History was made with the start of recreational marijuana sales in Massachusetts on Tuesday, and customers came from near and far to get their own share of the pot.
Standing in rain, snow, and cold temperatures, hundreds of customers braved long, winding lines before going inside Cultivate in Leicester and New England Treatment Access in Northampton.
The stores expected the lines to continue all day with another rush of people in the after-work hours.
We introduce you to some eager customers who arrived at the dispensaries early in the morning to be among the first to buy legal recreational marijuana.
‘We’re actually going to buy weed right now’
Jason Smith bought edibles, cubes, and some pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes at Cultivate in Leicester, but that doesn’t mean he was done buying pot for the day.
Not even close, it turned out.
“We’re actually going to buy weed right now,” Smith said after making it through the line, holding a brown paper bag from Cultivate in his hands. “It’s too expensive here, but we wanted to say we did it.”
Smith, 47, is staying in Framingham this week, visiting family for the Thanksgiving holiday. He lives in Highland Falls, N.Y.
Smith said legalization probably won’t change much for frequent marijuana consumers like him, but it will certainly play a role in changing perception, he said.
“It makes it a little bit easier for us to be who we are. We don’t have to hide it anymore, which is nice,” he said. “It’s just going to be maybe the perception of us and maybe how convenient it is for us to get it.”
Because of the prices, though, Smith said he thinks most people will continue using the black market — at least unless prices go down at recreational pot shops.
Not everyone at NETA was there to actually buy marijuana. Owners of other local businesses also dropped by, trying to take advantage of the sudden influx of consumers.
“It’s an awesome scene to see this many people coming into the city,” said Rob Harris, owner of nearby tattoo laser removal studio Disappearing Inc. “They’re going to take advantage of the resources here, shop at the businesses here — it’s all good for Northampton.”
Wearing large buttons that read “MUNCHIE PATROL,” Harris and two employees of his shop worked the long line of marijuana customers, handing out brownie bites and chatting about their company with those waiting to get inside.
“It’s great to have NETA as our neighbor,” Harris said. “It’s bringing consumers from all over Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont.”
A road trip that was worth it
Boudicca Arieli, 30, recently moved back near her hometown in New Jersey after eight years living in New Hampshire, but when she heard recreational marijuana sales were starting, she knew a trip back to New England was necessary.
Even when she broke her ankle this past weekend — and her boyfriend, Tom, offered that they stay home — she refused to change their plans.
“I’m like, ‘No I’m not staying home! I’m coming!’ ” she said inside Cultivate. “I have patience. There’s coffee.”
And come she did, even when it meant sitting by herself to give her crutches a rest as her boyfriend made it through the line.
Arieli, who is legally blind, said she has fought for increased uses for medical marijuana and wanted to be a part of this historic moment.
“It was just a really kind of special thing,” she said. “The day that marijuana stops having such a bad reputation and is viewed more usually than alcohol, that’s a day to me that I feel like is really important.”
A clear-head feeling or asleep on the couch
Ramon Aldoyn, 31, drove to Northampton from Hartford with a friend after reading news coverage about the launch of recreational marijuana and researching the location. A cannabis consumer for the past 10 years, he was perusing a printed NETA menu about halfway back through a two-hour-long line.
“This is crazy, but it’s cool,” he said, shaking his head at the length of the line. “It’s about time they got a recreational store open. It’s cold, it’s crappy, but it’s finally happening.”
Aldoyn said he’s looking forward to making frequent trips to Massachusetts, where, unlike with an illicit market dealer, he can choose from among various strains that produce various effects.
“To have a place like this, where you can know what you’re buying, is beautiful,” Aldoyn said. “I can know if I’m going to get a sativa and have a clear-head feeling, or whether I’m going to get an indica and fall asleep on the couch.”
An avid skateboarder, he added that marijuana is popular in his circle of friends — and that none of them can understand why the drug remains illegal at the federal level.
“The people want it, the people demand it, and the people use it,” Aldoyn said emphatically. “Is the country going to continue to outlaw it, or get with the times and make some taxes?”
Music to his ears
While many NETA customers had to circle the area for parking, Northampton resident and local musician Jason Owen, 47, simply walked from his home nearby.
“I just had to see it,” said Owen, a cannabis consumer since he began playing music at 16. “I wanted to be part of this historic day.”
Owen said marijuana helps make him more creative — and less anxious while performing for large crowds.
“I find it’s a better stimulant for music than alcohol, which can kind of slow you down a little bit,” he explained. “Marijuana takes the edge off and loosens the wheels, so to speak.”
Until Tuesday, Owen had been growing his own marijuana, though he conceded his pot is “nothing to write home about” compared to the professionally cultivated cannabis at NETA. From now on, he’ll simply stroll down the block instead of bothering with lights and fertilizers.
“I will be back again, absolutely,” Owen said. “This is how I always wanted it to be. Like everyone else who can swing by a package store for their libations, I can do the same for mine now.”
‘With time, we are going to find a balance on all of this’
Laurent Dubois hasn’t lived in Europe for years, but he still remembers the casual culture of marijuana there, particularly in Amsterdam.
“When you go to a coffee shop in Amsterdam, you can sit down, have a cup of coffee, and smoke your pot. That’s what it is,” said Dubois, 49, who is originally from France.
He tries to picture the same scenes happening here in Massachusetts or in his own town of Littleton, but he’s not sure it’s even a good idea. Smoking and driving can become a problem, he said.
“But I feel like with time, we are going to find a balance on all of this,” he said Tuesday inside Cultivate.
Dubois said the start of the marijuana legalization industry in Massachusetts has been like a “factory” with “a lot of control.”
In many ways, he said, that control has made the rollout a safer process for buyers, who can be confident that they know exactly where their marijuana is coming from.
“You come here, you buy weed, and that’s it,” he said. “You don’t buy anything, you don’t buy any other product that could be dangerous.”Felicia Gans can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans. Dan Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Adams86.