As this small wooded suburb of Worcester gets ready to host one of the first two recreational pot shops east of the Mississippi River, local officials and residents are preparing for an unusual pilgrimage the likes of which Leicester has never seen.
The closest event Police Chief James J. Hurley can compare it to is Black Friday at the local Walmart, which draws 1,700 bargain hunters every year. But at least Walmart, unlike Cultivate, the local marijuana shop, has a massive parking lot, he said.
Once Cultivate gets the final green light from state regulators in the next few days, Leicester, a conservative former mill town of 11,000, dotted with dairy and vegetable farms, could become a regional cannabis destination, along with Northampton, a liberal college town, which is expected to have its own recreational pot shop open at the same time.
“We’re either going to get everyone in the state who wants marijuana coming here, or it’s going to be half the state that wants marijuana coming here,” Hurley said, as he prepared to go over final details of the opening with a private security firm hired by Cultivate. “Either way you look at it, we’re going to have a crowd.”
The opening is the talk of the town, with many hoping that recreational marijuana will bring tax revenue and business to Leicester (pronounced Lester). The town, once known as the “cradle of the American carding industry” for its mills that separated woolen fibers, saw its last wool mill close in 1991, and a major food distribution warehouse close more recently.
Shia Grabauskas, the 49-year-old part owner of Pleasant Street Diner, said she hopes pot buyers will stop by for a meal after shopping at Cultivate, about 3 miles away.
“They’ll come here and have a lobster roll,” she said, adding the huge rolls she makes are “the best around,” and only $9.50, as a special every Friday.