bothering anyone, Hurley said. Another officer working the police detail said he’s happy that police no longer have to enforce citations for marijuana possession.
Cultivate President Sam Barber said the store was letting people in 40 at a time, and that the company has “obsessed” over their products to make sure every customer is satisfied.
“We want to get this right from the beginning,” Barber said.
Cultivate employee Autumn Silva said the atmosphere was festive.
“I hope everyone comes in good spirits,” she told Patch. “I’m just happy to be here.”
The store’s opening was something of an event, buoyed in part by a grilled cheese food truck parked opportunistically outside.
The first customers in Massachusetts were Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz at NETA and Iraq veteran and longtime legalization advocate Stephen Mandile at Cultivate.
Mandile said it was an amazing experience – and a long time coming. He has advocated for medical marijuana for veterans, arguing that pot has helped him kick a prescription painkiller addiction.
“I probably dreamed about it back in high school that this day would happen sometime,” Mandile told reporters. “But to actually be doing it today is amazing and to have veterans recognized, not just myself, but to be able to bring other veterans with me and have it focused around that is super special to me.”
Cultivate said Mandile was chosen to be the first customer because of his military service and because he works as an activist trying to give veterans another option for treatment.
It’s been two years since Massachusetts voters approved the ballot question that legalized recreational marijuana, the 10th state to make pot legal. Since the ballot question’s passage in the 2016 election, the Cannabis Control Commission has spent the last two years trying to figure out how to regulate the industry and develop a licensing process.
Callan, who declined to give his last name, said it was a long time coming for him.
“I’ve been a believer since I was 16,” he told Patch. “It’s amazing it happened in my lifetime.”
The road to retail pot has been complicated and filled with delays, owing to local moratoriums the delayed the process of licensing stores and outright bans on recreational retailers in some towns and cities. Dozens of municipalities have enacted permanent bans and well over 100 have adopted temporary moratoriums, although most of these expire at some point in 2018.
Cultivate’s regular hours will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to its website, but on opening day it opened at 8 a.m. The menu has items for as little as $10, but you’ll need $15 for the peanut butter oatmeal cookie and $25 for the coconut lime macaroon. Cultivate is at 1764 Main St. in Leicester.
NETA was to open at 8 a.m. and close at 10 p.m., and will continue to do so seven days a week. The Northampton location’s menu (there’s also a medical dispensary in Brookline) has a smorgasbord of options, with one gram of marijuana going for $15 and half an ounce for $220. NETA is at 118 Conz St., Northampton
If you’re buying, remember, that like alcohol, marijuana is illegal to consume in public. You can smoke only in your home or other private venues. If you rent, your landlord can prohibit smoking, but you can still consume edibles.
Here are some other rules to keep in mind before trying to buy and use legal pot:
“As a supporter, long-time supporter, both of legalization of medical marijuana and as a supporter of adult-use marijuana, I think it sends an important message that I’d be the first person to make that purchase,” Narkewicz said Monday at a press conference at NETA. “There’s obviously been a lot of stigma around marijuana in this country. Massachusetts has moved forward on it … and Northampton has been a strong supporter of that.”
Eastern Massachusetts residents won’t have to wait long for a store to open, since a recreational retail license has been approved for Wareham.
Recreational marijuana purchases will be subject to a 6.25 percent sales tax, a 10.75 percent excise tax and potentially a 3 percent tax from the municipality.
Massachusetts is one of 10 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized recreational marijuana. Legal states include Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Michigan, Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Alaska.
The two stores opening ends a legal gray area, which started in December 2016 when individuals were allowed to possess and purchase up to an ounce of marijuana.
The problem was there was no way to legally buy marijuana, which created some confusion. Adults however could grow up to six plants per household or 12 plants if the household had two or more adults over 21.
Photos by Jimmy Bentley, Patch.
Mike Carraggi contributed to this report