Tales from the pot line: Customers rejoice at being able to buy legal recreational marijuana  

  • Potsquatch from Potco in Springfield mingles with people in line who were waiting to be the first to legally buy recreational marijuana at NETA Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. front left is Daquaan Hamilton, of Northamtpon arrived at 12:30 am to be the first in line, and Ben Smith, Northampton

  • Alyson Daniels, a Smith College student who is from Alabama, stands in a line going around the block at New England Treatment Access in Northampton to legally buy recreational marijuana Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/21/2018 12:05:16 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Sean Brennan couldn’t sleep the night before Massachusetts became the first state east of the Mississippi to legally sell recreational marijuana.

“It was like the day before Christmas,” said Brennan, who lives in Northampton. “Like the first Christmas you can remember where you don’t sleep.”

Sleet and rain didn’t stop Brennan or the hundreds of other people who stood in a long line snaking around New England Treatment Access on Conz Street, as they waited to buy legal recreational marijuana in Northampton, and in the state, for the first time.

Drew Habersang, a writer from New Britain, Connecticut, debated whether or not to go to Northampton for the first day of recreational pot sales, but decided, “I can’t not be here,” he said. “It’s legal weed for the first time on the East Coast.”

Habersang said that while he did smoke marijuana when he was younger, he stopped smoking it when he was 17 before picking it up again recently to treat back pain.

And while he expects Connecticut will legalize recreational marijuana in two to three years, for now, he has to travel to Northampton for that.

“Somebody just walked up to me and handed me a weed menu for real,” Habersang said. “It’s a little surreal but, like, in the best possible way.”

“Just can’t wait to get my weed,” said Habersang, when asked for his final thoughts.

Near the end of the line was Randy Dominick, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who is studying math. She moved to the area from Texas this fall. Did she ever expect to be able to legally buy recreational marijuana in Northampton? “I super did not,” she said.

Holding a marijuana menu, Dominick said she was considering purchasing some “Flo” bud. 

Husband and wife Norman and Michelle Anderson traveled from Pittsfield to buy marijuana at NETA, and the couple were still somewhat incredulous that they could do so legally on Tuesday. 

“But you want to know something? I’m happy it finally started,” said Norman Anderson, a disabled veteran who served two tours in the first Gulf War. He said he uses marijuana and CBD oil to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and pain.  

“I was on 18 different medications,” he said, noting that he now only uses cannabis for treatment. He recommended all veterans with PTSD or pain try marijuana.

“God made grass. Man made booze and pills. Which do you trust the most?” he asked.

Michelle Anderson uses marijuana to treat her fibromyalgia, she said, although she noted that she is no stranger to recreational marijuana.

“I’ve been smoking that good stuff since I was 12, and I’ll be 57 in January,” she said.

The Andersons said they have not been able to get a medical marijuana card, however, citing the cost and the fact that according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, VA  clinicians may not recommend medical marijuana.

Ehlinger Ravagli, a friend of the Andersons, recently moved back to Pittsfield from Seattle, where recreational marijuana is legal.

“I’ve already experienced this,” Ravagli said.

She said that she will be looking for the strains of marijuana she smoked out there, one of which is “Super Silver Haze.”

Steven White and Tiffany Henriquez both came up from Hartford, Connecticut to buy from NETA.

“I’ve never been to California,” said White, who works at Amazon. “I don’t know what to expect.”

“I’m just here to browse and for the experience,” said Henrqiuez, who works in retail.

Mat Dubord does design work for NETA’s packaging, while Victor Janczar does photography for the company. They were interviewed after buying various products — they skipped the line.

“We were here early, working,” Janczar said. 

“Most of the people in there working have been there since 4 a.m. today,” added Dubord. “Some of them since 1 a.m.”

Both men said that they expected to see recreational marijuana sales become a reality in the Commonwealth, with Dubord noting that he had been with NETA even before medical marijuana was legalized.

“It’s very surreal to go up there and buy weed with money and leave,” he said.

Janczar said that morale at NETA is high. 

“Everybody was happy, clapping, giving high fives,” he said.

“Legalized it!” Dubord joyfully exclaimed, referencing the classic Peter Tosh reggae tune, which begins, “Legalize it. Don’t criticize it.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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