Retail marijuana sales began on Tuesday in Massachusetts, and after quite a wait — at the legislative level and in line Tuesday morning — residents were ready.

Shoppers lined up early at the only two currently operational retail pot shops in the state: Cultivate Holdings in Leicester and New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Northampton.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz made the first retail marijuana purchase at NETA Tuesday morning. Spectators counted down to 8 a.m., the second sales began at the pot shop, at which point Narkewicz handed over cash for a marijuana-infused chocolate bar.

“I’m proud that Northampton is playing a role in this historic day,” he told the crowd after making his purchase, “ending some 80 years of prohibition here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and moving in to a new modern era where we have safe, tested, well-regulated adult use of marijuana.”

 

Though the cashier did remind Narkewicz to “go low and slow,” he doesn’t plan to imbibe on his purchase. Even though he bought the symbolic first retail marijuana item at NETA, he told reporters he plans to preserve the THC chocolate bar as a piece of history.

Retail marijuana in Massachusetts: more pot shops soon

At Cultivate in Leicester, Stephen Mandile, an Iraq veteran, was selected to make the first retail marijuana purchase at that pot shop. Mandile has long advocated for marijuana after it helped him end a 10-year opioid addiction, caused by the more than 57 different prescription medications he was given for his military injury. (Narkewicz is also a veteran; he served on active duty in the United States Air Force as a personnel specialist.)

Others certainly plan to take full advantage of retail marijuana offerings in Massachusetts, as well, and soon more pot shops should be open across the state.

While NETA and Cultivate are currently the only two pot shops to be fully licensed in time for retail marijuana sales, more than 50 other businesses are awaiting approval from the state’s regulatory agency, the Cannabis Control Commission.

retail marijuana massachusetts | massachusetts pot shops
People wait in line to legally buy cannabis at the opening day of sales of marijuana to the general public at New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Northampton, Massachusetts on November 20, 2018. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

The CCC has issued provisional licenses for 20 other retailers and on Tuesday is expected to vote on issuing two more retailers final licenses, according to State House News Service, which would allow them to begin compiling an inventory in anticipation of opening.

Massachusetts residents should have more places at which to purchase retail marijuana by the end of the calendar year, officials said.

With retail marijuana finally in full swing, Massachusetts has made history as the first state on the East Coast to offer recreational weed.

The push for federal legal marijuana has been gaining steam, as well. On Tuesday, Massachusetts Representative Joe Kennedy III wrote in an op-ed for Stat that, “given the rapid pace of state-level legalization and liberalization, I believe we must implement strong, clear, and fair federal guidelines,” including removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and legalizing it at the federal level.

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