While New York decriminalizes recreational marijuana use, states where it is legal, including nearby Massachusetts, are forging ahead into a fairly new frontier — and New Yorkers have noticed.
“Cannabis tourism,” that is, tourism centering around the availability of recreational pot, is a real thing in Massachusetts. Since marijuana was made legal there in 2016, dispensaries have cropped up all over the state, hotels have made accommodations for smokers, and travel companies have tailored their experiences toward lighting up.
The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism doesn’t have data on cannabis-related travel, per spokesman Mike Quinlin, but according to dispensary owner and cannabis grower Brandon Pollock, New Yorkers make up at least 50% of his business.
“Cannabis tourism is out West and in more developed markets, and that is starting to happen in Massachusetts,” he told amNewYork. “It’s awesome to be part of this future, which is just getting started.”
Pollock’s business, Theory Wellness, started as a medical marijuana dispensary in 2015, but in January this year, it transitioned into recreational sales as other dispensaries cropped up across the state.
However, there are so few dispensaries that most have a wait time to even get in. There are about 22 of them with about 44 more waiting for final licenses, according to the Cannabis Control Commission.
At Theory Wellness, the average line is 20 minutes, but on holidays like this past Fourth of July, it was a two-hour wait.
“We are surrounded by millions of people and there are only a couple of dispensaries,” Pollock said. “That being said, we have almost 100 parking spaces we are now renting and we went from five members on our team to 50 in a matter of months. We keep hiring to have more transactions per hour.”
While legalizing recreational use is still far off here in New York, Massachusetts does offer a glimpse into what it might be like if it ever does happen here.
“My guess is that New York will take a deliberate approach,” Pollock surmised. “It will not explode overnight but it will grow. People are already using cannabis, it’s just not legal yet. Most people prefer to get it from a source they can talk to and that has been tested at a lab. The biggest surprise was how less of a deal it was once it happened.”
So until then, many New Yorkers will continue traveling across state lines to get their products, but it’s good to know what to expect before you go. We’ve crafted a guide to help.
First things first — know the laws
Wherever you go, be familiar with the local laws regarding use and possession. In Massachusetts, you must be at least 21 years old and have a government-issued ID.
You can have up to 1 ounce of weed and up to 5 grams of marijuana concentrate in public, but you cannot use it in public. Period. If you do, it could cost you up to $100 in fines. This also means you cannot have an open container of it in your car, and of course, you cannot drive while impaired.
What about taking it back to New York? Federal law prohibits this, even if it’s over the border to Vermont, where recreational use is also legal. For more information, check out the northofboston.org‘s out-of-towners’ guide.
A few dispensaries
There are about two dozen dispensaries across the state of Massachusetts, some of which resemble jewelry stores with product behind glass. Dispensaries are not allowed to advertise, so they may be hard to spot at first. Just be prepared for lines and packed parking lots, wherever you go. Here are a few you can find across the state:
- Theory Wellness — 1050 Elm St. in Bridgewater & 394 Stockbridge Rd. in Great Barrington
Theory Wellness grows its own product and manufactures its edibles (concentrates and infusions) and only packages them up in front of its customers so they can smell the strains, which are all made in small batches. For out-of-state customers, it also sells single-use vaporizers “perfect for people who are in the area for a couple of days,” Pollock said.
- Caroline’s Cannabis — 640 Douglas St. in Uxbridge
This woman-owned business sells products, salves, edibles and ointments that owner Caroline Frankel purchases as wholesale — and marijuana-themed home décor, too, according to masslive.com.
- Garden Remedies — 416 Boston Post Rd. in Marlborough
Garden Remedies boasts about its large parking lot (no shuttles needed) so that more customers can get in its doors more quickly. Like the others, it sells flower, concentrates, edibles, pre-rolls, cartridges and topicals — all grown at its cultivation center by its founder, Dr. Karen Munkacy.
- Berkshire Roots — 501 Dalton Ave. in Pittsfield
Billing itself as the largest grower of cannabis in western Massachusetts, Berkshire Roots cultivates its flower in its 26,000-square-foot facility. Aside from tinctures, topicals and concentrates, it also has its own bakery using cannabis ingredients from its plants.
- Neta — 160 Washington St. in Brookline & 118 Conz St. in Northampton
Neta has its own cultivation facility too, which produces more than 50 strains and 100 pharmaceutical grade therapies. It also carries six brands of topicals, edibles, concentrates and more. Neta suggests reserving an appointment ahead of time, however, so it can get your product ready for next-day pickup.
Where to stay
Since you can’t smoke or use in public and you cannot by law take product across state lines, that means you must have a private place to partake. Countless hotels prohibit smoking, but since recreational use has been legalized many lodgings now cater to the green life.
The Stonehedge Inn and Spa in Tyngsborough actually has a cannabis-friendly package that allows guests to partake in certain rooms, offers an unlimited pasta bowl at NoLo Italian Cucina, continental breakfast, free VIP Troca Room lounge access, a munchie and hydration kit, a Troca Hotels CCELL Palm 550 mAh vape, a copy of Sensi Magazine and a High Times T-shirt.
What to do
Now that you’ve booked your lodgings and found a dispensary, what else does Massachusetts have in store that you can’t find in New York?
A lot. Clearly, legalization has opened up a new niche for tourism companies and businesses of all kinds to explore in Massachusetts. Despite that, the state’s tourism branch does not have any current plans to market to that niche segment of travelers, spokesman Quinlin said.
Weed enthusiasts don’t need to look far to find 420-friendly events.
Getting married? Check out this cannabis wedding expo (featuring vendors that specialize in the green stuff), a “Puff, pass & paint” night (like your typical paint & sip but with a blunt), a “Puff bus” that takes you on cannabis-themed tours of cultivation centers and dispensaries, a fine dining experience that integrates cannabis into its dishes, and much more.