Miami Finally Gives OK to Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

More than five years after Florida voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis in 2016, city leaders in Miami finally relented and have voted to allow a business to pursue opening a medical dispensary within the city limits. With a 3-2 vote on Thursday, the Miami City Commission ended its de facto ban on medical cannabis retailers and cleared the way for businesses to begin applying for permits to operate.

“The people of Florida decided to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida,” City Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla said at Thursday’s meeting, according to a report from the Miami Herald. “The city of Miami has to keep up with the times. Properly regulated, it’s the time to do it. We have to move forward and not look backwards.”

Medical Cannabis Legalized in Florida in 2016

Florida voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis with the approval of a constitutional amendment ballot measure in 2016. The amendment passed by voters gave local governments the authority to ban or regulate medical pot dispensaries, but the Miami city government failed to pass measures to take either step.

The passage of the amendment prompted entrepreneur Romie Chaudhari, a Los Angeles-based real estate investor, to apply for a permit for his business MRC44 to open a medical pot dispensary at a site in downtown Miami. Chaudhari was denied a permit for the dispensary, with the Miami city attorney arguing that the ballot initiative is in violation of the federal prohibition of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act.

Chaudhari and MRC44 then sued the city of Miami in federal court for a permit to open a medical dispensary. The judge sent the case to state court but ruled that the city had “failed to act” by not banning or regulating dispensaries.

Miami’s Planning and Zoning Appeals Board ruled in favor of Chaudhari’s plan to open a dispensary, but the city zoning director appealed that decision in April 2021. On Thursday the city commissioners voted to deny the appeal, clearing the way for Chaudhari and MRC44 to continue its quest to gain the proper permits and license to operate.

Commissioner Ken Russell, who is a registered medical cannabis patient and has publicly voiced his support for cannabis policy reform, voted to deny the appeal and allow Chaudhari to seek approval for the dispensary.

“I believe the state constitution is clear that we had the right to ban this use in our city and we have not done that,” Russell said, as quoted by the Miami New Times. “[Chaudhari has] applied in earnest under the lack of that ban, and I believe therefore we should grant their certificate of use.”

He said that it is time for the federal government to catch up with state and local governments that have legalized cannabis for medical use.

“Florida voters decided that it should be accessible in our state,” Russell added. “Because of the conflict between state and federal law, however, our City Commission had to settle the dispute as to whether our residents would get that access. We voted that they will.”

Regulations Still To Come

Russell was joined in Thursday’s vote by City Commissioners Alex Díaz de la Portilla and Christine King, who said that the city government was on the wrong side of the issue. Díaz de la Portilla said that the will of the voters should be respected and that the city should regulate medical cannabis dispensaries to avoid a proliferation of the businesses.

“The people of Florida decided to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida,” he said. “The city of Miami has to keep up with the times. Properly regulated, it’s the time to do it. We have to move forward and not look backwards.”

Commissioners Joe Carollo and Manolo Reyes voted against the measure, arguing that the city should first implement a plan to regulate medical pot dispensaries to prevent a mass influx of the operations.

“I’m of the opinion that before we move forward in voting on this we need to establish our ordinance that what are the procedures and guidelines for someone to open up such an establishment,” Carollo said at Thursday’s meeting of the city commission. “Otherwise, we’re kind of making this into a sort of Cheech and Chong free-for-all.”

Reyes echoed his colleague’s sentiments, saying “You know how it is. They are going to be all over.”

“Wherever you go and they are permitted, you see people smoking pot in the streets,” he said.

Diaz de la Portilla agreed that the commission should act to regulate dispensaries.

“With the understanding that we are going to address the issues because Commissioners Reyes and Carollo are correct that we have to have a policy so we don’t have a proliferation of these dispensaries throughout our city,” Diaz de la Portilla said as he seconded Russell’s motion to vote in favor of Chaudhari.

An attorney representing MRC44 declined to comment after Thursday’s vote.

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Canadian Airport Could Get Cannabis Dispensary

Travelers visiting Prince George Airport in British Columbia this summer could score some weed for their trip at a licensed dispensary, a sign that cannabis continues to be normalized in Canada since legalization in 2018. 

The Prince George City Council recently gave preliminary approval for Copilot, a cannabis dispensary planned by American business partners Owen Ritz and Reed Horton with the support of airport regulators. The venture was first announced in January by the Prince George Airport Authority (PGAA), which said that Copilot is “pioneering cannabis for travel.”

“The company approached us in early 2020 with a proposal to open the first cannabis dispensary in an airport terminal worldwide, to our knowledge,” PGAA CEO Gordon Duke told the Prince George Citizen. “We feel strongly that having Copilot here at YXS will enhance our services our other business partners provide to our passengers and the people of our region,” he added, using the airport code for the Prince George travel hub.

