Marijuana target date passes with no retail stores opening

Business owners wait for state approval
Jul 11, 2018

One business in Wareham is poised to start selling recreational marijuana and another is working to be at that point this time next year. But an unofficial July 1 target date for sales has passed, and it’s still anybody’s guess when retail marijuana stores will open.

That hasn’t stopped potential customers from visiting Verilife, a medical marijuana dispensary located at 112 Main St.

“We get about 10 people a day asking when adult-use sales will start,” said Shelley Stormo, using the industry’s preferred term for recreational sales.

Verilife opened in May, nearly five years after plans were first announced. Since then, officials have worked through a complex and changing application process. Sales of medical marijuana have been allowed in Massachusetts since 2012. In November 2016, a state ballot question passed that paved the way for recreational sales. The state’s Cannabis Control Commission is drafting a framework for the oversight of retail marijuana shops.

Stormo said the state’s July 1 target date, which was never official, but only a goal, was too optimistic. Regardless, she said Verilife’s application to sell recreational marijuana was accepted by the Cannabis Control Commission on July 5. A state agency, the commission is the final authority on approving recreational sales.

Stormo noted the commission has 90 days to approve or reject the application.

“We’re hopeful we’ll start selling adult-use cannabis in August,” she said. “We’re lucky in Wareham to have the support of the community.”

Stormo urged anyone with questions regarding when Verilife will start selling recreational marijuana to call Verilife at 508 538-9070. Due to state regulations, security is tight at the dispensary and only those with medical marijuana cards are allowed inside. Stormo noted those with questions regarding medical marijuana may attend one of the company’s free information sessions, held every other Thursday in the Wareham Free Library at 5 p.m. The next session is set for July 12.

Currently, the Cannabis Control Commission has issued one license to a company in Milford. The approval allows Sira Naturals to grow marijuana for recreational use at a facility it operates, but not sell.

One potential holdup is the fact that no marijuana testing laboratories had been approved. Before marijuana is sold it must be tested at an independent laboratory. Until those facilities receive approval, stores will be unable to open.

It’s unclear if the state has a timeline for when labs will open because it has yet to receive any license applications.

Verilife isn’t the only company in Wareham waiting for recreational sales to begin.

Trade Roots, a company founded by Wareham native Jesse Pitts, is working to cultivate and sell marijuana in a building recently vacated by marine charts company Navionics.

On June 21, Trade Roots signed its community host agreement with Wareham, bringing the business one step closer to reality according to Pitts. A community host agreement with Wareham confirmed to state officials that Wareham is on board with Trade Roots opening up shop.

Trade Roots is one of 10 companies that have filed applications to either grow, process or sell recreational marijuana in Wareham. Only two of Wareham’s three available recreational licenses are still up for grabs, the first license having been claimed by Verilife.

Pitts said he’s optimistic about Trade Roots receiving state approval, and plans to open up shop this time next year in a building recently vacated by Navionics.

The decision to move Navionics from Wareham to New Bedford came from the company’s Italian headquarters back in May.

According to Pitts, the 16,000-square-foot space at Thatcher Lane will now house three different facilities for Trade Roots’ operations. One for cultivation, one for extraction and another for retail.

Rather than one larger greenhouse, Pitts says Trade Roots will house smaller, climate controlled ‘pods’ for cultivation.

“It allows us to grow strains you don’t usually see on the East Coast,” Pitts explained.

Pitts said he was excited to bring his business to town and destigmatize marijuana.

“I wanted to make sure the first town I approached was my hometown,” Pitts said. “And as it turns out, Wareham was extremely receptive.”

Trade Roots is projected to bring in $5.3 million in revenue within it’s first year of operation and $8 million within the second year.

“We’re going to be making a lot of money,” Pitts said. “And I want to use that to give back to Wareham as much as possible.”