Crowd arrives in Wareham as state’s fourth recreational marijuana store opens
Recreational marijuana sales started Friday in Wareham as the town joined the forefront of a new industry where cannabis is fueling commerce.
Verilife, located at 112 Main St., opened its doors to the general public for the first time at 10 a.m. Verilife, which is owned by Illinois-based PharmaCann LLC, has been selling medical marijuana to patients since June. On Friday, the business became the fourth to start selling marijuana for recreational use east of Colorado. Three other stores in Leicester, Northampton and Salem have already opened.
With Wareham becoming the fourth store to offer recreational marijuana sales to people 21 and older officials planned for crowds. To handle increased traffic, only customers who parked at Water Wizz and took a shuttle to the store were allowed to enter Verilife.
Wareham resident Judson Rice was the first in line, getting to Water Wizz at 6:30 a.m.
“I’m an independent contractor,” Rice said. “So I get to make my own hours. This is history in the making and I wanted to get a head start.”
Rice was shuttled to Verilife where he along with 10 others were the first inside. The sound of Bob Marley’s “Jammin’” and the distinctive odor of Verilife’s products greeted them.
“It smells delicious,” Rice said.
Rice, along with all customers, were encouraged to order online to ease the process. After following all of Verilife’s procedures, Rice ordered $98.58 worth of products. He was one of hundreds who arrived for the first day. Crowds were consistent throughout the morning said Acting Police Chief John Walcek, who speculated that the rainy weather may have kept some folks at home.
“It’s likely we’ll see some more people here tomorrow,” said Walcek. “But overall I think we have a well-executed plan in place.”
Customers arriving at the satellite lot were given product menus from Verilife to review while they waited in line.
Shuttles coming to and from Water Wizz carried a maximum of 11 people per trip, leaving as frequently as store capacity on Main Street allowed. The shuttle stopped in Besse Park’s parking lot, which was closed to the public. All passengers boarding the shuttle received a ticket to ensure their entrance to Verilife and were registered online ahead of time to place orders through www.leafly.com.
Kathy More of Wareham arrived early Friday morning to secure her spot in line.
Despite living locally, More said she was content with waiting to take the shuttle to Main Street.
“If it makes things easier then there’s no point in being upset,” she said.
Hannah Reidy and Ricky Dermody of Falmouth said they attempted to visit Leicester’s store a few weeks ago and were amazed by the amount of traffic they saw.
“It was absolutely insane,” said Reidy. “We just turned around and went home. I think things are being handled much better here.”
Randolph resident John Connolly agreed.
“No one is really making a big deal about it,” he said. “For a first day, I think everything is extremely well organized.”
Food trucks were also on hand at the Water Wizz parking lot, including one from the Lindsey’s Family Restaurant on Cranberry Highway.
“Verilife reached out to us as a local business,” said Owner Cheri Lindsey. “And we were more than happy to come out.”
Verilife plans on running the shuttle service for the next 30 days.
Inside Verilife, the scene was busy and orderly. Sales went smoothly, reported Verilife Executive Director Shelley Stormo. Representatives from Verilife’s parent company PharmaCann traveled to Wareham to oversee the opening.
PharmaCann CEO Teddy Scott made the store’s first official purchase moments after 10 a.m., just before the public was let inside.
Scott purchased three edibles and some PAX Pods, which are used to vaporize cannabis oil, for $134.38.
With the purchase, he continued Wareham’s plunge into the burgeoning cannabis industry. Verilife announced plans to open shop locally in 2015, three years after Massachusetts voters approved cannabis for medical use. In 2016, voters via a state referendum approved the legalization of cannabis use without a prescription.
Since then, numerous other cannabis-related businesses have expressed interest in opening shop in Wareham. Earlier this week, two companies looking to open cultivation and processing facilities held informational sessions about their plans. Recreational sales are not planned for those businesses. Town officials also have yet to approve those businesses.
A third cannabis company – Organa Brands – does have approval. The Colorado-based company is looking to start processing marijuana from inside a former warehouse in the Tremont Nail Factory District starting next year. Recreational sales will not be available at that site.
The interest generated by the cannabis industry is a welcome opportunity, said Wareham’s Director of Planning & Community Development Ken Buckland.
“What is special about the cannabis businesses is that they are a new business sector with very high growth potential, which means new and different jobs, better than usual taxes, and no need to provide subsidies. What we have done is really just accept them – and the town has said they agree,” said Buckland. “They are now part of our mix.”