The Highs (And Lows) Of The First Day Of Recreational Weed In Northampton

Photo of the first NETA customer in line with the Potsquash by Will Meyer


Braving a full eight hours in horrendous 34 degree rain and snow, Northampton resident Dequan Hamilton was first in line to purchase recreational weed in the “Paradise City.” Having arrived at NETA shortly after midnight, Hamilton got to stand in front of hundreds of people who together wrapped first around a parking lot and then around a city block.


Hamilton waited not just for the chance to buy a vape pen and gummy edibles, but was instead eager to make history.


“I’m excited because I’m going to be one of the first people to buy weed recreationally east of the Mississippi,” he told DigBoston. “It’s a big step for the state, and it’s a great big step for this country.”


Next in line was Ben Smith, who succinctly summed up the situation, saying, “Recreational weed, it’s legal now. That’s kinda nice.”


The actual first customer, however, didn’t have to wait in line at all. Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, an Air Force veteran and a longtime proponent of first medical marijuana and now “adult use marijuana,” didn’t waste the opportunity. At a press conference he told reporters that given his history of advocacy, “it sends an important message that I make that purchase.”


The Boston Globe reported that Narkewicz would buy “an edible of his own,” probably a THC-infused chocolate bar. That said, he wasn’t sure if he was going to eat the chocolate bar, and mused about other things he might do with it. He thought about putting it on display in his office. He pondered donating it to a local historic group as a keepsake to put “among other artifacts related to the city’s long association with other progressive movements, from the abolition of slavery to marriage equality.”


It is worth noting that despite marijuana’s legalization, some are still being arrested for possession. On June 1, Eric Matlock, who is black and homeless and has a long history with the Northampton Police Department, was arrested on a possession charge for having hash oil on his person. If convicted, he could face jail time and a $1,000 fine. Matlock’s lawyer, Dana Goldblatt, told DigBoston that, “Under the circumstances, the mayor’s decision to publicly celebrate the continued freedom of rich white men to get high with impunity strikes me as kind of tacky.”


With that said, Northampton is open for business. Narkewicz told the Globe, “I hope that the folks who come to visit NETA will also visit our downtown, shop at our businesses, and maybe stay for a few days and enjoy the beautiful Pioneer Valley.” Offering a dose of inadvertent government transparency, he continued, “Sorry—I slipped on my Chamber of Commerce hat there for a minute.”


Narkewicz’s administration and the Northampton City Council has put no extra zoning restrictions on the marijuana industry and no caps on the amount of such businesses that are able to open in the retail or commercial sector of the city, which he hopes will bring new tourism and tax revenue. For his part in making that happen, Narkewicz has actively and controversially worked with the Chamber to “reduce the need for panhandling,” and tried but failed to install police surveillance cameras. Most recently, his health department announced a public smoking ban.


With pre-rolled joints, topicals, edibles, vapes, and capsules all ready to purchase, prohibition is officially over for those who can afford it.


As for the people who weed prohibition was designed to regulate, like Matlock, they’re still subject to the overreaches of our government.