Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz and Iraq War veteran Stephen Mandile will be the first people to buy recreational marijuana legally in Massachusetts.
The two first marijuana stores to open for recreational sales will be New England Treatment Access in Northampton and Cultivate in Leicester. The Boston Globe first reported that Narkewicz will be the first customer in Northampton and Mandile will be the first customer in Leicester. Both recreational marijuana stores open at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
“It’s fitting the first store will be opening in Northampton,” Narkewicz said in an interview with The Republican. “We’re known as a progressive city and a leader on lots of social change issues.”
Narkewicz, 52, the mayor of Northampton since 2011, is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and the Massachusetts Air National Guard.
Mandile, of Uxbridge, was injured in Iraq and used medical marijuana to wean himself off prescription drugs. Has has been an advocate for veterans, helping them use medical marijuana and get into the medical marijuana industry.
Narkewicz said he plans to make a “symbolic purchase,” probably of a cannabis-infused chocolate bar. “It’s going to be historic, so most likely I’ll have it framed and save it for posterity in my office,” Narkewicz said, adding that eventually, he will probably donate the bar to Northampton’s historical society.
“I don’t intend to consume it,” Narkewicz said.
For NETA to invite the mayor to be its first customer illustrates the importance of municipal officials in deciding the future of the industry in their towns. City and town voters have the authority to place bans, caps, zoning restrictions and moratoriums on recreational marijuana businesses. City officials must also negotiate host agreements with every marijuana business that opens.
Prospective business owners have complained that many communities are not open to the industry, and municipal officials are using host agreements to get enormous payouts for their communities, on top of the 3 percent local option tax that municipalities can adopt.
In contrast, Narkewicz – and the voters of Northampton – supported marijuana legalization. Northampton has already signed host agreements with 10 marijuana stores and product manufacturers, which are in various stages of the licensing process. Northampton allows marijuana shops anywhere it allows other retail and manufacturing businesses.
“We’ve really tried to treat this as any other legitimate business,” Narkewicz said.
Northampton did adopt the local option tax, so it will get significant new revenue from the marijuana companies.
While Narkewicz was invited in his capacity as mayor, he thinks there is some significance to the fact that both the first buyers will be veterans. “I remember the day of the grand opening for NETA’s medical (marijuana dispensary), I met a vet who had driven halfway across the state, and he indicated just how life-changing cannabis was in terms of dealing with his chronic pain issues,” Narkewicz said.
Mandile did not immediately return a call Monday morning.
He told The Republican/MassLive.com in a previous interview that he started using medical marijuana three years ago, and it helped him get off of the more than 50 drugs he had been prescribed over the last decade to deal with injuries sustained during his military service. Mandile said at the time that he was part of a group trying to open a veteran-centric medical marijuana dispensary.
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