AP NEWS
Related topics

‘I’ve Got My Stuff!’

March 17, 2019

LOWELL -- The Merrimack Valley’s first recreational marijuana store opened Saturday with little fanfare and little traffic.

Located at 70 Industrial Ave., Patriot Care first opened in 2016 as a medical dispensary. At 11 a.m. on Saturday it began taking recreational customers.

“It’s historic, the first recreational place to open in Lowell,” said Emilio Meza of Lowell.

Though customers were eager, the scene was calm in Patriot Care’s parking lot. The first recreational customers arrived at 8:30 a.m. and by 10 a.m., just a handful of customers were gathered in line. Among them were Bob Bella of Dracut and Bill Mitchell of Lawrence, who arrived just after 9 a.m., anticipating long lines.

“I thought there’d be a lot more people here,” Bella said.

Like many in line, the novelty of a recreational store drew Bella and Mitchell to make the trip. Though curious to see what flower and concentrate products Patriot Care had to offer, Mitchell said he did not expect to be a regular customer because of the cost.

“I’m coming to see the quality,” he said.

On Monday the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission notified Patriot Care that it had been authorized for retail operations. In anticipation of the opening, city officials have been working with Patriot Care over the past months to discuss traffic, parking plans and crowd control.

“I want to commend the city manager and Patriot Care for ensuring that not only have they met the standards, they exceed the standards that have been established by the state ... three years with not an issue, that’s important to everybody,” Mayor Bill Samaras said ahead of the opening.

Under the city’s host community agreement with Patriot Care, the dispensary’s owner, will pay Lowell 3 percent of gross revenues.

With the next closest adult use dispensary located in Salem, local officials were bracing for an influx of recreational customers from the across the region and New Hampshire.

Robert Cousins of Derry, N.H., was one of those customers to make the trek.

Looking to purchase edibles, Cousins said Patriot Care is the first adult-use dispensary he has been to.

After waiting about an hour and half, Cousins made it inside. He said the staff was “very good and knowledgeable” but he was disappointed that he wasn’t able to look at the products and instead ordered off of a paper menu.

“I will be back unless one opens up in New Hampshire,” he said.

To curb anticipated traffic, recreational customers were directed to two satellite lots at 190 Plain St. and 30 Industrial Ave.

In the morning, the Plain Street lot was busy according to a member of Patriot Care’s security detail, but by 1 p.m. activity had quieted down. Traffic on Industrial Avenue was likewise free-moving.

As it welcomed recreational and medical customers through its doors, Patriot Care served the two clientele groups through separate lines.

According to Mary-Alice Miller, chief risk officer and general counsel for Patriot Care’s parent company, Columbia Care, the medical program is not going to change.

Patriot Care’s medical patients were first through the doors when the dispensary opened Saturday morning.

Medical patient Anne Howard of Roxbury regularly makes the trip to Patriot Care in Lowell. The staff and service, she said, were great, but she worries that medical patients would be competing with recreational customers for product. As she waited for the dispensary to open, Howard said that last week the dispensary had run out of the product she uses.

Not long after entering the dispensary to make her purchase, Howard exited and gave two thumbs up.

“I’ve got my stuff!” she cheered.

Before driving off Howard, said she was “happy, happy, happy!”

As the day progressed, recreational customers were let inside in controlled groups, while medical patients were allowed in right away.

In addition to the dispensary on Industrial Avenue, the company also has a cultivation center and national shared services office down the street.

“I am happy to say that we are continuing to grow and we will be hiring additional employees from the local community,” Miller said.

The cultivation center serves Patriot Care in Lowell as well as the company’s two other medical dispensaries in Boston and Greenfield. According to Miller, the Greenfield location will open for adult-use soon and the company is also exploring adult-use options in Boston.

Patriot Care in Lowell will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.