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November 27, 2018

Leicester residents lash out at marijuana retailer

PHOTO/ZACHARY COMEAU The first sale of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts was made by Iraqi War vet Stephen Mandile, an Uxbridge resident who is a proponent of legal pot. He was the first in a long line of customers at Cultivate in Leicester on the first day of sales, on Nov. 20.

Recreational marijuana sales in the state have gotten off to a roaring start -- with two stores including Cultivate in Leicester combining for $440,000 in sales of the first day -- but the long lines and traffic caused town residents to voice their frustrations Monday at an emergency town meeting.

“We don’t expect this to last forever,” Leicester Town Administrator David Genereux told residents at the meeting, noting Cultivate is one of only two recreational marijuana stores open on the East Coast, drawing customers as far as New Jersey.

Police Chief James Hurley said the number of cars in town has far exceeded his expectations, citing what he called cannabis tourism -- people traveling to the store just to see what was going on.

Traffic mostly builds up on Main Street and Route 9. Parking is offered at Everlast Nursery about half a mile from the store and customers must take a shuttle to the store to be allowed in.

During the emergency town meeting, residents said they cannot pull out of their driveways during the 12 hours per day Cultivate is open. They called on the Cannabis Control Commission to close Cultivate until the traffic and parking issues are resolved.

Cultivate has footed the police detail bill every day to the tune of up to $3,245 on the weekends and $2,255 on weekdays.

“We’re not paying anything out of pocket,” Hurley said. “It has not been a drain on our resources.”

Robert Lally, chief operating officer of Cultivate, said the problem had been exacerbated by the holidays with the store opening two days before Thanksgiving.

The parking lot is expanding to increase capacity to reduce the number of cars on the road, and a traffic management company has been hired to address the issue, Lally said.

“The intention was to make sure it was safe,” Lally said on the parking and traffic issues.

In a Tuesday statement, Cultivate spokesperson Francy Wade said the company completely understands the frustration with traffic. The company is working with police to make the "temporary period of heavy customer volume" go as smoothly as possible. 

"We apologize for any disruption in people’s routines," she said. "We anticipate that the crowds will continue to subside in the coming days and a regular flow of traffic will be established."

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