AP NEWS

Gardner Pot Shop Open for Business

March 7, 2019

By Stephen Landry

slandry@sentinel andenterprise.com

GARDNER -- It is now legal to buy recreational marijuana in the Chair City.

Sanctuary Medicinals LLC opened its doors on Pearson Boulevard shortly after 10 a.m. on Wednesday and made history as its first non-medical customers were ushered into the facility. The business began selling medical marijuana last November.

“It’s about time,” said Ken Walker of Fitchburg, the first customer of the day. “I’ve been smoking for the better of 50 years and it’s about time.”

For the record, the first recreational items purchased were a Pineapple Skunk sativa flower and a pre-rolled Trainwreck joint.

The line of pre-registered customers formed outside the facility’s doors shortly before it opened, with some choosing to wait in their heated cars until their appointed time to go inside. A Sanctuary staffer handed out Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards to many of the customers standing out in the cold.

Marc Higgins of Winchendon was among the very first customers served. He purchased a hybrid called Amnesia Diesel, and said he was glad to have a recreational marijuana outlet so close to home.

″(This) is a lot nicer than having to drive a couple of hours and then wait a couple of hours and then drive a couple of hours back,” Higgins said. “It’s really nice to have something local. It makes things a lot easier.”

Much of the product sold is grown at Sanctuary’s cultivation facility in Littleton.

Robert Ginn of Templeton said he was pleased with the smoothness of the online registration operation.

“I thought it was very efficiently done, (the staff) communicated with us over the computer, and this is much better than some of the pictures I’ve seen of other places where people were standing in the snow for hours,” Ginn said.

Nicole Ross of Gardner said she felt the facility would be a benefit to the city.

“They’ll be bringing in a lot of money and customers from other towns, so not only will they be shopping here but they’ll be shopping everywhere else (in Gardner),” Ross said. “Cannabis is a growing industry and it’s a powerful medicine.”

Heather Larivee, a New Hampshire resident who said she had been using cannabis for 20 years, said it was exciting to see the drug finally become legal and accessible to everyone.

“My goal is to support the cannabis industry, so coming here today to check out Sanctuary is exciting and I want to be a part of this,” Larivee said. She added that she also works as a glassblower making pipes and bongs, and that legal recreational marijuana could mean a boost in her business.

Employees manned six cash registers, with one reserved for medicinal customers only. An “Adult Use Menu” allowed customers to choose from the sativa, hybrid, or Indica strains of cannabis, in either flower or pre-rolled form. The items had names such as Gorilla Bomb, Banana Bread, Ninja Fruit and Granddaddy Purple. Cannabis was also available in concentrate form, fruit chews, edibles and cartridges. Pipes, bongs and rolling papers were also available.

CEO Jason Sidman, who said he expected around 360 customers to be served on opening day, said he was both excited and a little bit relieved to finally be opened to recreational cannabis users.

“I think all systems are running great, all of our staff are trained and ready for this, and we’re very excited to have our grand opening day,” Sidman said.

In addition to having a police detail outside to handle parking and traffic, Sanctuary staff inside the store worked closely with law enforcement to ensure the operation ran smoothly and that each customer was authorized to be entering the building. One customer who was using a passport to get in caused some concern, but officials eventually determined it was a valid form of identification.

Gardner Deputy Police Chief James Trifiro kept a close eye on the facility’s opening day operations. He said he was generally satisfied that things were running smoothly.

“From looking around and inspecting the business, I see everything’s locked, everything’s monitored, everything is smooth and controlled, everybody’s escorted, and they have more than adequate staff here,” Trifiro said. “Everybody is in some kind of controlled environment from the minute you walk in the door to the minute you walk out of the door.”

Follow Landry on Twitter @Landry17Stephen.