What legal marijuana looks like in Massachusetts, and what it could mean for New York

Waiting for the Green Light

A look inside a dispensary as NYS moves closer to legalization

LEE, Mass. (WROC) — If you leave the Mass Pike not far in from the New York state border and swing by Canna Provisions directly off the exit you’ll find what looks like an artisan shop that’s been welcoming tourists to the Berkshires for decades.

That shop, though, opened less than three years ago and what they sell wasn’t legal in Massachusetts until 2018.

Canna Provisions in Lee, MA is happily selling marijuana.

”This is all grown and manufactured right here in Massachusetts,” Meg Sanders, Canna Provisions CEO, said while gesturing to table topped with various THC-infused products.

While New York State appears to move closer to legalizing adult-use cannabis, Lee stands as an example of what the transition might look like.

First, the money.

Promises of increased tax revenue have been kept, at least here and at least for now.

“Business is phenomenal, I mean it has been gangbusters since we opened,” Sanders said adding they’ve paid tax on millions of dollars of revenue.

The traffic, at least initially, proved to be an annoyance for some locals, but Emmy Davis, who runs Starving Artist Cafe, says the dispensary is now largely seen as just another business.

“At first it was hard because the grocery store is past the pot shop so you had to drive by and there was a lot of traffic, but it’s kind of thinned out and it’s been pretty good,” Davis said.

Poll

Lee Police Chief Craig Desantis had his doubts about legalization in general, and still does, but when asked whether he’s seen more cases of impaired driving, he said:

“I don’t want to speak for other communities, but I haven’t seen an uptick in our town, but it’s a real concern. Officers can use assessments, but it’s not the same, the courts don’t recognize those assessments to be the same as field sobriety tests related to alcohol.”

While Canna Provisions is the only marijuana game in town in Lee, there are around 100 other dispensaries now open around the commonwealth with many of them owned and run by small entrepreneurs.

“The state didn’t create a competitive licensing scheme so there’s no limit at the state level to licenses and what they did is they left that up to local municipalities to figure out how they wanted this to be in existence in their town even if they wanted it to be in existence in their town,” Sanders said.

MORE | Legislation for recreational marijuana, online sports betting proposed in New York state

So now a product you buy at Canna Provisions in Lee, MA is very much legal, but drive a few miles west over the New York State border and it’s very much not.

But that doesn’t stop a lot of New Yorkers from doing it.

This is part one of a three-part series looking into the prospects of legalizing recreational marijuana in New York state. Part two airs Monday and part three airs Tuesday on News 8 WROC.

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