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The first retail marijuana store in the immediate Boston area opens Saturday morning, just a short walk from the line dividing Boston and Brookline.
New England Treatment Access, at the corner of Washington Street and Route 9 in Brookline, will be the 13th cannabis shop to open to all adults in Massachusetts.
But unlike the other 12 stores, this one has a unique advantage: It's just a few steps away from the MBTA's Brookline Village stop on the Green Line, and that could very well mean an influx of customers from Greater Boston who may not have been able to get to more remote locations, where cannabis retailers have already opened.
"We've been planning for weeks and weeks, if not months, for this opening," said Amanda Rositano, director of operational compliance for NETA. "Working in close coordination with the town, with the Brookline Police Department and the police chief to make sure that, you know, our plans are well thought-out, well-vetted, and we think we're ready to roll."
The Brookline store has been open to medical marijuana patients since 2016. Rositano says even though all adults will be allowed to enter and purchase from the store, registered patients remain their top priority.
"We've reserved inventories specifically for patients," she said. "They will have separate service areas within the dispensary just for them. Again no waiting for our patients. They'll be able to have the same experiences that they've had to this day."
Still, like at a grocery store just hours before a big snowstorm hits, many registered patients have been visiting NETA to stock up in advance of a possible onslaught of adult-use customers. No one knows for sure exactly how many people will show up once the doors open to all, but it's safe to say crowds are anticipated.
For the opening, NETA will close its small parking lot behind the store and in its place have customers line up in a winding queue. Parking in the area remains the biggest concern, with limited spaces available at the busy intersection.
Town Administrator Melvin Kleckner says Brookline is as prepared as it can be.
"We understand it's going to be a very congested and busy location for the next several weeks, we think," Kleckner said. "And so we've been planning with our police department primarily on how to deal with the opening and the kind of congestion in that area that that will bring."
The town has set up electronic signs warning motorists of the expected congestion. Additional police details will also be on hand to keep traffic moving and from blocking the fire station on Route 9, directly across the street from NETA.
Both the town and NETA are urging customers to take the T — even though shuttle buses will be replacing Green Line trolleys as the MBTA conducts planned track and signal upgrades on nights and weekends.
Those who live and work in Brookline Village are getting set as well.
The cannabis store is located directly next door to the Little Children Schoolhouse daycare facility. Managers there didn't want to be interviewed, but did say that so far, NETA has been an excellent neighbor.
Just down the street, Felice Brenner works as a yoga instructor. She says she's not sure how the neighborhood will change.
"I think that initially there's going to be a crush of people because it's the only recreational cannabis store in the Boston area right now; I know there are some out in the burbs," Brenner said. "Hopefully more shops are open [soon] and after six months or whatever that it'll die down, it will be just like the medical marijuana place, which really doesn't have a whole lot of effect."
That's what has happened in other communities that were once in the cannabis spotlight.
The town of Leicester is far less populated than Brookline, but saw a crush of cars descend on the central Massachusetts town when the cannabis store Cultivate was one of the first two shops in the state to open to all adults last November.
Leicester officials say the rush has faded away.
"It's still very busy on the weekends," Town Administrator David Genereux said. "We still have the shuttle service working at Cultivate . We get an occasional call for a detail here and there, but generally speaking it's been very, very smooth."
The other store that opened on day one was NETA's shop in Northampton. Rositano was there for that as well.
"We've had a great deal of experience out in Northampton now, and we've been able to learn lessons from how it went out there on very valuable lessons that we can apply here," she said.
Rositano says the lessons include minor operational tweaks.
This segment aired on March 22, 2019.
- Map: Mass. Recreational Marijuana Stores (And Other Businesses)
- Recreational Marijuana
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