Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Patients Flock to First Open Dispensary

Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Patients Flock to First Open Dispensary

Ever since voters approved a 2012 ballot initiative for medical marijuana, the people of Massachusetts have been waiting for the opportunity to legally purchase cannabis. Finally, on Wednesday, June 24, Alternative Therapies Group in Salem gave people their chance.

Early Wednesday morning, dozens of patients stood in line waiting to buy marijuana legally for the first time. Access to the dispensary is currently by appointment only, and already on the first day there were 120 patients signed up to make their first purchase.

salem first mmj dispensary (1)Medical Marijuana patients waiting in line at Alternative Therapies Group in Salem.

According to state records, there are now 18,000 people who have acquired the necessary physician certifications to legally purchase marijuana in the state of Massachusetts. After issues with the system arose under Gov. Deval Patrick, it appears that more dispensaries throughout the state will be up and running by the end of the year. Although it took three years after the original vote to make this happen, it appears that the system is here to stay under the guidance of Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration.

Wendy Atwood, a 53-year-old woman who uses marijuana to help with her arthritis, depression, and anxiety, was one of those citizens waiting in line on the first day. While she has been a long-time cannabis user on her own, she is glad that her use will now be legal:

“I am a law-abiding citizen, a mom with two kids, and a day-care provider. It’s going to be very exciting” to walk into the dispensary, she added. “I’m happy that it’s not under wraps anymore.”

As most would expect, the first day of business was slow-moving as patients and suppliers alike were trying to get a feel for the whole process. After waiting in line for up to an hour, small groups of customers would be moved inside and asked to watch a short video about the different strains being offered at Alternative Therapies Group, even though only two different types were available on Wednesday. Patients would then place an order and be led into another area to pick it up.

salem first mmj dispensaryPolice officer guards the door of Alternative Therapies Group in Salem.

Even though prices were higher than most patients expected, most customers seemed satisfied just to finally have the opportunity to buy marijuana legally. Peter Hayashi, a 59-year-old former neuropsychologist who suffers from a neurological condition that makes temperature changes very painful on his skin, was among the first to get inside the building:

“We fought a long time for this. Marijuana has helped me be up and around more normally.”

Alternative Therapies Group was allowed to open early after the state granted a temporary waiver to sell cannabis that has not been full tested for pesticides and other contaminants. Due to Massachusetts having the toughest testing standards for medical marijuana in the country, it could be months before more dispensaries are able to be up and running.

Fourteen dispensaries throughout the state have received the the necessary preliminary state approval and are finalizing details before they are open for business. At least two are expected to be ready by fall 2015.

photo credit: WCVB

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