What Recreational Cannabis In Mass. Means For Medical Marijuana

It’s not clear when you’ll be able to walk into a store and buy recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, but the where will likely be one of the state’s existing medical marijuana dispensaries.

And that means dispensaries will operate two systems — recreational and medical — under one roof.

To get a sense of what will be similar and what will be different, we tour the Patriot Care dispensary in Lowell with senior executive Bob Mayerson. He’s been open for medical sales since February 2016 and has applied for a recreational license.

To begin, everyone will walk through the same front door, at least at this dispensary. Medical marijuana buyers will still have to present a state-issued card confirming they are registered patients. Both types of customers will need a valid ID. Recreational buyers have to be at least 21 years of age, no exceptions.

Mayerson leads us into a room framed on two sides with sales counters. He already uses the poles connected by bands of fabric that state regulations say will suffice to separate recreational and medical marijuana customers. Regulators say the division will help assure that wait times don’t increase for patients, and it gives them more time to discuss treatment options.

Mayerson mentions another reason: “There will be some slight differences in the product availability on each side.”

The products will be different because there are limits on how much THC, a psychoactive ingredient, will be allowed in edible recreational products. There’s no THC limit for medical edibles. Here’s the rule for recreational: Products like a chocolate bar must have portions that contain no more than 5 milligrams of THC each — and are stamped as such.