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Massachusetts mayor first in line as recreational marijuana sales begin

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Massachusetts became the first state on the East Coast Tuesday to allow recreational marijuana sales, meaning tens of millions of adult consumers, including those in New York City, are now within a three-hour drive from a pot shop.

CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil reports from Northampton, Massachusetts, where one of two stores opening in the state is located and where David Narkewicz will welcome legal recreational marijuana as both the ceremonial first customer and the town’s mayor.

“I think there’s a lot going on here in trying to bring marijuana out of the shadows,” Narkewicz said.

Mayor David Narkewicz  

CBS News

But when asked whether the purchase is simply ceremonial or it will be consumed, Narkewicz said, “I am actually going to probably preserve it and display it…because it is historically significant.”

Massachusetts is the seventh state to open retail marijuana shops, but the first to open them east of the Mississippi. The milestone comes as the cannabis industry celebrates a series of new highs.

Earlier this month, Michigan became the first Midwestern state to approve recreational cannabis– joining 10 other states and Washington, D.C. In October, Canada became the first major world economy to legalize recreational marijuana.

But the steady march of marijuana legalization has Dr. Sharon Levy concerned. She runs the adolescent substance use and addiction program at Boston Children’s Hospital.

“Instead of saying, ‘Well, we’ll assume these things are safe until they’re proven harmful,’ maybe we should be saying ‘These things might be harmful until they’re proven safe.’ I don’t think that’s something we’ve done a very good job with,” Levy said.

Amanda Rositano is the director of operational compliance for New England Treatment Access – or NETA – which, as of today, sells a range of cannabis products including pre-rolled joints, loose buds, oils and edibles to anyone over the age of 21.

“I think dependence can be an issue just like dependence can be an issue when it comes to ice cream. We will advocate using moderation, educate people about cannabis,” Rositano said.

Under Massachusetts law, retail shops can sell each customer no more than an ounce of flower or 20 servings of edibles – both in child-resistant packaging. For now, those restrictions and others are good enough for Mayor Narkewizc.

“There has been marijuana use going on in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for a long, long time. What’s changing is it’s now being regulated. It’s now being tested. It’s now being strictly monitored. That’s really the major change that’s happening,” Narkewizc said.

Massachusetts legalized recreational marijuana more than two years ago, but retail stores had to meet a number of rigorous conditions laid out by the state before opening. The initial small rollout is intentional. Lawmakers are hoping to avoid problems other states, like Colorado, have faced such as increases in crime.

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