Northampton’s 8th dispensary opens off Coolidge Bridge

  • Enlite Chief Operating Officer Matt Yee, behind counter, and general manager Parker Hawkins chat at the Northampton cannabis dispensary on its opening day, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Enlite general manager Parker Hawkins, left, budtender, or canna-adviser, Stevie Tatro, center, and Chief Operating Officer Matt Yee talk about a cannabis vape made by a Northampton company, Fernway, while they work at the counter of the Northampton cannabis dispensary on its opening day, Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Enlite, a cannabis dispensary, opened for business in Northampton on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, at the site of the former Webster’s Fish Hook restaurant on Damon Road. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Enlite, a cannabis dispensary, opened for business on Damon Road in Northampton on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, at the site of the former Webster’s Fish Hook restaurant. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Enlite general manager Parker Hawkins works at the entrance to the Northampton cannabis dispensary on its opening day, Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 11/16/2021 9:42:30 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Enlite Cannabis, the city’s eighth cannabis dispensary, opened its doors to recreational customers on Tuesday, becoming the first minority-owned dispensary to open in the Pioneer Valley after applying for a Social Equity license.

The dispensary at 391 Damon Road is at the site of the former Webster’s Fish Hook restaurant. Matt Yee, Enlite’s chief operating officer, said the location right off Interstate 91 separates Enlite from the rest of the competition in Northampton, which is largely in the downtown area.

Enlite is locally owned by the Yee, Picknelly and Cutting families. Yee, the son of late Springfield restaurateur Andy Yee, said he was inspired to enter the cannabis industry in 2016 when he met a grower at one of his family’s restaurants.

“I have learned so much from being surrounded by so many intelligent and passionate people,” Yee said. “There’s a very broad future for cannabis in the nation, and around the world. … A lot of people are discovering, for the first time, ditching their pharmaceuticals for a more natural way of taking care of yourself.”

The Social Equity program is designed to help people from communities that suffered under harsh anti-drug enforcement to enter the legal cannabis industry. Participants receive training and technical assistance, as well as an expedited license review process.

Enlite offers more than 200 menu items and more are planned. Yee said that partnering with local vendors, including Social Equity participants who opened grow operations, “has been a real advantage for us. A lot of growers want to work with us because we’re in the same situation.”

The mindset of cannabis users has changed in recent years, Yee said, as customers almost universally seek benefits like pain and anxiety relief, better sleep and relaxation. Still, though, “our biggest competition is the black market,” he said.

Mark Cutting, Enlite’s president and chief diversity officer, lives in Holyoke. The Picknelly family owns and operates Peter Pan Bus Lines.

Cutting said the three families are longtime friends with backgrounds in local business and entertainment; they started planning the dispensary in 2016, but even considering the Social Equity application, the process was grueling and expensive.

“There’s no fast button here. You’re always waiting and anticipating and hope that you dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s because … otherwise, you get put to the bottom of the pile,” Cutting said. “In regards to social equity, it’s even more painful. It’s a risky, painful, slow process to get into this business.”

Yee said state regulators are “very, very conscious that the Social Equity program is not truly successful,” and significant challenges remain in the cannabis industry in general, like the fact that “banking is not available to us” because marijuana is still federally illegal.

Enlite plans to open a second location in Springfield, on Main Street in the city’s Indian Orchard section, next year. Yee said the company is interested in offering delivery in the future and would love to see state regulations change to allow for social consumption sites.

On Thursday at 11 a.m., a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned with Mayor David Narkewicz and members of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce in attendance.

The dispensary is hosting a weeklong event, starting on Nov. 27, featuring product demonstrations, food trucks, exhibits by local artists and more. The “CANNACOPIA” celebration is open to anyone 21 and older.


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