Crowds line up at 1st East Coast pot shops

Steven Senne and Bob Salsberg
Associated Press

Leicester, Mass. – Customers waited in long lines, sometimes for hours, on a cold and rainy New England day to be among the first people to legally buy recreational marijuana on the U.S. East Coast.

More than two years after Massachusetts voters approved of legalizing marijuana for adults, the state’s first two fully licensed pot shops opened Tuesday in Leicester and Northampton, selling strains of the part of the plant that can be smoked; pre-rolled joints; and edibles such as brownies and chocolate bars.

Marijuana is already sold legally in six Western states, but the long-awaited opening of recreational outlets in the East was hailed as major milestone for the cannabis industry in the U.S., with Massachusetts viewed as a potential $1.5 billion-a-year market. Canada began legal sales last month as well.

A celebratory atmosphere ruled outside the shops, with buyers undaunted by the grim weather. Cheers went up when the stores opened at 8 a.m. sharp. One man, who dubbed himself “Potsquatch,” arrived at the Northampton store adorned from head to toe in a leafy marijuana costume.

Customers were shuttled to Cultivate, the Leicester store, from a parking lot about a mile away as police kept a visible but low-key presence outside. Customers perused offerings kept behind counters and under glass.

Kenny Boisvert, a 33-year-old Blackstone resident, was pleasantly surprised by his purchasing experience.

“It’s a very nice place. It’s way more than I expected,” he said as he waited to pick up edibles and buds.

There were no immediate reports of product shortages at the stores, something that has plagued the initial start of recreational pot sales in some other states. Massachusetts’ top marijuana regulator said the crowds appeared orderly and praised operators for doing a thorough job of preparing for the first sales.

“It’s only two stores but it represents, I think, a formidable accomplishment,” said Steven Hoffman, chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission.