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An aerial view of the property that will house The Pass, a recreational marijuana retailer and manufacturer at 1375 Main St. in Sheffield. Photo courtesy Berkshire Welco

South County recreational pot shops score big wins from state cannabis commission

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By Friday, Dec 14, 2018 News 14

Great Barrington — Two Berkshire County recreational marijuana retailers received final licenses from the state Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) Thursday (December 13), while a third was given a provisional license.

Two of those companies are located in South County. Theory Wellness, which opened its doors last year as Berkshire County’s first medical pot dispensary, received its final license to sell so-called adult-use (recreational) cannabis. Click here to read the CCC’s executive summary of the licensing and inspection process that led to the license.

Theory Wellness, the Berkshires’ first medical marijuana facility, opened Sept. 27, 2017, on Stockbridge Road in Great Barrington. Photo: David Scribner

“This is a very exciting day for us,” Theory CEO Brandon Pollock said in an interview. Theory would be the first in southern Berkshire County with a final license.

Pollock said “it would be wonderful” if Theory’s adult-use unit could open before Christmas, but that’s probably not realistic since there are additional steps in the process before the adult-use portion of the dispensary can open its doors.

“At this point, it’s a matter of weeks rather than months,” Pollock explained. “Our team still has a lot of work to do to get this right.”

Among his top priorities is to ensure that Theory’s current medical cannabis patients continue to receive the same high level of service during the transition into recreational sales.

But in a written statement issued later, Pollock said he and his partner Nick Friedman are “excited to begin contributing to this local economy and to bring on more staff to join the Theory team.”

The state will need to do a couple more inspections as Theory moves some of its excess inventory from the medical program to adult-use. In addition, a mechanism will have to be set up to collect sales taxes because medical cannabis is not subject the state sales tax.

Adult-use cannabis is subject to a total of 17 percent in sales and excise taxes and up to a 3 percent local option sales tax, which Great Barrington has embraced. That’s 20 percent total in taxes. So the retail adult-use price will be noticeably higher than Theory’s posted prices for medical. That does not include a so-called community impact fee of an additional 3 percent of quarterly gross sales.

Nick Friedman, left, and Brandon Pollock, right, of Theory Wellness, Berkshire County’s first medical marijuana dispensary. Photo: Hannah Van Sickle

Pollock and Friedman had estimated their recreational operation would bring in between $200,000 and $300,000 in annual revenue to the town, but the pace of sales in the two recreational establishments that opened last month in Leicester and Northampton have caused them to reassess the revenue potential. Sales at those two outlets totaled $2.2 million in the first five days of operation.

“Based on what we’ve seen, [revenue to Great Barrington] could well exceed our estimates,” Pollock said.

Asked if he was concerned about traffic when recreational sales begin, Pollock said Theory has a plan to deal with it. The company has acquired additional parking spaces at its Stockbridge Road store and “perhaps hundreds of others within walking distance.”

Theory also plans to hire multiple police officers to work traffic details in its first week of operation. When Cultivate, the shop in Leicester, opened last month, there were reports of snarled traffic nearby and unruly customers waiting outside in long lines.

Theory markets itself as a “vertically integrated cannabis grow, retail, and product manufacturing company.” It’s headquartered in Stoneham, and also has a medical dispensary retail location in Bridgewater. Theory says all of its products are manufactured in its own state-of-the-art facility and “produced in small batches, which undergo thorough independent lab testing.”

The retail and manufacturing building for The Pass in Sheffield. Photo courtesy Berkshire Welco

Theory’s Great Barrington adult-use establishment would be the first in southern Berkshire County with its final license. But down Route 7 in Sheffield, Berkshire Welco received its provisional license yesterday by unanimous vote from the CCC, and without conditions, said Michael Cohen, one of the partners.

“It’s a nice validation,” Cohen said in an interview. “We have a long way to go, but this is our first formal recognition from the state.”

That facility is still under construction. Click here to read the executive summary from the CCC on Berkshire Welco’s provisional license. The establishment will be doing business as The Pass and the “applicant states that it can begin operations in May 2019,” the CCC says. Cohen said that sounded like a realistic date.

The building at the front of the 1375 Main St. property is mostly finished and will contain the retail and manufacturing operations. The structure currently under construction at the rear is a “grow building,” Cohen said. There will also be a greenhouse and an outdoor cultivation facility in that portion of the property.

Offices for The Pass will be housed in a building next door that used to be the headquarters for Rock Solid, a tile and stone business that has relocated elsewhere.

Starflight Guava, one of the flower strains available on the Theory Wellness menu. Photo: Hannah Van Sickle

An existing medical marijuana dispensary, Temescal Wellness in Pittsfield, also received a final license yesterday to sell adult-use cannabis. Click here to see the CCC’s executive summary.

Great Barrington has certainly seen its share of individuals and companies interested in opening recreational pot shops. At Thursday night’s planning board meeting, Calyx Berkshire Dispensary received site plan approval. There was little opposition, said planning board member Pedro Pachano. Calyx is eying the former Joe Dagget storefront at 307 Main St., next to Tom’s Toys.

Another company, Highminded, has proposed a retail outlet in the so-called flying church. And two brothers from Connecticut have received site plan approval for a retail adult-use store at 82 Railroad St. On Wednesday, crews could be seen hauling equipment out of the building, which used to be a commercial kitchen. There are rumors, as yet unconfirmed, about other cannabis establishments looking to open in town.

