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Massachusetts is on the verge of a big change.
On Tuesday, recreational marijuana will be available for sale at two stores in the state.
Cultivate, in the central Massachusetts community of Leicester, and New England Treatment Access, in the western Massachusetts city of Northampton, received the first retail licenses to sell cannabis to anyone over the age of 21.
Both stores already serve medical marijuana patients. They plan to open their doors to recreational marijuana customers at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Cultivate is working closely with town police to accommodate expected crowds, and will bring some customers in from a separate parking lot using a shuttle bus.
Cultivate CEO Sam Barber says they’re prepared for thousands of people to show up. He says the store won't put any caps on how much people can buy — beyond the 1 ounce limit enforced by state law.
“Obviously there’s an immense demand and we’ve been preparing for a while to help meet this,” Barber said. “We can’t make any guarantees as to how long our supply might last.”
Cultivate doesn’t take credit cards, and debit card terminals won’t be up and running until noon. Medical patients will have a separate line and registers — and product saved just for them.
Barber encouraged people not to show up too early, though he expects lines to start around 7 a.m. Customers without a handicap placard are asked to park at Everlast Nursery in Spencer, about a half mile away from the store. A shuttle bus will bring customers to Cultivate, where there will be heated tents, food and music.
Leicester Police Chief Jim Hurley reminded customers that public consumption is illegal — and that includes in your car.
In Northampton, NETA is ready for big crowds as well. It is paying for extra police details and has arranged for overflow parking with neighboring businesses. NETA purchases will be limited to one eighth of an ounce of marijuana flower to start, the company said.
Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz will be the first person to buy non-medical marijuana from the retail shop. He says he plans to buy a cannabis-infused chocolate bar — though he won't be eating it.
"My plan actually will be to preserve it and display it because it will be a historic purchase here in the city of Northampton," he said.
NETA compliance director Amanda Rositano had a bit of advice for the mayor, and anyone else thinking about trying edibles.
"Mayor, we just ask that if you do consume it that you please go low and slow," she said.
Rositano said NETA is ready for sales to begin.
“What a moment," she said. "We are so excited to finally be here today. This is really about acknowledging that there is now a place for cannabis in our society and that place is no longer in the shadows.”
Said Cultivate CEO Barber: “There’s such an immense amount of tax revenue that’s going to be created for the state for a market that’s always been here. Now we get to make sure that that product is regulated, it’s safe for everybody and it’s not getting into anybody’s hands who’s under 21.”
It's been more than two years since Massachusetts voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Using marijuana has been legal since December 2016 -- there just hasn't been anywhere to buy it legally.
With reporting by WBUR's Ally Jarmanning, New England Public Radio and State House News Service
This article was originally published on November 19, 2018.
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