More than two years after voters in Massachusetts legalized marijuana for recreational use by adults, the first retail pot stores will open Tuesday morning.
Shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday, New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Northampton and Cultivate Holdings in Leicester, just west of Worcester, plan to make the first legal sales of marijuana for recreational use east of the Mississippi.
"I am so honored and excited as NETA Northampton gets ready to launch a new era," said Amanda Rositano, Director of Compliance for NETA.
She said the company has been busy coordinating opening day logistics with local officials and law enforcement in Northampton since getting the approval late Friday from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission to commence operations.
"Its going to be an all-hands-deck situation here in Northampton," said Rositano about preparations for the first day of recreational marijuana sales.
NETA, which has operated a medical marijuana dispensary at its Conz Street building in Northampton since 2015, will have extra staff on duty Tuesday for the advent of recreational pot sales.
Speaking at a news conference Monday, Rositano said NETA has no idea how many customers to expect on the first day of recreational marijuana sales.
" We feel very confident we are very prepared from a supply standpoint for what is to come," said Rositano.
State law limits to one ounce of marijuana what a retailer can sell to in an individual in a single transaction. To purchase at the NETA store, people must show a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license to prove they are 21 or older. Orders can be placed in advance online. Payment is by cash or debit card.
To mark the historic occasion, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said he accepted NETA’s invitation to make the first purchase.
"It seemed to make sense that I would make that first purchase just to officially welcome it to the city and remove any doubt that this is not a fully legal business in the Commonwealth," said Narkewicz.
The Democratic mayor supported the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.
Narkewicz said he plans on purchasing a marijuana-infused candy bar and rather than consume it he plans to keep it as a memento.
"It will obviously be an historic first purchase, and I've talked about giving it someday down the road to Historic Northampton, which has chronicled the long history of Northampton and our leadership on a lot of social progress in the United States," said Narkewicz.
Although the doors to the NETA store won’t open until 8 a.m., a spokesman said there are no restrictions on how early people can start lining up.
Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper said there will be three officers assigned to direct traffic.
"We know we're going to have a lot of folks tomorrow, I don't know how many, but we are just focused on getting vehicles and pedestrian traffic in and out of the facility safely," said Kasper.
Kim Napoli, Director of Diversity Programs for NETA, said a portion of the inventory at the Northampton store will be reserved for medicinal-use, as required by state law. Medical marijuana patients will not have wait in the same line as people purchasing marijuana for recreational use.
With the first pot stores opening in Massachusetts, the Cannabis Control Commission issued a statement urging people to “consume responsibly.”
The statement said people should know that it is illegal to use marijuana while operating a vehicle or drive while impaired. Consuming marijuana or marijuana products in a public place is unlawful, as is transporting it across state lines.