It’s been two years since Massachusetts residents voted "yes" to recreational marijuana and now, they're able to buy it.
With sales officially starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, the two legal pot shops so far, Leicester-based Cultivate and Northampton-based New England Treatment Access, expected long lines as they become the first two recreational marijuana dispensaries to open in the eastern U.S.
"This has been a positive impact on the community overall," said Cultivate President Sam Barber. "This product really does help people. There's such an immense amount of tax revenue that’s going to be created for the state from a market that’s always been here. Now, we get to make sure that product is regulated."
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Cultivate expected thousands of people to show up and had a full staff and extra security patrol for the occasion. Forty people will be allowed in the shop at any time and patrons are advised to take cash in the morning since debit will not be accepted until noon.
"I'm not surprised that everything here is the way I believe it should be because we have inspected thoroughly and repeatedly," said Steve Hoffman, chair of the Cannabis Control Commission, after he toured NETA. "There were no surprises here today."
Stephen Mandile, an Iraq war veteran who was injured in combat, was Cultivate's first customer, while Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz was the first person to buy a recreational product at NETA.
Mandile, who has credited cannabis with helping him battle PTSD and anxiety, said it was an honor to be be chosen as Cultivate's first person to buy recreational marijuana.
"I probably dreamed about it back in high school that this day would happen sometime, but to be actually able to do it today is amazing," he said. "To have veterans be recognized, not just myself, but to bring other veterans with me and to have it focused around that, it's super special to me."
Tuesday night, NETA estimated serving approximately 2,000 customers on their first day. The Cannabis Control Commission said Wednesday that both stores combined for more than $440,000 in gross sales, selling 10,784 items.
Adults over the age of 21 can purchase products from the two shops if they have a valid ID. Customers can purchase one ounce of marijuana from licensed stores but no more than five grams of pot in concentrated form could be sold.
Massachusetts voters chose to legalize recreational use of marijuana in 2016, but it has taken officials more than two years to determine where the first stores could open. Originally, retail sales were expected to begin July 1.
A third store in Wareham near Cape Cod could open soon after it was issued a final license.
Recreational marijuana sales are currently legal in six states, and Maine is expected to start legal sales in 2019. Adults can use marijuana in Vermont and Washington, D.C., but there are currently no legal sales in either place.