Reaching Consumers Where They Are

Cannabis was legalized in Canada in 2018, and each province has since established its own regulations for recreational cannabis retail sales. Ontario had more than 1,100 licensed dispensaries at the end of 2021, jumping from only 183 in a year. Joanne McNeish, a Ryerson University professor specializing in marketing, said that the competition is beginning to concern some dispensary owners.

“The whole industry completely misunderstood what would happen because they thought the only barrier is legalization and once we’re legal, people will just buy,” said McNeish, who added that locating businesses in new locations such as airports and shopping malls could make it easier to reach customers.

“For a user, it could make it that much more convenient,” said McNeish.

As the retail environment for recreational cannabis continues to become more crowded, companies like Copilot are looking for novel location to reach consumers.

“Our goal from day one has been to create a differentiated retail experience that stands out from any store you might see downtown,” Ritz told the Canadian Press last week.

Canadian law allows air travelers to carry up to 30 grams of pot or the equivalent in other cannabis products on domestic flights. To accommodate travelers, many airports have already established areas where consumption of cannabis is permitted.

“One in four Canadians have already traveled with cannabis,” Ritz noted.

In a presentation to the Prince George City Council, Ritz and Howard explained that Copilot staff will check customers’ boarding passes to ensure that they are booked on a domestic flight. The business will not sell cannabis to international travelers or those employed by the airport or airlines. The partners said that they believe the airport in central British Columbia is the ideal location to launch Copilot.

“We felt Prince George was the best place to start because of the size of the airport and the community culture,” Horton said. “We felt the airport was large enough to have enough passenger traffic and enough flights to test out the different aspects of the business model but small enough where we would develop a community feel, and it wouldn’t necessarily feel like our retail store was in a sea of other stores or that it was an overwhelming experience for other passengers given that is a very new concept.”

“If all goes as planned, we are opening the first cannabis retail store in an airport right here in Prince George this summer,” said Ritz.

Airlines Opposed to Planned Airport Dispensary

Locating cannabis dispensaries in airports, however, is facing opposition from the air travel industry, including Canada’s two largest airlines. Air Canada director of local and provincial government relations Serge Corbeil said at a public hearing in February that the measures taken to ensure customers are not traveling internationally may not be effective in cases where passengers have more than one boarding pass. 

“This could be highly problematic,” Corbeil said. “(And) while rare, there are instances where a flight may be domestic, but be diverted into the United States.”

Additionally, the airline industry is concerned that allowing cannabis sales and consumption sites at airports may lead to more intoxicated passengers in the skies. WestJet director of government and regulatory affairs Jared Mikoch-Gerke noted in a written statement that the International Air Transport Association recently reported a 55% increase in unruly behavior in the span of one year.

“WestJet, similarly, has also seen a significant increase in unruly behavior of passengers, and in many cases, the underlying cause is found to be intoxication,” Mikoch-Gerke wrote. “Unruly behavior onboard an aircraft is a fundamental safety issue, where the most severe cases see passengers physically assaulting crew members or other passengers, and, in some cases, attempting to open cabin doors or emergency exit windows and resulting in the diversion of aircraft. An aircraft cabin is not an appropriate place to be intoxicated.”

But Prince George City Councilor Cori Ramsey says that the fact that airports already have cannabis consumption areas and businesses that sell and serve alcohol makes dispensaries located at airports appropriate.

“To me, the precedent has already been set that this is an acceptable land use for an airport,” Ramsay said. “I know it’s strange going first. (But) looking 10, 15 years down the line, I can see cannabis stores available in most airports in Canada.”

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Are States Redlining Cannabis Dispensaries?

“Urban decay” in America speaks a universal language, a vernacular seen and heard in movies, political ads and in real life. It sounds like this: Broken windows, vacant buildings, graffiti-covered walls and doors. Ne’er do-wells loitering outside liquor stores and pornography merchants (less visible in the online era but still a part of this classic trope). But thanks to cannabis legalization, struggling areas in America have another feature: legal cannabis dispensaries. The higher concentration of dispensaries in America’s lower income areas may be due to the destructive practice of “redlining.”

According to recent research out of Washington state and published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, along with other elements “polite society” may deem unsavory, cannabis dispensaries also tend to coalesce in lower-income areas, which in turn—since race so often correlates with class—also tend to be less white. 

The wealthier, whiter areas, by contrast, tend to limit or ban cannabis businesses outright. This in turn fuels a vicious cycle: Because cannabis dispensaries are lumped in with the pawn shops and liquor stores of Skid Row, cannabis dispensaries acquire an unsavory reputation—and then they’re shunted towards seedier parts of town in cities that newly legalize. 

This all adds up to a sort of post-legalization redlining—a phenomenon several scholars as well as activists are noticing. 

Though this new research was conducted in Washington, previous studies also found that adult-use cannabis stores “are more likely to concentrate in economically disadvantaged areas.” Similar situations are seen across the country. When a city council or county planning department determines the local “green zone”—the area of the city declared open for cannabis businesses—that area tends to be an industrial or low-income area. 

