For better or worse, legal pot side effects appear minimized in Berkshire County
If it weren't for all of the out-of-state license plates in the parking lot and a line of men in all-weather togs standing outside in the rain and snow on Route 7 in Great Barrington, signs that recreational marijuana is present in Berkshire County would be hard to find.
After one month of legal recreational marijuana sales, businesses near the county's two recreational marijuana dispensaries — Temescal Wellness on Callahan Drive in Pittsfield and Theory Wellness on Stockbridge Road (Route 7) in Great Barrington — haven't seen a significant uptick in customers or spending. The cannabis depots began selling recreational marijuana in January.
"We've seen a little here and there, but not too much. Some travel from far away; they're really excited," said a Great Barrington hotel front desk clerk who asked to remain anonymous, as the person was not allowed to speak to the media.
Local and state police said they are yet to notice an impact from recreational sales. Officers in Pittsfield, Great Barrington, New York, Connecticut and Vermont said nothing has happened that would cause police to staff specific details or protocols in response to legal recreational marijuana sales.
"We haven't made any operational changes," said Beau Duffy, the New York State Police director of public information. "We're enforcing the laws of New York state the way we always have."
When Massachusetts residents were being sold on whether to approve recreational marijuana in the 2016 election, people predicted legal weed's impact on the state. One of the selling points was that the industry would attract weed tourists — people who would come to town to buy marijuana and then stay to do some shopping or eat dinner. Meanwhile, cannabis opponents cautioned that recreational marijuana could make the drug easier for children to obtain and that there would be an increase in people driving while high.
So far, while the lure of pot is drawing people from outside of Massachusetts, these forecasts are yet to come to fruition.
Hoteliers and restaurateurs said they have not noticed a spike in business since recreational sales started. The new weed economy couldn't even save a homemade doughnut shop just doors down from Theory Wellness on Route 7. The Home Sweet Home Doughnut Shoppe, which had been around for nine years, closed on Feb. 3 and reopened briefly last week to give away free coffee and doughnuts for several hours.
"I don't think many of them go smoke pot and then get something for dinner," said Dominick Putignano, owner of Flo's Diner in Pittsfield.
It is still illegal to take marijuana purchased in Massachusetts outside of the state — even if the state has approved recreational marijuana. The issue is crossing state lines with marijuana is a federal issue — and marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
"There are no statewide initiatives to address that," said Connecticut State Police Sgt. Dwight Washington. "That being said, Connecticut State Police will continue to enforce the same laws we have been. And so, if an individual crosses the border and happens to be pulled over at a motor vehicle stop, of course were' going to enforce the traffic laws, in addition to any criminal barriers that may come up after that."
Recreational marijuana sales are expected to generate an annual average of $63 million for the state and $250,000 or more annually for municipalities that have recreational dispensaries.
How that money will be spent is yet to be determined.
Kristin Palpini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @kristinpalpini, 413-629-4621.
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