Last week, on a magnificent Sunday afternoon, just as the leaves were turning in Western Massachusetts, I drove an hour and a half to New England Treatment Access (NETA), the new “high-end” (get it?) pot dispensary in Northampton, Massachusetts.
I said I was going to do it, and I did it.
I bought pot legally, and it was good.
Actually, it was great. And totally surreal.
The NETA dispensary is located just off the highway, a few blocks from beautiful and thriving downtown Northampton. The cool people call it NOHO. And since I have now bought pot legally, I think I deserve to call it NOHO too.
So there I am in NOHO, my GPS landing me at a handsome, stand alone, one story building with plenty of parking out front. There is a sign for NETA indicating I have arrived at the right place. Unlike the sex shop, they are not embarrassed by their presence—and they shouldn’t be.
In order to get through the front door of NETA, you must show your marijuana patient card to a video camera. I have one of those, one of the many silver linings of having cancer. If you bring a friend that does not have a card or is not a registered caretaker, they will have to sit in the car, and that is no fun. No one without a card is admitted. No exceptions.
Showing my card got me in the door, to a small vestibule, behind another locked door. Here, a nice young man checked my driver’s license and my marijuana registration card again. He handed me a comprehensive Patient Handbook containing everything I wanted to know (and more) about marijuana strains and patient information, as well as registration information that was to be filled out. Then he buzzed me through the locked door and into the dispensary.
I came through, marveling at the décor. My first thought: “Wow. This is magnificent.” Gorgeous wood paneling, glass cases, very hip lighting, and acoustic music. A cross between fancy ski resort and a five-star resort spa check out counter.
A lovely older woman greeted me as I walked through the doors: “Welcome to NETA! Is this your first time here? Can I help you with your paperwork?”
“Awesome, yes, but I just drove an hour and half and drank 3 cups of coffee…”
“Bathrooms are around the corner.” She led the way.
I have a habit of judging places by their bathrooms. I can’t help it. These were really nice–at least the one on the right was. There are no W or M designations on the doors- bathrooms are gender neutral (Soooooo NOHO, right?)
There was no shortage of help in this dispensary. It was like they knew people were going to be intimidated because they have no idea what they are doing when they go buy pot (there are also private consulting rooms if needed). All employees are dressed in the same in NETA shirts and khaki pants. The employees are clean, friendly, and they know their product. They can talk your ear off about product. Clearly, they love their jobs.
At a beautiful sitting area with couches and a coffee table, I filled out my paperwork while I intermittently watched a video screen showing a live feed of the actual marijuana growing in their off site grow facility. A NETA employee was always nearby to answer my questions with patience and concern. This was no Bloomingdales—you could actually look up and find a salesperson ready to help. They get an A in customer service.
When I was ready, I was accompanied to the line to buy pot.
And who is there buying pot? Everyone. Grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads, people in wheelchairs, people with tremors, people like me, with cancer. Normal, everyday people who have medical issues that they want relieved.
If you know what you want, there are two express lanes. If you don’t, like me, you go in the longer line, where a salesperson will take as long as you need, unrushed, to help you decide what kind of pot you want for what ails you (I heard that some people take up to an hour to decide.) I took about 25 minutes.
There’s Indica (mnemonic device that works for me: “in da couch”) for relaxing or sleeping, there’s Sativa (more energetic strain,) and hybrids. And while there is no shortage of flower (that’s the bud that you smoke) there are edibles of all sorts: caramel nuggets, lozenges, dark chocolate bars (which are the most popular). There are vape pens and rolled joints. Everything was labeled for dosage and strain, with my name on it—just like a prescription. Everything was packaged beautifully, and then put into a black childproof bag that I had to practice 3 times to be able to open.
I came out educated and impressed.
And I used a debit card to pay for my product. Who knew?
I got back in my car and just sat there for a moment, taking it all in.
“What are the rabbis going to think?” I asked myself in the car when I started thinking about writing this piece. “Actually, what’s the rabbi’s wife going to think? And the rabbi’s mother? Oy! I’m in big trouble.”
But by the time I got home, I had committed to writing about this. I figured they must think I’m a little “out there” anyway, and it is time to shake up my community just a bit. People—all people— are going to have to get used to the fact that medical marijuana is a thing. And I believe it’s a good thing.
This is the future.
While my opinions are my own and the experience real—just like I told it—I must disclose that my son is an employee of NETA.