As East Coast states struggle to legalize recreational cannabis, consumers are tuning to the legal pot shops of Massachusetts.
The rollout of licensed cannabis retailers in Massachusetts has been slow, to say the least. But for the 15 lucky retailers who have opened their doors since the Bay State voted to legalize recreational cannabis in 2016, business is booming. And many have out-of-state shoppers to thank for that.
Some retailers say that the bulk of their business comes from a neighboring state. For example, Brandon Pollock—CEO of cannabis dispensary Theory Wellness in Great Barrington, MA—revealed that of the 38,000 customers they've served since opening shop just over two months ago, nearly half of them were from New York.
Many of these interstate shoppers are making the two-and-a-half-hour drive in from NYC while others are driving five hours from Buffalo to the closest cannabis retailers in Massachusetts.
And that's somewhat surprising since it's not exactly hard to buy cannabis through the black market in New York. There are even a number of delivery services that will bring cannabis right to your door in the state. So why travel so far just to get some weed? Pollock says it's because there are some clear advantages to the legal market.
Pollock told The Boston Globe that "product variety" is the number one reason that people travel to his store to buy cannabis. "The New York delivery services—maybe you'll get a vape pen, but you can't have anywhere near as extensive a menu when you're riding a bicycle around in the black market. We have tons of products that are a draw—you can get a little flower, a pre-roll, a vaporizer, and an edible."
But, with cannabis legalization inching ever closer in the Empire State, Pollock recognizes that business will slump once shops start to open on the other side of the border. That said, he's not going to let his personal interests get in the way of his belief that cannabis should be legal everywhere.
"It's the future," Pollock said. "It should be done thoughtfully, but it should be done. I believe in access for everyone."
But, for the time being, we can expect hundred of New Yorkers to cross over in the Massachusetts each day to buy a little bit of legal cannabis.