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Connecticut prepares for recreational marijuana in Massachusetts

ENFIELD – The first recreational marijuana dispensary east of the Mississippi plans to open its doors in the coming weeks just over the Connecticut-Massachusetts border.

Connecticut residents will have quick and easy access to legal marijuana, with a short drive north on I-91.

NETA, the dispensary located in Northampton, Mass., has been getting ready for their recreational open date since taxpayers voted to legalize recreational marijuana nearly two years ago. It is not legal to smoke in public places in Massachusetts.

In recreational dispensaries, marijuana will be sold in many forms from flower, which is for smoking, to pills and edibles such as chocolates or gummies.

“We’re always happy to greet people from Connecticut,” said Leslie Laurie, regional director for NETA. “We’re so excited that we’re on the brink of being able to also offer services and products for those who are in not for medical reasons.”

Another dispensary, INSA, is preparing for a mid-November recreational opening date in Easthampton, Mass.

“With the states in New England being the size that they are, we do expect a lot of people from Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, to come and purchase products,” said Mark Zatyrka, CEO of INSA.

Zatyrka gave a tour to FOX61 of both of his locations – in Easthampton and in Springfield. In Easthampton, employees opened the doors to their “Bloom Room,” which reflects the fall season with 12 hours of light and twelve hours of darkness. After this stage, plants go to harvest and soon thereafter, to the shelves.

To enter the store, a recreational customer will need a valid government-issued ID proving he or she is over the age of 21. But, Connecticut residents will still need to follow Connecticut laws.

“By law, they can’t bring it back,” said Aaron Romano, a Bloomfield-based attorney. “But, they have access to it. So if you want it, you can go and get it.”

Romano said Connecticut residents should maintain common sense: do not to drive while intoxicated and do not cross the border with pot in the car. While Connecticut has decriminalized marijuana –meaning no prison time or criminal record for first-time possession of a small amount – residents could still get a ticket for possession of one-half ounce or less, or even jail time for possession of more than that.

“The laws of Massachusetts pertain in Massachusetts and the laws in Connecticut pertain in Connecticut,” said Alaric Fox, Chief of the Enfield Police Department.

Fox added that his department has a plan in place.

“In terms of our response, particularly as a border town, we have drug recognition experts within our cadre of police officers that are specifically trained to be able to detect intoxication by drugs other than alcohol,” he said.

Some people living in Enfield, just miles from legal pot, said they do not have a problem with it.

“Marijuana should have been legalized 40, 50 years ago,” said Jerrold Borstein, an Enfield resident.

Vietnam veteran, Anthony Rinaldi, agreed.

“I think it’s been long overdue to make it legal and put the dealers out of business,” said Rinaldi.

As for Connecticut State Police, while they are aware of this new Massachusetts law, they have no plans to make any changes and will continue, as always, to enforce Connecticut’s state laws.