Following the legalization of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts during the 2016 election, New England Treatment Access (NETA), a marijuana dispensary, set up shop on 118 Conz St. in Northampton this past November. Since opening its doors, the dispensary has been selling its popular products, which include pre-rolled joints, chocolate “imported from Belgium” and drops to “infuse your favorite beverage” to customers ranging from five-college students to the mayor of Northampton. In fact, NETA officials arranged for Northampton’s mayor, David Narkewicz, to be the first customer on opening day — a political move signaling the acceptance and excitement of the Northampton community for the store’s operations, and a step towards fully erasing the stigma around marijuana.
NETA’s popularity comes from the fact that it is only one of two dispensaries on the East Coast that sells marijuana for recreational use. (It also caters to medical marijuana users, who receive priority treatment such as different waiting lines, certain parking spaces and exclusive products. Additionally, if you do not hold a medical card, you can only purchase up to an eighth of a gram at a time.) NETA is a major draw not only for five-college students, but also for college students from up and down the East Coast, who are willing to brave the western Massachusetts cold and wait upwards of 45 minutes. Recently, I was greatly surprised to see a high school classmate from my hometown of Chappaqua, New York, post a Snapchat story at its doors.
However, not all college students can purchase NETA’s products. You must be 21 years old, not only to buy from NETA, but also to enter the building. Similarly, in order to peruse the NETA website, you must affirm that you are 21 years old, although the website does not require proof beyond simply clicking “I am 21 or older.” Its products, however, are rather costly. NETA’s chocolate bars sell for $30 each, and its other products go for about twice their price outside of NETA. The high price of its products and the alternative, cheaper paths available for college students who want to obtain marijuana may explain why, from my observation upon visiting the store, the main demographic of NETA’s customers seems to skew toward individuals in their 30s and 40s. However, it is worth noting that NETA’s more costly products are also safer. In other words, consumers know the contents of NETA’s products and do not have to worry about potentially purchasing marijuana laced with other psychoactive drugs or “synthetic” weed from less reliable sources. Outbreaks of synthetic weed, also known as “fake” weed or K2, in various states of the U.S., including New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois, have been correlated with a variety of health issues among users, ranging from the relatively harmless (vomiting, confusion and rapid heart rate) to the life-threatening (severe bleeding, seizures and heart attacks). Use of these cannabinoids has even been linked to fatalities across these states.
While NETA is conveniently located and sells a variety of higher-end, safer products than five-college students may be accustomed to, it is also rather time-consuming and expensive. Students must decide for themselves whether the benefits outweigh the cost.