Crowds line up outside 1st Mass. pot shops

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LEICESTER, Mass. (AP/WPRI) — More than two years after voters in Massachusetts approved of recreational marijuana for adults, there are finally places to buy it legally.

The state’s first commercial pot shops opened Tuesday in Leicester and Northampton. The stores are the first to operate on the East Coast of the United States.

Lines were out the door in Leicester, where hundreds of people waited in the rain to buy their ounce or less of marijuana.

“We had estimated that we’d see about 600 to 1,000 people and we’re clearly going to be at the top end of that estimate,” Leicester Police Chief James Hurley said. He said many people clogged the streets with their cars just to get a look at the spectacle. Hurley called it “cannabis tourism.”

Items for sale include various strains of marijuana flower, pre-rolled joints and edibles such as brownies and chocolate bars.

Hurley said it appeared most of Tuesday’s customers were from the Commonwealth, but those that were vising from out of state were warned not to take the drug across state lines. 

“If you get caught, you’re going to have to face the legal ramifications,” Hurley said, cautioning those who live outside Massachusetts but are considering buying recreational marijuana. “My advice would be not to do it.”

Recreational cannabis is still illegal in Rhode Island. Eyewitness News Law Enforcement Analyst, former Rhode Island State Police Superintendent Steven O’Donnell, said it’s important for people to be aware of their state laws. Possessing an ounce or less of marijuana in Rhode Island is a civil violation; possessing more than an ounce is a criminal offense.

Right now Massachusetts stores are limiting customers to an ounce or less of marijuana at a time.

Driving under the influence of the drug is outlawed.

“Nothing changes,” O’Donnell said. “In Massachusetts or Rhode Island, if you’re impaired and you have THC in your system you can be charged.”

Hurley said the opening of the stores and the legalization of recreational marijuana isn’t quite in sync with the criminal justice system.

“Law enforcement really needs a mechanism, whether it be a machine similar to a breathalyzer that can estimate how much an individual is under the influence of a narcotic, that we can use in court as evidence and we need that quickly,” he said.

The rollout of legal pot sales has been slow in Massachusetts, with regulators saying they wanted to make sure it was done safely and without some of the supply issues other states have faced.

Several more stores could open in the coming months. Cannabis is currently sold legally in six Western states.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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