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Hundreds Head to 1st Boston-Area Recreational Pot Shop

The Greater Boston area’s first recreational marijuana shop is now open. 

Dozens of people stood in a line that stretched around the back of the facility in the cold Saturday morning to be among the first customers to purchase recreational marijuana from New England Treatment Access (NETA).

Twelve hours later, when they closed, NETA had served 2,515 customers.

James Jenner screamed for joy after he came out of the building with his purchase.

The 38-year-old uses pot to treat various medical ailments, including nerve pain. However, he prefers not to have to carry a medical marijuana card.

“With cannabis I could still live a normal life and treat the ailments that I have,” Jenner said. “And so a day like today is historic.”

Other medical customers of the shop are worried about what recreational sales will mean for them.

"Not happy," said Jim Lavecchio, who shops at NETA for medical marijuana. "Because I feel like the lines are going to be pretty bad when the recreational users start."

"I think it's going to be insane," said another medical marijuana client, Jeannine Stanley. "I'm concerned about the line. I hope they don't run out of anything I usually use."

Some area business owners are concerned about travel impacts in an area that already has a lot of traffic and limited parking.

The owner of La Morra, a restaurant across the street, is hoping to capitalize on the cannabis by starting lunch service.

"With thousands of people expecting to come park, we know it's going to be crazy," owner Josh Ziskin said. "But we're going to let them settle in, wait in line, get hungry and then we'll open our doors up."

Jay Holmes travelled all the way from Brooklyn, New York to take part in the first day of recreational marijuana sales at NETA with his boyfriend, who lives in Boston.

“I’ve never been to a state where they legalized,” said Jay Holmes.

“This place has been here for years,” said Jermaine Harrison, Holmes’ boyfriend. “I used to drive by it when I was a kid.”

In a sign of times, what was once an old bank has been turned into a pot shop located on the corner of Boylston and High Streets in Brookline.

It is the first MBTA-accessible pot shop, and officials are hoping customers take the train to get there. The D line is the closest, but shuttle buses will be running Saturday due to scheduled maintenance. The E line is a short walk away.

The first customer to buy recreational marijuana at NETA was Chariman of the Brookline Board of Selectman Neil Washinsky.

He said some residents and business owners have some concerns about traffic, but he is confident NETA has everything under control.

“We are fully staffed and our focus is to keep the traffic moving,” Wishinsky said.

NETA founders said they more than doubled product and staff to accommodate the influx of people who showed up for the first day of recreational marijuana sales Saturday.

NETA believes it has enough supply since it already has a shop in western Massachusetts. There will also be modest limits on what customers can purchase, and roughly a third of their product will be reserved for medical patients.

More than a dozen Brookline Police officers were on site to deal with the crowds and the traffic. NETA agreed to open on a Saturday so the town has time to test the traffic plan before Monday morning's commute.

Around 5 p.m., Brookline Police said there had been limited disruption on a successful first day, and that NETA's reserve ahead service worked to limit lines' impact on pedestrian traffic.

"The weekend is one thing, but obviously, Monday, with schools and businesses back open, we will reassess the operation plan as the week progresses," Lt. Philip Harrington of the Brookline Police Department said.

Parking will be extremely limited, with a few spots reserved for medical patients and more at the Homewood Suites down the street. 

NETA recommends customers use the "Reserve Ahead" feature online to make the line go faster.

NETA will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.

NETA's location in Northampton was one of the first two stores to sell marijuana products to recreational customers in the eastern U.S. Its Brookline store will become the 13th recreational pot shop in Massachusetts.

Lawmakers in Rhode Island and Connecticut are currently considering whether to legalize recreational marijuana.

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