First East Coast Marijuana Shops Open in Massachusetts

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on November 20, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Massachusetts finally opened the first two recreational marijuana stores on the East Coast, two years after voters monumentally approved the sale of recreational marijuana. Though the state meticulously studied all the other states that have gone before it in this industry, they wanted to make sure they did it right, learning best practices and setbacks, and allowed themselves a long runway. And here they go!

A New Era on the East Coast

Cultivate Holdings, in Leicester, and New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Northampton, historically opened for business at 8 a.m. on November 19th to sell recreational marijuana to those over 21 years of age. Massachusetts voted to legalize medicinal marijuana in 2012, and recreational marijuana in 2016. Because medicinal marijuana had been legal for many years, retail pot sales weren't new to the state, but the state did want to make sure that they executed this new era as best they could, being the first such outlet to open on the East Coast.

Steven Hoffman, Chairman of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, said the process to bring this concept to fruition had been "pretty intense" and "nonstop" since the commission was appointed in 2017. Hoffman said the commission worked to "balance the will of the voters in terms of accessibility, with public health and public safety issues."

Enhancing and Embracing the Change

Hoffman noted that Massachusetts is choosing to do things a little differently than other states, including limiting how much retailers can sell in a single purchase, which is one ounce of flower or five grams of concentrate. He believes one of the key differences in Massachusetts is a strict requirements on diversity, including both employment and equity. Hoffman is well aware of how disproportionately some communities were hit by the war on drugs, and he hopes to weaken that divide with new requirements to help all groups.

The state has also chosen to prioritize medicinal marijuana, requiring retailers to set aside at least 35 percent of their supply for medical patients. With smart changes like these, it is no wonder that nearby store owners are viewing the openings with much optimism, hoping that these stores bring new customers to the area.

Tips for Holiday Shopping

If you're going to do a little holiday shopping in Massachusetts, keep in mind that it is a federal offense to bring marijuana across state lines, regardless of it the state you are entering has legalized recreational pot usage. That may be a problem, given the size of the states in the Northeast. And it's also against the law to use marijuana in public. So consider finding a cute Airbnb or hotel, and chilling out for a while. Oh, and bring cash. Most debit and credit card companies are still lukewarm to the concept.

If you violate any laws while embarking on this new era, contact a local criminal defense attorney. Laws in this area will be evolving with the industry, and only a legal advisor can give you the best recommendations on how to navigate these new waters.

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