Area residents express optimism and caution ahead of Tuesday’s recreational marijuana sales 

  • The exterior of New England Treatment Access, or NETA, in Northampton. File photo

  • Marijuana  File photo

Published: 11/17/2018 5:38:50 PM

NORTHAMPTON — In August, Tony Rothschild was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After initially using oxycodone to help relieve his pain, he said he switched to medical marijuana on advice he received from other cancer patients.

“It threw me for a loop when I started using cannabis,” Rothschild, an Easthampton resident, said in the basement of the Haymarket Cafe in Northampton on Saturday. “It minimized my pain a lot, and it was really helpful with my appetite because when you go through chemo (therapy) you lose your appetite. It also helps with nausea.”

Ahead of the first-ever legal sale of recreational marijuana on Tuesday in Massachusetts, Rothschild said he has always been in support of recreational marijuana use since he is a “child of the ’60s.”

Although still federally illegal, recreational marijuana is expected to be sale on Tuesday morning at New England Treatment Access on Conz Street, which will become the first shop in western Massachusetts to begin selling marijuana to people 21 years and older. On Friday, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission authorized NETA and Cultivate Holdings LLC in Leicester to start selling marijuana and marijuana products in three calendar days.

When the shop opens, Mayor David Narkewicz says he intends to become one of the first people in the state — if not the first one — to legally purchase recreational marijuana. According to a statement from NETA, Narkewicz has been invited to make the first purchase on opening day. He confirmed those intentions in a phone call Sunday night.

“The voters of the commonwealth voted fairly overwhelmingly to legalize medical marijuana, and then to legalize adult marijuana,” Narkewicz said, noting he typically goes to ribbon cuttings for new businesses, regardless of the industry. “This is obviously a milestone for NETA, and for the city and state’s history. It’s been a long process.”

Other local residents interviewed by the Gazette on Saturday voiced both support and concerns ahead of Tuesday’s landmark day and two years after voters in the state legalized recreational marijuana for adults in the November 2016 election.

“It’s not for everybody, whether it’s a health reason or recreational,” Rothschild said.

Will Donnell, a Holyoke resident who was shopping at Thornes Marketplace, said NETA’s opening on Tuesday will attract more tourism to the western part of the state, which could benefit other local businesses.

“I think it’s going  to be a good thing,” Donnell said. “And it’s already  been a good thing in a medical sense.”

He said his concern  is making sure adults are the ones using recreational marijuana, and he said marijuana should not be “demonized” or labeled as “harmless.”

“You’ve got to respect it,” Donnell said.

Another downtown shopper, Susan Miller, said her main concern with recreational pot is how police will be able to detect drivers under the influence of marijuana.

“They didn’t figure out how to deal with sobriety assessment prior to opening the door,” Miller, of Sandwich, said. “If we’ve learned anything  from alcohol, it’s a long, drawn-out process to get something that was validated by science and accepted by the justice system, so it seems to me we are really late in getting started with this.”

The lack of a sobriety test for marijuana leads Miller to wonder how the use of marijuana could be monitored in the workplace because it could have safety and performance implications.

“How do you make that case?” Miller asked.

Ted Wilmot, of Enfield, Connecticut, was visiting Northampton on Saturday and said that although he supports the legalization of marijuana, “it’s probably 35 years too late for me.”

“The issue comes with how stupid can someone be?” Wilmot said. If people can control themselves, he said recreational marijuana may not be “a big deal.”

Like alcohol, Wilmost said it becomes a problem when people overdo it or get “too stupid.”

The city of Northampon will see tax revenues increase from recreational marijuana sales, which could be a boon for infrastructure funding, said Erica Cole, manager of Shop Therapy on Main Street.

“I am for it 100 percent,” Cole said.

Northampton resident Michael Kusek is preparing to launch a marijuana guide and lifestyle magazine called Different Leaf in 2019, and it’s geared towards the 40-and-older crowd, he said.

“We are finally seeing the goal of (marijuana) moving from an illicit market to a regulated, legal market,” Kusek said. “That is really big.”

His advice to those tempted to try the plant for the first time on Tuesday is to “go low, go slow.”

Kusek recommends people have a conversation with NETA employees to make sure they are getting the exact product they want since there are different dosages, types, and forms that can be ingested, including flower, edibles, concentrates, and vaporizer products.

“It’s not the stuff you had in your college dorm 25 years ago,” Kusek said. “It’s a decidedly different product, and it’s best to ask questions so (as) not to be overwhelmed.”

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com




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