Northampton’s second adult-use pot shop opens

  • Tyler Beach, right, who works for Colonial Cannabis Company in Northampton, hands a purchase to Ryan Feyre of Agawam, Thursday, June 11, 2020, outside the store. The store's showroom is being prepared for business. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Dominic Fattini of West Springfield makes a purchase at a kiosk on the sidewalk outside Colonial Cannabis Company in Northampton, Thursday, June 11, 2020. The store's showroom is being prepared for business. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Matt Conway of West Springfield makes a purchase at a kiosk on the sidewalk outside Colonial Cannabis in Northampton, Thursday, June 11, 2020. The store's showroom is being prepared for business. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Cannabis products and accessories are displayed on a counter at Colonial Cannabis in Northampton, Thursday, June 11, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jack Carney, front, the manager of Colonial Cannabis Company in Northampton, outside the business Thursday, June 11, 2020 where they are making sales until their showroom is ready for business. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Matt Conway of West Springfield makes a purchase at a kiosk on the sidewalk outside Colonial Cannabis Company in Northampton, Thursday, June 11, 2020. The store's showroom is being prepared for business. The store's manager, Jack Carney, looks on. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jack Carney, left, the manager of Colonial Cannabis Company in Northampton, with employees Chris Perez, center, and Joey Sicard, Thursday, June 11, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/11/2020 3:05:42 PM

NORTHAMPTON — When he moved to Massachusetts around two years ago, Jack Carney drove across the state looking for a prime place to open a recreational marijuana business.

He eventually came across a spot in downtown Northampton, and after patiently waiting since 2018 for the go-ahead to finally start welcoming customers, Carney’s vision has come full circle. Colonial Cannabis Company at 34 Bridge St., which Carney manages, began selling marijuana products to adults who are at least 21 years old on Monday.

“It’s rewarding to finally be open and to be able to serve the residents of Northampton — they’ve been seeing our sign forever,” Carney said. “We’re just excited we can finally … start serving people and actually run the business whereas the past two years we’ve been preparing to do it."

Carney, who is originally from Ames, Iowa, said he got his start in the cannabis industry in Seattle where he began in horticulture sales along with Hai Qing “Jimmy” Huang — although the two encountered difficulty in obtaining a license for a retail store in Washington. The two saw an opportunity in a nascent marijuana market in Massachusetts, where they started selling hydroponic equipment for growers out of Avon and began planting the seeds for Colonial Cannabis Company. Huang owns the store and Carney manages it. The company, Green Biz LLC, hopes to open another Colonial Cannabis Company in Pittsfield in the fall, according to the store’s website.

Colonial Cannabis Company is the second adult-use cannabis dispensary to open in the city, joining NETA on Conz Street, which was one of the first to open in the state in November 2018. Including the two currently open marijuana shops, Mayor David Narkewicz has inked host community agreements for adult-use marijuana stores with 11 businesses, according to the city’s website. The city has also made pacts with two medical marijuana establishments other than NETA, as well as a number of agreements with potential manufacturing and cultivation businesses, as well as an independent testing lab.

Opening an adult-use marijuana store during the COVID-19 pandemic is an interesting time to begin a business — and though sales have been slow, Carney said it’s given employees and himself time to get the hang of working at the store. Signs have been placed around the area to alert people to the store’s opening, Carney said, and some folks have already come by as they were curious if whether the dispensary was open.

Unlike some marijuana companies like NETA or INSA in Easthampton, Colonial Cannabis Company does not manufacture its own product. Instead, Carney said he has been ordering from five or six providers from across the state, such as from Cultivate Holdings in Leicester, Mass Alternative Care in Chicopee and Curaleaf in Worcester. This broad selection of products differentiates Colonial Cannabis Company from other dispensaries in the area, he said.

“Our goal was to have as much product as we could, and try to source it from around the state so that people in the area can start trying products they may not have had before,” Carney said. “We just wanted to give an alternative of some of the other brands in the state.”

Carney said the store, which is located in a plaza and has a sales floor of 1,000 square-feet, currently sells 12 different strains of flower, nine different kinds of pre-rolled joints, around 10 different types of vapes and concentrates, several edibles, as well as topicals and tinctures. Customers looking to buy marijuana must currently order ahead online and choose a 15-minute window during which they can pick up their pot. Carney said he hopes to open the sales floor to customers sometime this summer.

Over the past two years, Carney said he’s received a lot of questions from people in the area about when his store would open. He said he understands why the state Cannabis Control Commission is expressing caution by not rushing to hand out adult-use marijuana licenses. But for many smaller stores like Carney’s, paying rent for two years for a business that’s not yet operable can be a massive hurdle.

“There’s an argument to be made that it’s good that you go slow so you do it right,” Carney said. “But then there are the cons of, if you want to make this fair and try to let everyone have an opportunity, it’s difficult when the process takes that long for the little guys to get in … We were sweating toward the end, there. You’re waiting a long time.”

It’s difficult for Carney to compare Washington state’s marijuana market with Massachusetts’ as the former’s industry is much more “mature” than the commonwealth’s, he said. But he said it will be interesting to watch more adult-use-only stores like his open up.

“I think what’s going to be interesting is seeing how these smaller mom-and-pop shops, kind of like us, are going to open up and run their stores,” Carney said. “People will start getting maybe a different idea of what this industry is and what these store experiences can look like when the more pure recreational stores really start opening up.”

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.


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