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Mass. Mayor: $24 candy bar 'is not your grandmother's marijuana'

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz buys marijuana in Massachusetts. Source: Reuters

On Tuesday, Massachusetts became the first state in the eastern half of the United States to legally sell recreational marijuana.

Two dispensaries, previously authorized to sell medical marijuana, Cultivate Holdings and New England Treatment Access (NETA), opened for recreational sales Tuesday with prospective customers forming lines stretching around their respective blocks in Leicester and Northampton.

Northampton mayor and Air Force veteran David Narkewicz made the state’s very first recreational purchase.

“This is not your grandmother’s marijuana,” Narkewicz joked in making a point about the level of detail and government oversight required to make his 54.81 mg-cannabis-infused chocolate bar purchase happen.

The bar has child-proof packaging, a barcode, and a label required under law explaining its marijuana content, weight, date of manufacturer, and origin, Narkewicz told Yahoo Finance.

All in all, he paid $24 for the bar, which represents its base price, plus 10.75% excise tax, 6.25% state tax and 3% local tax. Northampton exercised its option to levy the local 3% tax. The state assesses one of the lowest cannabis taxes in the country.

“I made sure to ask for my receipt,” Narkewicz said about keeping track of the 60 cents from his purchase that will end up in Northampton’s local coffers.

An image of the chocolate bar purchased by the mayor. Source:  David Narkewicz

When asked about projected revenues for the city, Narkewicz said the figures are unknown. While he’s expecting a high volume of sales, he says there’s no data to accurately reflect recreational demand in his region.

“We are in a monitoring phase,” he said, explaining that the city plans to monitor and collect data for 6-12 weeks before other city retail dispensaries are authorized to open in 2019.

Under Massachusetts law, sales and use of marijuana, as well as entry into recreational dispensaries, are limited to adults 21 and older. Sellers must cap marijuana flower sales at 1 ounce and concentrated marijuana at 5 grams, per customer. Cash, credit and debit cards are accepted and a PIN number is required for both credit and debit card purchases.

State-by-state map of U.S. marijuana laws.

As for Narkewicz’s purchase, he paid cash. And he hasn’t tasted his chocolate bar.

“People are giving me a hard time about that,” he said of alternate plans to frame the bar and receipt as a historical artifact to be turned over to the Northampton Historical Society.

“We are a very progressive city that has always been a leader in social change,” Narkewicz said, referencing the city’s support for LGBTQ residents and a city depot that helped the flow of the Underground Railroad.

Among those in line at both dispensaries today were military veterans.

“I was not a combat veteran,” Narkewicz clarified when asked about those who showed up to make purchases today. “But we have a of of veterans who live in and around Northampton who came here and have talked about access to marijuana that has been life changing for combat-related illness.”

Cities and states tend to be the laboratories of change, Narkewicz said about federal-level uncertainties that impact veteran care.

“I think that’s the next piece that has to fall into place.”

Alexis Keenan is a New York-based reporter for Yahoo Finance. She previously produced live news for CNN and MSNBC and is a former litigation attorney. Follow her on Twitter at @alexiskweed

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