This bud’s for you

The state’s legal marijuana era started with a bang, or, by mid-morning for some early customers, perhaps a buzz.

There was a celebratory feel at the first two retail outlets to open in Massachusetts. The mayor of Northampton was given the honor of making the first purchase at the store there, while an Iraq veteran and medical marijuana advocate was the inaugural customer at Cultivate in Leicester.

“This is a big day,” said Gov. Charlie Baker.

No, not yesterday. That was the guv’s comment in August as he toured the new MGM facility in Springfield a day before it kicked off the era of legal casino gambling in the state. No such gubernatorial pronouncement welcomed yesterday’s entry of another once illicit sector to the world of above-board commerce, where it promises to be every bit the economic powerhouse of the new state-sanctioned gambling halls.

The closest analogue to yesterday’s milestone may be the day prohibition ended in 1933. But that marked a return to the long-running status quo of legal alcohol sales after a 14-year failed experiment with a booze ban. Legalized marijuana is a new frontier, and it’s still greeted with more than a whiff of the longstanding finger-wagging over pot use, even if the sometimes draconian criminal sanctions that came with it are now a thing of the past.

It was easy to take in the scenes at the two potapalooza sites with same detached bemusement as witnessing the headlong rush to empty one’s pockets into slot machines that operate as reverse ATMs.

But if “haze” is your thing, go for it. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

The most serious note in yesterday’s hubub about now-legal weed buys came from recognition of the disproportionate damage pot laws did to minority communities. Daquaan Hamilton, a 22-year-old black student at UMass Amherst, gave voice to that as he became the first customer at the Northampton store who wasn’t the city’s mayor.

“There are a lot of people throughout our history who have done prison time for such minor offenses, like having weed paraphernalia or having small amounts on them,” he said. “The fact that I can walk out of the store right now with this and not be afraid of anything that can happen to me, it’s pretty great.”

Telegram & Gazette columnist Clive McFarland picked up on the same theme, starting with the jarring sight of the local police force helping direct traffic into the Leicester store parking lot. “In the blink of an eye, pot has jumped from the shadows onto Main and Wall streets. Suddenly drug houses are called marijuana shops; drug dealers, chief executive officers; and drug buyers, honored clients” he wrote.

We are being told to “take an amnesia pill, to block out the past when the police, instead of being tasked with keeping the marijuana client line moving smoothly, donned para-military gear to march marijuana smokers and distributors into jails and prisons,” he wrote.

And blacks were arrested in that reefer madness era, McFarland says, citing a 2013 ACLU study, at a rate nearly four times that of whites, despite using pot at roughly the same rate. Despite the new era of legalized pot, writes McFarland, “I don’t hear anyone saying we should spring those currently serving time on non-violent marijuana charges, or that we should scrub the records of those who have served time for such charges.”

In fact, the criminal justice reform bill passed earlier this year does allow those with marijuana possession records to have those convictions expunged. That doesn’t, of course, reverse the decades of damage done to those caught up in the war on drugs.

You don’t have to be excited about the new opportunity for a licit lift to feel a natural high over the fact that those days are now over.

Shaleen Title, a marijuana activist who sits on the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, tweeted out video of Globe reporter Dan Adams’s interview with Daquaan Hamilton at the Northampton store. “If you’re feeling cynical, Daquaan’s interview right here is the cure,” she said.



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The Worcester City Council approves a downtown business improvement district. (Telegram &


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