×

Northampton dispensary gets go-ahead on recreational pot

  • Newly transplanted cannabis cuttings grow in soilless media in pots, Thursday, July 12, 2018, at Sira Naturals medical marijuana cultivation facility, in Milford, Mass. The lack of any approved independent testing laboratories for recreational marijuana remains a key stumbling block to opening pot shops in Massachusetts. AP PHOTO/Steven Senne

  • The five-person Cannabis Control Commission meets in Boston, Thursday, to grant provisional licenses to two cannabis businesses, including New England Treatment Access, which operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Northampton. M.J. TIDWELL

  • at NETA, New England Treatment Access.

  • The exterior of New England Treatment Access, or NETA, is shown June 27 in Northampton.

  • Master Kush indica flowers and a variety of marijuana-infused products including Dose chocolate bars and nugget, Wishing Well tinctures and Upside capsules, are displayed June 27 at New England Treatment Access in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



For the Gazette
Friday, July 27, 2018

BOSTON — Northampton is set to become one of the first places in Massachusetts where recreational marijuana is sold legally following action Thursday by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission.

The five-member commission gave the go-ahead on seven applications overall for two recreational cannabis businesses: New England Treatment Access, which operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Northampton and another in Brookline, and Alternative Therapies Group of Salem, which plans to open cultivation, production and retail facilities in Amesbury.

Until now, the state had only awarded provisional licenses to a cultivation facility in Milford and a retail and cultivation operation in Leicester — a sluggish start when most of the state expected recreational sales to begin July 1.

“I really feel that we’re doing as much as we can as a commission to move this process forward,” Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan said at the Thursday meeting.

Further slowing the process, the state has yet to issue any licenses for independent testing facilities. Recreational cannabis must be tested for a variety of molds, pollen and contaminants before it can be sold, as per state law.

The commission has said that at least one testing lab has completed the application process, but so far, no vote has been scheduled on that application.

However, NETA could be one of the first, if not the first, in the state to begin selling recreational product because the company has received guidance from the Department of Health that it can use some of its medical marijuana, which has already undergone testing, for recreational sale, according to Norton Arbelaez, director of governmental affairs for the dispensary.

“We want to do this right,” Arbelaez said. “If we are the first to open for adult-use sales, that would be a great sort of historical anecdote, but we’re mainly focused on providing excellent products and excellent service for many years to come.”

Arbelaez said the dispensary is hoping to begin recreational sales in early August, pending inspection by the commission and the last few requirements for a final license.

The commission voted unanimously on Thursday to approve NETA’s applications for provisional licenses to begin recreational cultivation and production at their Forge Parkway grow operation in Franklin, and also unanimously approved provisional retail licenses for their Brookline and Northampton dispensaries. NETA’s Northampton dispensary is at 118 Conz St.

“This is an important milestone in a process that started two years ago for us,” Arbelaez said.

NETA has been preparing for recreational sales for the two years since Massachusetts voted to legalize cannabis for adult users in 2016, including hiring around 100 new employees.

As part of NETA’s application, the company outlined a positive community impact plan that includes partnering with Roxbury Community College to offer a paid, four-credit internship in marijuana management.

When NETA is able to open for recreational sales, the dispensary will be fully stocked with “world-class cannabis flowers in various strains and the full suite of cannabis concentrates including wax, shatter, kief and hash,” according to Arbelaez.

There will be over 125 different types of marijuana-infused products available for customers, with a focus on providing a wide array of options that include alternatives to smoking, such as creams, balms and edibles.

NETA will have separate lines and separate products for medical patients and recreational-use customers, but plans to offer uniform dosing and quality to both types of customers.

State law mandates that the dispensary will need to set aside 35 percent of its product offerings for medical patients to ensure supplies don’t run low for those who use marijuana medicinally.

Arbelaez also noted that the dispensary recently launched a new app for medical patients to reserve their marijuana ahead of time.

He said that receiving the provisional licenses speaks to the work that the NETA team has done to prepare and added that working with a receptive community like Northampton played a significant role in helping the company move forward in the licensing process.

“Every single employee has played a role in this process,” Arbelaez said. “And we’re very lucky to be operating in Northampton with a welcoming community and a mayor who has been a real leader on the issue of regulatory guidance.”

Along with approving the provisional licenses Thursday, the commission showed statistics indicating that there are 85 completed applications that have been submitted and are currently under review, with 57 of those being priority applicants.

Overall, the commission has received 2,089 total applications to date, 1,800 of which were incomplete. Five complete applications for businesses in Hampshire County are being considered.