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November 21, 2018, Massachusetts
After a long delay caused by red tape and other administrative issues, Massachusetts has finally begun the sale of recreational cannabis. On the first days of sales, long queues were drawn outside the stores and customers had to wait for hours to buy legal weed. For now, only two establishments—Cultivate in Leicester and New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Northampton—are open for legal sales of recreational marijuana in the entire state. Both these establishments commemorated the veterans by making their first purchases to them.
These long waits actually demonstrated the protracted process of the materialization of retail recreational marijuana operations. Voters in Massachusetts legalized marijuana two years ago through a public ballot. However, it didn’t translate into the immediate commencement of retail sales.
According to experts, the delay was initially caused by the unavailability of the commercial yield of cannabis crop to fulfill the demands of the statewide market. In addition, lack of testing labs also made it impossible to run the compliance tests for anything that is available.
At the beginning of the year, it was projected that the legal sales would kick off from July 1. But that date also passed because Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission couldn’t issue the retail licenses. The commission has now issued 20 provisional licenses, which means more retail cannabis shops will be opening within the next couple of months.
At the cash counter of Cultivate, Stephan Mandible, a marijuana activist and an Iraq War veteran was the first customer in the queue. Mandible has always been vocal for easy access to marijuana. He himself uses medical strain for mitigating the symptoms of PTSD, brain injury and chronic pain.
NETA also facilitated a veteran David Markiewicz as its first customer. The ex-Air Force recruit purchased an edible chocolate bar from the store.
According to the on-ground survey from a local radio outside Cultivate, the majority of customers were cannabis enthusiasts gathered to be a part of a fateful moment in the history of the state. For accommodating a large number of customers and crowd, Cultivate set up the parking lot a mile away from the premises. As per the estimates from local police, 600-1000 people visited the store on the first day. One could only imagine how a 40-person capacity establishment would have managed to deal with so much of logistical burden.
It is important to mention here that both stores only got final clearance from the commission after they worked out their plans to manage expected crowds in the best possible manner. Long queues outside the store pushed NETA to issue a statement that they will arrange seats for the standing customers. The store has also promised to provide refreshments to all those who are waiting for too long. However, amid all the inconvenience, customers are well-prepared to wait in long queues.
Only two stores can’t cater to the state with a population of more than six million. So, this situation will persist until the opening of more retail stores.