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Pot shop still waiting for final clearance to sell

  • The exterior of New England Treatment Access, or NETA, is shown June 27, 2018 in Northampton.

  • Propagation manager Janel Cannonier trims cannabis plants to direct the growth hormones to budding sites June 27, 2018, at INSA dispensary in Easthampton.



Staff Writer
Monday, November 05, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — With elections approaching on Tuesday, it has been almost two years since voters approved recreational marijuana sales in Massachusetts. And two years later, the message remains much the same as it has since then: just a little bit longer.

One medical marijuana dispensary in Hampshire County is at the front of the line when it comes to selling adult-use weed in the state, and another is close behind. But despite the impending two-year anniversary of the historic 2016 vote, the retailers still have hurdles to clear.

“We’re waiting to just get the nod from the CCC,” said Leslie Laurie, the western Massachusetts regional director for Northampton-based New England Treatment Access, or NETA. “We are ready and anxious to open our doors to adult use.”

Laurie was referring to the Cannabis Control Commission, which has granted NETA a final license but still has to come inspect the store for a second time before giving the final go-ahead.

Laurie said the commission has yet to schedule that final inspection with NETA. During that inspection, the state will be checking to make sure all details are in order — that all employees are registered and that all NETA’s products are added into the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system, for example.

In Easthampton, INSA is close behind NETA in the state’s bureaucratic process. INSA has received a provisional license, and has been placed on the commission’s agenda for Nov. 20 to potentially receive a final license, according to CEO Mark Zatyrka.

“We don’t know,” Zatyrka said when asked for a possible opening date. “It’s hard to speculate, and we’ve definitely learned not to guess a date.”

Zatyrka said he isn’t frustrated with the Cannabis Control Commission — he said they have lots of applications on their plates. But he does wish the process would move more quickly.

“Obviously, we want to get open as soon as possible,” Zatyrka said. “But we understand.”

In the meantime, INSA has recently begun home delivery for its medical marijuana patients. Those holding a medical marijuana card in Hampshire and Hampden counties can now have INSA deliver marijuana to their doorsteps, and the company expects to eventually expand that service statewide.

“It’s great for people with mobility issues or anxiety issues,” Zatyrka said, adding that it will also be great for patients hoping to avoid the recreational-use crowds.

Those crowds are sure to be big, with Northampton likely to be one of the first communities in the state to have a recreational shop open. But until the state gives final clearance, it’s still just a waiting game.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.