We’re a long way from the January 1st deadline that was part of the ballot initiative passed by MA voters that legalized cannabis in 2016. Almost immediately, the start date for sales was delayed until July 1st, but this date passed without any retail stores opening. Massachusetts had a significantly slow rollout to their medical marijuana program, so these delays were only somewhat surprising. Now finally, two years after voters approved legal cannabis, at least one dispensary is open to the public.
“The medical-use operation is located on the left side of the sales floor and sells marijuana infused products (‘MIPS’), flower, and concentrates to registered patients,” according to a description of the NETA operation posted by state regulators. Retail sales will occur on the right side. “The sales area is divided by retractable belt-barrier posts,” the document adds. Customers are only granted access to a bathroom, patient consultation room, and the sales area.”
The New England Treatment Access (NETA), one of few medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, was licensed as a retail store, allowing sales in the same building as their medical marijuana dispensary. This seems to be the same situation for two additional companies as well, Cultivate and Pharmacannis Massachusetts. Other licenses are still being processed – so for now these three will be the only places in the state to legally purchase cannabis.
“There exists a marketplace for marijuana right now in Massachusetts, and it’s our job as a regulated industry to over time displace the current illegal, untaxed and untested industry with one that is controlled, regulated, taxed and tested,” said Norton Albaraez, the company’s director of government affairs.
“It’s already counter-culture. It’s like their customers are already here,” said Steve Morin, a 68-year-old retired delivery truck driver and Air Force veteran who lives in Springfield, Mass.
Since there have been no legal sales in the state so far, NETA is anticipating long lines like those that have been seen in other states – and even our neighbor to the north, Canada – on the first day of legal sales. They have coordinated with police and city officials for issues like traffic and parking, both of which could be concerns if the crowds are as big as we’ve seen in the past. Considering the long wait, it would be more surprising if there weren’t long lines of customers waiting for their turn to purchase some legal bud.
There is a long way to go before Massachusetts has their commercial cannabis industry running smoothly, with enough shops open to keep up with the demand – but this is certainly a start.