This week, the first cannabis dispensary in Boston's Back Bay will open its doors.
It is a big step for the neighborhood filled with historic brownstones and high-end shopping. NBC10 Boston was the only television station given a tour of AYR Wellness before it opens to the public.
The new pot shop is steps away from the Apple store and right across from the Prudential Center. It is 4,500 square feet and will bring recreational cannabis to Boylston Street.
Since Massachusetts legalized recreational sales more than five years ago, plenty of shops have popped up in the suburbs, but only three dispensaries are open within Boston's city limits. AYR will be the first one to open in Back Bay.
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"Cannabis has gotten a lot more normalized. I think the harsh stigmas have gone away a little bit," AYR General Manager Julia Crawford said.
Getting to the opening was far from easy. There were years of controversy and plenty of pushback from neighbors. After some concerns about lines outside the store, AYR came up with an online waitlist using a QR code.
"It's exactly like a restaurant. Once you check in, it will tell you how long until you can come in the store," Crawford said
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The company was also able to convince the neighborhood to get on board by pledging a $100,000 annual investment that will go back into the community. This is in addition to the tax revenue.
"It would go toward homelessness, facade improvements, open space, really whatever the community desires," AYR employee Dwan Packnett said.
Packnett helped convince opponents to get on board, which only makes it easier for other dispensaries to open in the area. She said the location is a big step for the industry.
"You can go to the Apple store. You can go across to Copley. You can have dinner, shop for clothes and pick up product. Then it's just part of your day. Those are the types of things that will take away the stigma of cannabis," Packnett said.