Lowell Recreational Pot Shop Opens Sat.
LOWELL -- People around here are anxious to get their hands on recreational marijuana.
So anxious that a few walked up to Patriot Care in Lowell Wednesday morning, trying to purchase adult-use edibles and flowers.
They received some bad news from the worker checking medical cards at the door.
“No recreational,” he told them, recommending Cultivate about 50 miles away in Leicester. “Just medical.”
This weekend, however, that no longer will be the case at 70 Industrial Ave. East. -- the site of the city’s first recreational marijuana store.
Patriot Care plans to open its doors to the public on Saturday, a spokesperson for the company confirmed Wednesday morning. It will be the first recreational marijuana dispensary in the Merrimack Valley. The closest to the region is in Salem.
Those with medical cards in line Wednesday said they were hopeful it won’t get too chaotic as officials anticipate that people from across the region and New Hampshire descend upon the recreational marijuana shop -- located right off the Lowell Connector, at the intersection of Route 3 and Interstate 495.
“It will be busy, that’s for sure,” said Jim Martines, of Chelmsford, who was purchasing medical marijuana Wednesday. “I think it will be pretty organized, though.”
Another person with a medical license, Teri from Billerica, who declined to provide her last name, said Patriot Care has a very efficient operation.
“It might be a little confusing at first, but people will eventually find their place,” she said.
Parking has been a top concern. The facility’s parking is reserved for medical card holders.
Patriot Care is asking those who are coming to the dispensary for recreational marijuana to use their satellite lots at 190 Plain St. and 30 Industrial Ave. East. There will be a shuttle service from those lots to the store.
“We’ve worked in partnership with the city of Lowell to work out a really good plan that they’re satisfied with,” a Patriot Care official, who declined to reveal his name and position, said outside the dispensary Wednesday morning.
“We’ll have plenty of officers and security on site,” he added.
On Monday, Patriot Care received a notice from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission authorizing retail operations to commence in three calendar days.
City officials over the last few months have had multiple meetings with Patriot Care staff to review appropriate traffic and parking plans. Traffic has been a concern across the state since Leicester experienced major backups after one of the first two recreational stores opened in that small town in November.
For traffic management, Patriot Care is working with MassDOT, and will have electronic message boards on both major highways directing traffic to the facility, according to a recent memo between city officials. Detail officers from Lowell and State Police are expected to help manage traffic, in addition to Patriot Care security personnel.
Lowell Mayor Bill Samaras said on Wednesday that he’s not anticipating major issues.
“The police know what they have to do with traffic,” Samaras said.
Officials will monitor the traffic situation, and will make adjustments if necessary, he added.
The mayor also emphasized that the crowd won’t be an issue. Patriot Care plans on taking pre-orders from folks while they’re standing in line -- to swiftly move customers along.
“This isn’t Christmas time, when people stand in front of the Apple store and Walmart for the big sale, and people are running in,” Samaras said. “This is a really controlled situation.”
With opening day on a Saturday, both Patriot Care and the city can first evaluate the traffic generated over the weekend before workday traffic is impacted.
Across the street, the owner of Mark-One Inc., a disposal and demolition contractor, said he’s not particularly concerned about traffic and parking.
If anything, the recreational marijuana traffic could lead to more exposure for his business, said Mark Peters. The additional drivers on the street could see the signs for deals at his establishment.
“It might be a little hectic for the first two or three weeks, but I’m sure things will settle down,” he said.
At Patriot Care, people 21 and older will be eligible to purchase recreational marijuana. Customers will need to present a government-issued photo ID when entering the dispensary.
According to Patriot Care’s website, purchases will be limited to 1 ounce of flower or 5 grams of concentrate per transaction.
The medical card holders have been assured that they will have a separate line.
“They won’t run out for us,” said Martines, from Chelmsford.
Under the host-community agreement, the owner of Patriot Care will pay the city 3 percent of the marijuana business’ total revenues.
The retail marijuana includes a 20 percent sales tax. Seventeen percent of the sales tax goes to the state and 3 percent to the city.
The City Council voted to limit the number of recreational dispensaries in Lowell to five.
In Northampton, the mayor there was first in line to purchase recreational marijuana in November. Will Samaras do the same in Lowell Saturday?
“I won’t be the first in line,” he said before laughing on Wednesday. “I’ll be happy to stay at home.”
Patriot Care’s hours will be 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekend.
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.