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Northampton Makes History With First Recreational Pot Sales East Of The Mississippi

There's no shortage of people eager to be part of history in Northampton, Massachusetts this week — or at least get their hands on some killer buds.

A line of about 400 people snaked around the New England Treatment Access building early Tuesday morning as it became the first place east of the Mississippi where people over 21 can legally buy recreational marijuana.

It's been more than two years since Massachusetts voters approved recreational pot sales.

Among the patrons in line Tuesday was Roger Crocker, who lives in West Haven, Connecticut. He's a retired truck driver and Vietnam veteran. He says he drove two and a half hours and was fifth in line when he arrived at 3:30 a.m. 

“Yeah, I’ve been waiting 38 years for this,” Crocker said. “I’m happy that they’re finally waking up, and doing what people did behind closed doors. This is a good thing. It should’ve been before this.”

Elizabeth Powell, 21, was farther back in the line as a wintry mix fell. She's a senior at Smith College, and said she wants to support the legal marijuana business.

“I think that the country is kind of moving on to legalization anyway,” Powell said. “So I’m happy to buy legally, and support the state with taxes, that kind of thing.”

While medical marijuana isn't taxed, recreational marijuana is. Seventeen percent will go to the state, and another three percent to the city of Northampton.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz has fully supported recreational marijuana sales in his hometown. And he was the first customer. He had his driver's license checked at the door and again at the counter. Then he paid $24 in cash for a marijuana-infused chocolate bar. 

Narkewicz said he thinks his presence gives credibility to a product that's been stigmatized.  

"We’re bringing it out of the shadows," he said. "We're making it regulated, legal, safe and available for adults to purchase and consume responsibly."

Narkewicz made it clear he's not planning to eat the bar, but will get it framed, then probably donate it to the local historical association.

Soon it was time for the public to enter. There were shouts and cheers. The mood among the patrons seemed less "people about to score some drugs" and more "kids about to enter Willy Wonka's chocolate factory." 

A NETA official said he doesn't expect the lines to slow down anytime soon.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.
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