The cultivation, sale and use of recreational cannabis-related products was legalized in Massachusetts through a 2016 ballot initiative. The measure passed by almost 7.5 percentage points statewide and by almost 30 points in Great Barrington. Implementation of the new law was left to the hastily created state Cannabis Control Commission. Preceding that law, medical marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts in 2012 through the same process.


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14 Comments   Add Comment

  1. John says:

    Sounds like a the berkshires shall become the location for the next “up in smoke” movie…
    I’m sure Chech and Chong would be sad to see their hilarious movie turn to a reality.
    Pot remains illegal at the federal level, and rightly so. Do you want that oncoming bus driver to be on pot? Or on your next vacation, your airline pilot to be stoned as he or she dodges thunderstorms? How about that kindergarten teacher, stoned out of her/his mind?
    Might feel good for the moment, but,Not good folks. Not good.

    1. Stephen Cohen says:

      Liquor is much healthier? It is a problem when any intoxicant is used to excess.

    2. DB says:

      I don’t think you’ve ever heard about Tommy Chong. He’s smiling big now! And happy not sad.
      You got quite a few things wrong there. But time will tell. Let’s give just a little bit if credit to pilots and kindergarten teachers. Alcohol is legal…..and yes , some pilots and teachers are alcoholics and drink before work. But we have rules against it for the same reasons as pot should and will have similar regulations.
      Try to think like an adult and don’t act like Chicken Little. Luckily, things are changing dispite fearmongering people such as yourself.

    3. Richard says:

      Bus drivers and other CDL holders already are and will continue to be subject to strict drug testing. Most pilots prefer booze if anything and substance abuse of any kind is not tolerated. The gateway ‘argument’ is laughable and long discredited. What legalization accomplishes is simply the abolishment of draconian punishments for a non-crime.

  2. W.C. says:

    Why are loosing sight of the fact that pot is a gateway drug. No good can come the rulings.

    1. John Grogan says:

      Hey WC, there is no evidence that marijuana is a “gateway drug” that leads inevitably to addiction to other more dangerous substances. And DB, if the bus driver, pilot or teacher wants to use weed now inappropriately they certainly can and likely already do get it. Nothing changes. Cops already can assess marijuana intoxication or impairment and enforce the DUI laws appropriately.

    2. DB says:

      Alcohol is the biggest gateway drug….
      And date rape drug and cause of auto accident drug. Ganja simply does not compare. Not even close.
      Then we could talk about the cigarettes as a drug….I personally have lost loved ones to nicotine , never to pot. Others I know have died from alcohol, again no one I ever heard of or have known has ever had a fatal pot encounter.
      Fear mongering equals lack of credibility. Double standards abound.

    3. Carl Stewart says:

      Marijuana is a gateway drug to what? Relaxation? Enjoying life? Reducing anxiety? Laughter? Well, not that different than any of a number of intoxicants that society encourages the use of. I’ve heard that some people believe that marriage is a gateway drug to adultery. Or that churchgoing is a gateway drug to atheism. Or that becoming a priest is a gateway drug to pedophilia. The simple fact is that Nancy Reagan’s admonition to just “don’t do it,” hasnt worked. All we have said, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is that criminalizing behavior that is widely accepted as victimless shouldn’t be a component of our criminal justice system. If the legalization of recreational marijuana does only one thing, keeps low-level drug dealers out of prison, it will be a success

      1. John says:

        Pot is perfectly fine if you are retired and suffer from severe medical ailments.
        Once again, conveniently forgotten, pot remains illegal at the federal level.
        Start using pot, and you can say goodby to many good paying jobs, if, you really want to work

      2. Jim Hall says:

        Carl, you may have intended to type “low-level drug users”? Just guessing 😉

  3. Jim Hall says:

    We tried prohibition with alcohol in the 1920’s, which had the unintended consequence of creating a highly profitable and hyper-violent underworld of illegal production and consumption. It was great for organized crime. We recognized the mistake and legalized alcohol but regulated it and taxed it. That approach seems to have worked better than prohibition. The “War on Drugs” that started in the early 1970’s, took a similarly misguided route, creating a more modern version of a hyper-violent underworld. The difference has been that the production has tended to be off-shore and the supply is smuggled in to meet the US demand. Draconian laws have sent millions of non-violent offenders to prison. The cost of enforcement and incarceration has been staggering. The human cost has been tragic. The worst part is, it hasn’t worked. One of the last real conservative thinkers, William F Buckley Jr, argued for legalization many years ago. His arguments have only become more convincing over time. Surely there will be challenges and unintended consequences associated with legalizing cannabis but the results of criminalization are in and it has been a terrible failure. This can be done right.

    https://www.nytimes.com/1996/01/22/us/leading-conservative-voice-endorses-legalizing-narcotics.html

    1. peter greer says:

      agree Jim; this “war” has been a dismal failure especially to minorities and low income areas . The gateway argument however may be a good one . The evidence has shown that pain reduction strains of cannabis can effectively wean or replace the use of deadly opiates. So yes a gateway to life and an important tool to address the opiate epidemic …

    2. Carl Stewart says:

      Jim—

      Thanks for catching my error. I did mean low-level “users” rather than “dealers.” Anyone dealing without a license, regardless of amount, would rightfully be subject to criminal penalties

  4. Ted B. says:

    I think that the Ganja start-up popularity is simply were Southern Berkshire County is physically ! Basically 10 minutes from the borders of New York and Connecticut , just that simple !

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