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Buyers On The State's First Day Of Legal Pot Sales Look For A Nugget Of History03:42
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Veteran Stephen Mandile make the first purchase of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts at Cultivate in Leicester. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
Veteran Stephen Mandile make the first purchase of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts at Cultivate in Leicester. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Recreational marijuana sales started in Massachusetts Tuesday, and many of the people who showed up to one of the two open cannabis shops didn't have a specific strain in mind. They just wanted a piece of history.

Hundreds of people lined up at Cultivate in Leicester and New England Treatment Access in Northampton to be among the first legal purchasers of cannabis on the East Coast. Some came on a whim from down the street, while others traveled from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut looking to get what their state doesn't have.

The first sales of marijuana for anyone 21 and older in Massachusetts came two years after voters approved legal cannabis in the state. Additional retailers are set to open in Massachusetts in the coming weeks and months.

Giovanni Net mulls over the options listed on the Cultivate menu. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Giovanni Net mulls over the options listed on the Cultivate menu. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Lynn Blare, 49, of Millbury came to Cultivate with her two cousins — the same women she used to get caught smoking weed with as a teenager.

More than three decades later, she was there for the product, of course, but also history.

"I am here to see something I always knew would come to light at some point and I’d argue with my parents over for years," she said. "And I’m sorry to say they’re not [alive] to see this but my children and my grandchildren are here to witness history.”

She hadn't even looked at a menu when she got in line. She figured something would spark her interest when she got to the budtender at the counter.

A line forms outside of Cultivate in Leicester, one of two stores to legally sell marijuana recreationally in Massachusetts, on Tuesday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A line forms outside of Cultivate in Leicester, one of two stores to legally sell marijuana recreationally in Massachusetts, on Tuesday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Ralph Raposa, 67, of Fall River, knew exactly what he wanted — something with high THC content, the part of the cannabis plant that gets you high. He wanted a full ounce of Chocolate O.G., but settled for three-quarters after checking his supply of cash.

He was happy to fork over the $322.50.

“I think it’s wonderful," he said. "I think it's good for everybody, good for the state. And good to get out the shadows and into the light.”

If the cash registers at Cultivate made any noise — they're touch screen — they would have been cha-chinging all day Tuesday. Throngs of people descended upon the small town of Leicester, a suburb of Worcester that's hosted Cultivate as a medical dispensary for a year. A nearby nursery and drive-in movie lot became auxiliary parking lots, and lines snaked down the street.

Cars wait on Main Street to park in a lot about a quarter of a mile away from Cultivate. From there customers are shuttled to the facility from the parking lot using vans. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Cars wait on Main Street to park in a lot about a quarter of a mile away from Cultivate. From there customers are shuttled to the facility from the parking lot using vans. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

After making the first sale to Stephen Mandile, an Iraq War veteran and cannabis advocate ($79 for an eighth of Jack Herer and a pre-rolled joint he said he'd "save for the Smithsonian"), Cultivate owner Sam Barber told the throngs of other customers waiting that the shop was ready for them.

"It's a huge and historic day for everybody and we're going to work our hardest to make sure this a huge benefit for everybody," he said. "I think people are going to change their mind about cannabis."

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz made the first purchase at NETA in his city. As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, a NETA spokesperson said 1,000 people had purchased recreational marijuana there.

Cultivate and NETA will continue to serve medical marijuana patients.

Buying marijuana like you would a six-pack of beer might be legal now, but that doesn't mean the stigma is gone. Lots of people didn't want to give their name or be interviewed outside Cultivate Tuesday. That included the guy who was first in line, a 55-year-old manufacturing worker from Lowell.

He let a 24-year-old woman who was more than happy to be interviewed cut him in line, so she'd be the official first at the door.

In the early morning rain, Brittani Beeso was the first to wait in line at Cultivate. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
In the early morning rain, Brittani Beeso was the first to wait in line at Cultivate. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Another person who didn't want to be named — a 68-year-old nurse who hadn't smoked weed since the late '70s. She was too worried back then about what the herb was laced with, or whether it would make her sick.

"You didn't know what you were getting," she said as she perused the menu. "This is far nicer. You know that it's good. It's not going to kill you."

She was almost giddy at the counter, selecting a handful of pre-rolled joints, an eighth of an ounce of a sativa strain and some gummies — "why not?" She never thought she'd be able to do this in her lifetime.

"I think people have been waiting for a long time for this," she said, "and I think it’s really wonderful that Massachusetts decided that it was all right and eventually it finally got to being a reality.”

The stop at Cultivate, though, came at the last minute. She was on her way to pick up her turkey in Lancaster and remembered that sales started that morning.

"I should be home doing all sorts of things but I'm here buying pot," she said, bursting into laughter.

Relaxing with her new stash, she said, will have to wait until after Thanksgiving.

Some marijuana products sit on the counter as they are rung up for sale at Cultivate. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Some marijuana products sit on the counter as they are rung up for sale at Cultivate. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Brittani Beeso's name wrong in a photo caption. We regret the error.

This segment aired on November 21, 2018.

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Ally Jarmanning Twitter Digital Producer
Ally is a reporter who champions data and public records in the WBUR newsroom.

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