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November 26, 2018 CENTRAL MASS IN BRIEF

Mass. recreational pot industry rolls out in Leicester

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.

It was all hands on deck in Leicester as marijuana dispensary Cultivate opened at 8 a.m. Nov. 20 to thousands of consumers who had been anticipating the rollout of the state's legal marijuana industry for more than two years.

“We've done everything we can to be prepared for thousands,” President Sam Barber said at a press conference in the dispensary one day before the opening.

Cultivate and the Northampton dispensary of New England Treatment Access both opened for recreational sales the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, becoming the first two east of the Mississippi River to jump into the recreational cannabis market.

Tom Gilligan and his girlfriend Boudicca Arieli made a four-and-a-half hour drive from New Jersey. They stayed overnight in Southbridge to be in Leicester for the opening.

“Four-and-a-half hours isn't that bad to be a part of history,” Gilligan said.

Barber and Leicester Police Chief Jim Hurley created a detailed plan for crowd control and parking including limiting the number of customers inside the building. Recreational customers were forced to park at Everlast Nursery, which is about half a mile from Cultivate. A shuttle bus brought customers to and from the retail location.

Medical patients were still able to park at the dispensary as normal.

Hurley reminded customers to not consume products until they get home, as public consumption is still illegal.

Busy day

The road in front of Cultivate was reduced to one-way traffic, while Route 9 traffic flowed as normal.

Barber spoke to his staff and the line of patient customers, speaking of a de-stigmatized cannabis culture.

“We're going to work our hardest to make sure this is a huge benefit for everybody,” he said. “People are going to change their minds about cannabis.”

Cultivate has been preparing for some time, including ramping up production and creating 35 new jobs to ensure a smooth rollout.

Demand will be immense, but Barber said the company is confident it will have enough product to last in the early going. Customers can purchase up to an ounce of marijuana or five grams of concentrate, the most allowed under state laws regulating the sale of cannabis. With the 20-percent state and local tax, an ounce of marijuana costs $420.

“We've been preparing for a while to meet this demand,” he said, adding he can't make any guarantees on how long the company's supply lasts after the first day of sales.

The state Cannabis Control Commission informed Cultivate and NETA on Nov. 16 they could begin sales in three calendar days, prompting the opening.

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