Not so long ago, most every elected politician in Massachusetts talked about marijuana like it was the devil’s brew.
Things have changed.
On Saturday, the state’s 13th recreational marijuana store, and the first in the Boston area, will open in Brookline at Washington Street and Route 9.
It’s five minutes from my house, just past the police headquarters on the right, the town library on the left, next door to the Little Children Schoolhouse day care, and down the hill from the million-plus dollar homes of Brookline’s famed Pill Hill, named for the doctors and hospital workers who once could afford to live there.
We are not talking some seedy storefront down a dingy alley by a dumpster, either. No, New England Treatment Access, which already operates a medical marijuana facility there, sits inside the old Brookline Bank building, with its mahogany doors and teal glass dome. Its Beaux-Arts style exemplifies, as the guide to historic Brookline explains, a similar architectural theme as McKim, Mead, and White’s “elegant classical design” of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square.
I visited NETA in that gorgeous building Tuesday. I met 35-year-old wife and mother Amanda Rositano, who worked on Beacon Hill for former state representative Frank Smizik before entering the marijuana business as NETA’s director of operational compliance. She’s proud of what she does. She gave me the tour: boxes of weed in the former bank’s vault, multiple clerks behind multiple computers detailing customer options, glass-case displays of products. The menu includes flower marijuana like Ghost Train Haze and Golden Lemon, listing the exact percentages of THC, the intoxicant in marijuana. There are vape pens, chocolate bars, lozenges, tinctures, even THC-infused suppositories.
The place felt both weird (can you really buy pre-rolled joints in five-packs on Route 9?) and reassuringly legit (debit cards accepted). Customers casually making purchases, one in a trim blue blazer, did not fit with the dark, secretive posture many of us have adopted toward any marijuana use that’s not about cancer or MS or rheumatoid arthritis. Do you really want your boss or kid to find out you just want to get stoned?
But getting stoned is now legal in Massachusetts. Starting Saturday, the NETA store will be ready to help you get there.
I wanted legalization. I voted for it. Still, it’ll take some getting used to. Somehow, I never expected, a mile from home, that I’d be able to put down $50 for one-eighth ounce of marijuana and walk out with it, right past the detail cop, no different than if I were buying a nice Chianti to go with a Friday night lasagna.
Still, the marijuana stigma remains. Of numerous adults interviewed by the Globe in June about marijuana use, only two were willing to use their real names.
Likewise those I talked to. One mother of three children under age 10 said she and her husband hide their weekend toking because they don’t want the kids telling their classmates or teachers. Who knows how they’d react? Another mother who drinks alcohol with her twenty-something children said smoking weed with them was something else again. But a therapist said she and her husband have smoked for decades and began smoking with her college-age daughter at the daughter’s request. “It’s a fun intimacy,” she said.
Yet nobody was keen on coming out of the marijuana closet at work. And the older and the more traditional the job — teacher, health care — the more leery they were about shopping at the NETA store without bags over their heads.
“Attitudes change slowly,” said one baby boomer who was ready to try some sweet, gooey edibles — as long as somebody else buys them. He predicts stores like this one, in the historic hearts of leafy suburbs, will nudge that change along. Meanwhile, he’s making a shopping list for his son-in-law, 27, and looks forward to a lilt in his step this spring.Margery Eagan is cohost of WGBH’s “Boston Public Radio.” Her column appears regularly in the Globe.