×

New medical pot dispensary opens doors in Easthampton

  • A marijuana flower is displayed in a dome at the INSA marijuana dispensary in Easthampton, Tuesday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Brownies are among edibles available at the INSA marijuana dispensary in Easthampton, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Steve Reilly, who is the general counsel for the INSA marijuana dispensary in Easthampton, displays marijuana flowers at the dispensary, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A variety of marijuana called Deep Chunkolate is displayed at the INSA marijuana dispensary in Easthampton, Tuesday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mark Zatyrka, who is the CEO of the INSA marijuana dispensary in Easthampton, looks at a display in the dispensary, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mike Evans, right, who works at the INSA marijuana dispensary in Easthampton, moves a display of tubes that will contain rolled marijuana, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. Steve Reilly, who is the general counsel for the dispensary, looks on. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A marijuana flower in a bloom room at the INSA marijuana dispensary in Easthampton, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Dan Cunningham, who is the head cultivator at the INSA marijuana dispensary in Easthampton, removes unnecessary leaves from plants in one of the dispensary's bloom rooms Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Entrance to the INSA marijuana dispensary at 122 Pleasant Street in Easthampton, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Marijuana in a bloom room at the INSA marijuana dispensary in Easthampton, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@kate_ashworth
Wednesday, February 07, 2018

EASTHAMPTON — Tucked away in the back of the Pleasant Street mill buildings, a new industry is putting down roots.

Buds of cannabis are presented under a display glass, and hundreds of pot plants grow in so-called bloom rooms.

The medical marijuana dispensary INSA Inc., at 122 Pleasant St., officially opens its doors on Wednesday. CEO Mark Zatyrka said he estimates the dispensary will see about 50 people a day.

The business, Easthampton’s first medical marijuana dispensary, was formerly known as Hampden Care Facility. It was renamed INSA in January, reflecting the two major types of cannabis, indica and sativa. A grand opening ceremony will be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday.

Under the display case, cannabis strains called Jack x Cinderella 99, Deep Chunkolate and ChemDog 99 are neatly laid out on wooden boards.

“To me, they’re really silly,” Zatyrka said about the names.

Zatyrka said he plans on providing some strains with less silly names. He added that older customers typically wouldn’t want to buy a strain called Roadkill Skunk.

Benefits of each strain are listed on a card next to each bud of cannabis. Some offer pain relief, anti-inflammatory or anti-anxiety properties, and elevated mood.

Zatyrka said they also list the strain’s terpenes, which are hydrocarbons. He pointed out a strain that has a significant percentage of the terpene limonene and said it can be used for stress relief.

One gram of cannabis sells for $13 to $18. Cannabis-infused brownies, chocolate bars and hard candies, which are made on-site, range from $10 to $30 for portions ranging from 10 to 100 milligrams. Half-gram pre-rolls are also for sale for $8.

Wax, a concentrated form of cannabis, is available for $25 for a half gram. Other concentrates such as shatter, live resin, kief, cartridges and oils are coming soon. The dispensary also plans to offer other edibles like beverages, mints, chews and drops.

When visiting the dispensary, medical marijuana patients consult with an INSA employee. A consultation room is available if privacy is preferred.

“We don’t give medical advice,” Zatyrka said, though employees will explain feedback they’ve had on the strain.

The employee would describe the different products, starting with pipes and vape pens, and then explain concentrates and edibles.

While the dispensary is licensed for medical marijuana, the company will consider applying for a recreational marijuana license when they become available in April. Zatyrka said becoming recreational would also depend on the regulations.

New England Treatment Access, whose Northampton medical marijuana dispensary is western Massachusetts’ longest operating, is also interested in expanding into recreational marijuana in the city.

The state’s Cannabis Control Commission is required to have regulations in place by March 15 and Easthampton is in the midst finalizing local regulations.

The INSA facility has over 30,000 square feet of cultivating and processing space and the dispensary is 2,500 square feet. INSA has over 50 employees and anticipates hiring more.

INSA is also opening a Springfield location and will begin hiring in early spring. The space at 506 Cottage St. is 7,900 square feet and will have a dispensary as well as conference and office space. The company said it will employ about 20 people at the Springfield location.

In Easthampton, cultivation is on the second floor. There are seven bloom rooms, each capable of holding hundreds of plants. There are also rooms for mother plants, plants at the early stages, trimming and manufacturing edibles.

One of the biggest costs is electricity, according to general counsel Stephen Reilly. Growing marijuana indoors requires a complex heating and cooling system, lights and a ventilation system to minimize the smell of cannabis.

“In Denver, you can smell it driving down the highway,” Zatyrka said, adding that INSA does not smell from the outside.

Lead cultivator Dan Cunningham said he has a farming background and was used to following the sun and seasons.

“Here we make our own rules,” Cunningham said about managing the light, temperature and amount of water.

Security

Security is tight at the dispensary.

Patients must flash their Medical Use of Marijuana Program registration card, which is issued by the state, to a camera outside the dispensary before coming in. The badge must be shown again, and checked before entering the retail space.

Reilly said there are more than 200 cameras on-site, and much of the site uses a mantrap system where one door must be closed before another is opened.

To transport cannabis to the Springfield store, INSA will use an unmarked vehicle with cameras to monitor the driver. Reilly said transporting is a two-person operation and there are two keys to start the vehicle. It’s stored in a garage with a mantrap system.

Reilly said deliveries will be made at different times and drivers will take various routes.

The plants are each tagged with an identification number, which tracks the plant throughout its growth — from seed to sale, Zatyrka said.

The plants are weighed on a regular basis. In the case of a recall, INSA can trace the product back to the plant. If the tag is lost, the plant must be destroyed.

Regulations require the plant to be shredded before it’s disposed of, according to INSA. The dispensary has a chute to send waste into the dumpster without going outside — for security purposes.

Become a patient

Patients can pre-register online. Before visiting INSA, the company said, people need to be certified for medical marijuana through a primary care physician or medical cannabis specialist. One then needs to register with the state with the Medical Use of Marijuana Program.

The dispensary’s website, myinsa.com, has more information on steps to take before becoming a patient at INSA.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.