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Recreational Marijuana Is Now Being Sold In Massachusetts

    It is an historic day in Massachusetts, as it became the first state on the East Coast where recreational marijuana is being legally sold.   There were big crowds as the first two pot stores opened.

    An early morning mix of cold rain and snow did not dampen the enthusiasm of hundreds of people who lined up to wait for the 8 a.m. opening of pot shop retailer New England Treatment Access in Northampton.

   Daquaan Hamilton, a 22-year-old college student from Northampton, was the first in line at 12:30 a.m.  His first purchase was a vape pen and some edibles.  The historic significance of the moment was not lost on him.

  "There are people who have gone to jail for even having paraphernalia, so this is a huge step forward for all of us," said Hamilton.

  Before the general public was let into the NETA shop after showing proof of legal age at the door, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz was invited in to be the first official customer.   With a crush of media looking on, the mayor purchased from NETA co-founder Arnon Vered a chocolate bar infused with 50 milligrams of THC -- the main intoxicating ingredient in cannabis.

" So, Mr. Mayor thank you so much for making the first purchase of marijuana in the regulated market here in the eastern part of the United States," said Vered.

Narkewicz, who paid $20 plus $4 tax for the purchase, said he plans to display it and eventually donate it to a local historical group.

"This ends, at least in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, some 80 years of prohibition," said Narkewicz.

   The mayor praised NETA, which opened a medical marijuana dispensary in Northampton in 2015, for being “great community partners.”

  "Its been a well-run, safe business, and I have every confidence they will continue to operate a great retail establishments along side that dispensary," said Narkewicz.

NETA will eventually have competition in Northampton.  Five other retailers have started the process to obtain a state license after signing host community agreements with Narkewicz.

Dick Evans, a Northampton attorney who championed reforming marijuana laws for 40 years, said the beginning of recreational marijuana sales is carrying out the will of the voters.

  "It is not so much elation I feel today, but relief that we have driven that final nail in the coffin of prohibition," said Evans.

  The ballot initiative that led to legal recreational marijuana sales in Massachusetts was passed by 54 percent of the voters in 2016.

   Massachusetts is the seventh state with legal adult marijuana sales.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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