It took Ian B. Garland more than two hours to get his weed.
Mr. Garland, who lives in Bourne, purchased seven pre-rolls, a gram of shatter weed, a pack of edible caramels and a gram of kief cannabis on Wednesday, December 26, at Verilife in Wareham.
“You can pre-order it right on Leafly,” he said. “I pre-ordered when I get in the lot, and it was ready in two minutes. The wait was a little bit longer than that.”
Mr. Garland was one of many customers who traveled to Wareham on Wednesday to legally buy recreational marijuana at the Verilife dispensary on Main Street in Wareham. The store opened December 21.
On November 20, the first day of legal sale of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, the two dispensaries in Northampton and Leicester sold $440,011 of product. Through December 16, the total sales have reached $9.3 million.
More stores are scheduled to open in 2019, including a potential dispensary in Mashpee.
Early demand overwhelmed the first stores to open in the state, with heavy traffic and congestion clogging nearby streets and roads.
To accommodate the anticipated influx of customers, Verilife has required patrons to park at Water Wizz on Cranberry Highway in Wareham, where a shuttle provides service to the dispensary. Off-site parking will remain a requirement as the town assesses the demand.
Mr. Garland waited 40 minutes in the large white tent in the Water Wizz parking lot before getting on this shuttle, nicknamed the “Canna-bus” by its riders. After a 10-minute ride aboard the shuttle, he arrived at the Verilife dispensary, located within the Alden Besse house at 112 Main Street, Wareham. Upon arrival, he waited for 90 minutes in a second line before entering the dispensary. Once inside, it took approximately 15 minutes to get to the register and pay for his pot.
“It was a little slow but I got what I wanted,” Mr. Garland said.
He said a few people held up the line because they were either unfamiliar with or had not read Verilife’s marijuana menu, which is available on its website at verilife.com/ma. The dispensary sells locally-grown medical and recreational cannabis in flower, edible and vapor form.
Wareham Police Lieutenant John Gerard described Wednesday, December 26, as the first “busy, busy” day at Verilife.
“When it first opened, the longest someone waited in line on opening day [on December 21] was maybe 60 minutes, and that was at the beginning,” Lt. Gerard said. “Once it got rolling, it went well. Yesterday, after Christmas, it went sideways.”
Michelle M. Stormo, executive director of the dispensary, said that first day was the busiest.
“We’ve been seeing between 400 and 600 people per day,” Ms. Stormo said. “Once we reach capacity, we do shut down the parking lot and we’re still hitting capacity every day.”
While there were long lines to get into the dispensary, this did not result in traffic congestion on the streets.
“At this time, there have been no traffic issues,” Lt. Gerard said, confirming that customers are parking in the appropriate lot and using the shuttle service.
The shuttle system was worked out with the Town of Wareham to accommodate the increased traffic activity. The Wareham police have posted parking instructions on their website and Facebook page. Temporary “no parking” signs can be seen along Main Street near the dispensary. Customers are also restricted from parking in the Besse Park parking lot.
“We haven’t had one issue with any of the patrons,” the lieutenant said, but noted some people have complained about having have to park at Water Wizz and wait for the shuttle to and from that parking lot.
“We do hope to get a closer parking lot soon,” Ms. Stormo said. “We won’t be at Water Wizz much longer.”
Verilife has 13 parking spots on site but these spaces are reserved for its medical patients and the handicapped. The dispensary has been selling medical marijuana since the summer and continues to do so.
Other customers recognize that until more recreational marijuana dispensaries open up, waiting will be a part of the process.
“You have got to be willing to wait,” Bryan Rioux of Fall River said.
Mr. Rioux expects wait times to decrease as more recreational dispensaries open, such as Northeast Alternatives, a medical marijuana facility in Fall River that was recently approved for recreational sales.
“We wanted to explore because they’re going to be opening one in Fall River in a couple of weeks,” Mr. Rioux said. “We wanted to check it out as soon as we could.”
Noting the millions of dollars in recreational marijuana sales already, he argued opening more dispensaries will benefit both the state and the consumer.
“It’s not such a dangerous thing, smoking marijuana,” Mr. Rioux said. “It’s regulated now, you know what you’re getting and you’re not dealing with shady characters.”
Ms. Stormo described the typical wait time as between one and two hours, but once inside, people are happy to have the opportunity to legally purchase recreational marijuana.
“Everything has gone great,” she said. “Customers have been really happy, for the most part, even though they’ve been like ice cubes [outside].”
Despite the wait, several customers recommended Verilife.
“Once you’re in the building, it’s very neat and orderly,” Edward P. Coomes of Plymouth said. “It was very neat and orderly the whole time; there was just a long line. I was very impressed with how they handled everything.”
The wait was made even longer due to an issue with the store’s tablet. Although several customers reported that the state system was offline during the morning, Ms. Stormo said the issue was with the Wareham store’s system.
“Technology is great, when it works, but we were having issues with our own tablet, which we use to check people in,” she said.
Customers were not able to buy marijuana during this time.
“They came outside and said they couldn’t sell us any,” Sean Morrissey of Vermont said.
One customer, who declined to be named, said this made him consider leaving. Having waited since 9:30 AM, he decided to stay. He boarded the shuttle bus to return to Water Wizz with his purchase at approximately 12:25 PM.
Once he could make a purchase, Mr. Morrissey bought some sativa strains, which he described as “the creative thinking sort of pot.”
“I was here for Christmas, nearby in Kingston, and we decided to buy some weed because we like weed,” he said. “It was a Christmas miracle.”
He wasn’t the only out-of-state visitor stopping by following a Christmas visit. Jessica Sharaf and John Henry of New Jersey did the same.
“We came here on Saturday to check it out, and we knew we’d be coming back,” Mr. Henry said.
During their visit, they purchased creme bubbly, golden goat, watermelon-flavored edible chews and pre-rolls.
“Where we’re at, there is no recreational dispensaries, just medical,” Ms. Sharaf said. “We had to make a pit stop.”
While he recommended the dispensary, a Nantucket man said he wouldn’t know if the marijuana was worth the wait “for a few hours,” when he gets home and smokes it. He wants to see another facility open closer to home.
“They’re coming, they’re just dragging their feet,” the man said. “They’re already approved two of them.”
Also visiting from the islands was David P. Merna of Martha’s Vineyard. He offered several reasons for stopping by.
“It’s in the news, it’s a recreation I enjoy, I’m glad it’s legal now and this was on the way back down to the boat,” Mr. Merna said.
He complimented the dispensary, describing it as “good, professional, clean and modern.”
Several customers said they were surprised by the store. Devin L. Thomas of Taunton said the dispensary’s selection was far more varied than he expected.
“It was pretty big,” Mr. Thomas said. “It just opened last Friday, so I wasn’t expecting much, but it was a pretty big selection.”
Joy C. Tranfaglia of Marshfield said it was not what she expected.
“I was expecting a more retail atmosphere, where you could look at things and talk about things,” Mr. Tranfaglia said.
Like Mr. Garland, she pre-ordered her products, which were ready by the time she entered the store.
“It was pretty easy,” she said, noting that while she purchased flowers and a cartridge, Verilife “has everything in there.”
Flowers are the most popular, although edibles and vape cartridges have been top-sellers as well, Ms. Stormo said.
Verilife is open from noon to 5 PM, seven days a week. Ms. Stormo said these are temporary hours, which the dispensary hopes to expand in the upcoming weeks.
Customers are encouraged to bring cash for their purchases, although there is an on-site ATM. Prior to opening, Ms. Stormo warned the ATM could run out of money due to high demand.