Seeking some cerebral effects at the dope store, by John McGauley

I want to tell you about our visit to the dope store in Northampton, Mass.

That’s what I call it, although my son, who was with my wife and I at the time, cringed when I called it that, making fun of me for my unhip and archaic language. Its official name is NETA Northampton, which stands for New England Treatment Access. That name could mean anything but it’s the place you can buy marijuana for both recreational and medicinal purposes.

They can call it anything they want, but it’s still the dope store to me.

Here’s how it came to be that we found ourselves there.

We were driving our son down to New Haven, Conn., so he could catch the train back to his home in Brooklyn. We stopped in Northampton to have lunch and he suggested we stop by the new place.

Now, I’d already driven by the place a couple of times since it first opened following the state’s legalization of marijuana. The first time I drove by I didn’t know it was the dope store, only that there was a line of people that wrapped around a building waiting to get it. I thought it was a big concert or something.

The first thing you notice is that there are cops directing traffic all around the place and instructing shoppers where to park. It was crowded, but the line out the door was fairly short, not like the first time I saw the place.

Once it’s your turn to get in the store, an employee outside asks to see your driver’s license, which he then proceeds to scan on a hand-held laser device. Why he’s doing this is not explained, but I figured it’s to register you on some database the place maintains, or to make sure you’re not a felon, or a Republican or an illegal alien.

Then, everything is done quickly; you’re hustled inside and quickly placed in a line that looks like TSA security at the airport.

On this day there were probably a couple of hundred customers inside. While you’re shuffling your way toward the end of the line, another employee hands you a large printed menu of products available.

I studied the customers carefully, wondering if I’d see some Cheech & Chong types. There were a few like that, but most of the people were a mix of young and old, men and women; they looked like the same collection of random people you’d see at a grocery store. I will say this, though, that there was a disproportionate number of people with beards, mostly men.

The three of us waited in line for about 10 minutes, then realized that we weren’t there to buy anything, we just wanted to see the place. But it’s not the kind of store where you can browse, they don’t let you do that, you stand in line until you get to the place where you’re called forward to a counter where a dozen very busy clerks ask you what you want and then they go get it, place it in either white or brown bags. Then you go to the next station and pay your bill.

As far as I could tell, the clerks don’t want you to dilly-dally once you get to the counter, looking up at a menu like you might do at Burger King. You apparently have to know what you want beforehand. It reminded me of the betting window at the Saratoga race track, where it’s very important to quickly lay down exactly what bets you want and get out of the way for the guy in line behind you. “Five bucks on number five to win, five bucks on number two to place, five bucks on number 12 to show.”

Since we weren’t buying, we escaped the line, bending down to get under the rope. We tried to get out through the door we came in, but were directed to the single exit in the rear of the building, quickly escorted out a back door. Before we knew it, we were back in the parking lot, looking at a Northampton cop. We got in our car and went on our way.

Later, at lunch, I read the “menu” of products available at the store and I have to admit I burst out laughing. Here are some:

“Facewreck,” the “reported effects” of which are skunky aroma, high energy, mood lifting, creativity and anxiety reduction.

“Hurricane,” with its effects reported to be a “cerebral effect,” stress reduction, body relaxation, anxiety-reducing and nausea relief.

“Blackwater OG” is reported to be “heavy-hitting.”

“Triple OG” has the attribute of “dreamy euphoria with fast onset.”

Come on, it’s just weed! People buy it to get high.

It might be a good idea for the N.H. Liquor Commission to print its own marketing of products for its “cerebral effect” wares.

“Bombay Gin is reported to have the following effects: a loud mouth, leading to intense discussions and fights.”

“Canadian Club is a low-cost product that leads to a quick buzz, followed by an awesome hangover.”

“Zhenka Vodka is cheaper than gasoline, even bottled water, and can lead to a stupor in which you forget who you are. Good for mixers.”

Now, I’ve always been in support of the legalization of marijuana because everybody can get it anyway and it removes the criminal element from the industry. I feel the same about harder drugs as well.

Oh, by the way, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission last month approved the sale of New England Treatment Access to Georgia-based Surterra Wellness, led by the former head of the Wrigley chewing gum empire, William “Beau” Wrigley.

You can’t make this stuff up. It’s probable Surterra will soon introduce its “Juicy Fruit” marijuana, with one hell of a “cerebral effect.”

John McGauley, an author and local radio talk-show host, writes from Keene. He can be reached at

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