Starting Tuesday, adults will be able to purchase marijuana legally at two stores in Massachusetts.
At 4:20 p.m. on Friday, the Cannabis Control Commission announced that it had given the OK for retail sales to begin at the state's first two pot shops — Cultivate in Leicester and New England Treatment Access in Northampton — in three calendar days. Both companies were awarded final licenses for recreational sales last month.
"Cultivate is honored that we will be making history Tuesday by selling the first legal recreational cannabis in Massachusetts, New England and east of the Mississippi," Sam Barber, CEO and founder of Cultivate, said in a statement.
"We at New England Treatment Access will be honored to be a part of Massachusetts history when we open our doors for adult sales of legal cannabis in Northampton, Massachusetts, next Tuesday," Kim Napoli, a representative of that store said at a press conference. "We would like to thank the Cannabis Control Commission for their thoughtful and thorough approach to the rollout of adult-use cannabis."
A third retailer, Pharmacannis Massachusetts in Wareham, was approved for recreational sales this month. It was not clear when that store would open.
The recreational use and sale of marijuana, for adults 21 and older, was legalized in the Bay State by a ballot initiative just over two years before the first two openings.
Originally, officials aimed for sales to begin in January of 2018. Legislators pushed that date back six months, to July 1. As that date came and went, many hurdles remained; notably, licenses for recreational testing labs were not awarded until October. Those labs were allowed to begin testing products this month following inspections.
"This signal to open retail marijuana establishments marks a major milestone for voters who approved legal, adult-use cannabis in our state," Chairman Steven Hoffman of the commission said in a statement. "To get here, licensees underwent through background checks, passed multiple inspections, and had their products tested, all to ensure public health and safety as this new industry gets up and running."
As Cultivate geared up for regular sales, the store provided some tips for first-time marijuana dispensary customers.
Industry leaders have projected sales of $1.8-$5 billion annually, according to the Associated Press.
For months, the Cannabis Control Commission has stressed that its priority was getting the industry's rollout right rather than rushing into sales.
"We can rightfully squawk about state delays and problematic local opposition, but the fact remains that we're the first state east of the Mississippi to offer legal, tested cannabis to adult consumers in safe retail settings," James Borghesani, the former spokesperson for the 2016 legalization campaign, said in a statement. "This is a historic distinction for Massachusetts. Now we're going to be at the forefront of the drive toward replacing lingering reefer-madness fears with a rational approach that benefits consumers and communities."