“Most cannabis green zones are in low-income areas, and it’s been causing problems for both the residents and cannabis businesses,” said Amber E. Senter, an Oakland, California-based cannabis entrepreneur and social-equity activist who co-founded Supernova Women, which advocates for BIPOC participation in the legal cannabis industry (and was not involved with the study). 

Keep in mind how cannabis legalization was pitched to policymakers and the public after decades of cannabis-centered drug war overpolicing and incarceration. The fact that these cannabis businesses are more often than not owned by white investors and entrepreneurs who are extracting revenue that once went to “traditional market” sellers from Black and Brown communities only further highlights what’s yet another shortcoming in marijuana legalization’s social-justice mission.

In the study, researchers from the University of Washington and the Oregon Public Health Division surveyed 10,009 people aged 18 to 25 living in Washington state. Surveys were collected from 2015 to 2019. Respondents were asked to report their cannabis use, whether cannabis was easy to access, and whether cannabis was deemed “acceptable” in their community. 

Respondents’ “neighborhood disadvantage,” a metric derived from “five US census variables,” was also assessed. And “neighborhood disadvantage” tended to indicate weekly or daily cannabis use as well as “greater perceived acceptability of cannabis use.” People who lived within one kilometer “of at least one cannabis retail outlet lived in census tracts with greater neighborhood disadvantage,” the researchers found.

Study authors noted it wasn’t immediately clear if people in low-income areas smoked cannabis because that’s where the cannabis was, or if coping with the stresses of living a disadvantaged, over-policed area meant more cannabis use. 

Authors did not respond to emails seeking comment on the redlining of cannabis dispensaries. However, “If similar findings continue to emerge,” they wrote in their study, “this may suggest that states should seek to limit the geographic availability of retail outlets in order to prevent population-wide increases in cannabis use and related harms.”

Cannabis Redlining Explained

What does de-facto cannabis redlining look like in action? New York State offers an example. The state legalized adult-use cannabis last year, but communities had until Dec. 31, 2021, to decide whether to ban dispensaries and consumption lounges. (In a departure from other states, cities and towns could not ban cultivation.) And according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government, about half of the state did pass bans.

Where was cannabis banned? In Westchester County, a wealthy suburb immediately north of New York City and the second-wealthiest county in the state after Manhattan, most cities chose to ban. In St. Lawrence County, the second poorest (ahead of the Bronx), most cities, towns and villages have opted in.

New York is only the most recent example. In New Jersey, about 70 percent of the state “completely opted out of the recreational cannabis industry,” the New Jersey Herald reported last summer. Those 98 municipalities that did allow dispensaries—“mostly in South Jersey and Central Jersey,” according to the paper, with working-class and industrial areas in Newark allowed, but not the tonier suburbs of New York City—limited them to “one particular redevelopment area or zone.”

In New Jersey, at least some areas opted out because they felt the process was moving too quickly, or that they didn’t get enough guidance from the state. But some others associated cannabis with “quality-of-life” issues, like the fear of the Skid Rows described above. 

As Michael Soriano, the mayor of Parsippany-Troy Hills said, redlining (or marijuana zoning), his community “fits what our residents would allow and what our infrastructure had to offer.” And as a cannabis business consultant told the paper, the towns that opted in had lower median incomes and were eager to supplant their budgets with cannabis tax revenue.

There is nothing inherently seedy about a weed store, in the same way there is nothing inherently seedy about a store that sells liquor. Think of a high-end wine shop. Now think of a neon-lit storefront offering plastic bottles of cheap vodka from behind bullet-proof glass. They’re both in the same line of work; they both have a license from the same state regulator. 

The same is true with cannabis. Yet Americans and American policymakers think differently. Until they do, cannabis stores are victims of a policy that, regardless of intent, falls into the same patterns of behavior of cannabis prohibition. 

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Kevin Smith Bumps Into Daughter in Dispensary: ‘Someone Raised That Kid Right’

Buying bud at the local dispensary is a family affair—that is, if you’re one of the Smiths. Filmmaker Kevin Smith, 51, ran into his daughter, actress Harley Quinn Smith, 22, during a random visit to iLyfted cannabis dispensary in Studio City, California on Wednesday.

The Irish Examiner reports that the director and comedian was proud to run into his daughter, unplanned, at the same dispensary.

“When you’re at the weed store and you run into your kid,” Smith posted on his Instagram account. “Since Harley Quinn Smith got her own house, there have been moments when I ran into the kid by chance out in public. And tonight, after I ran into my only begotten daughter at the weed store, I was like ‘Someone raised that kid right’.”

Harley Quinn, who starred in The Cruel Summer, replied to the post by saying, “It was a surprise but also not a surprise at all.” Her reply rose to the top comment. Harley Quinn was of course named after the villain and lover of Joker in the Batman comic book series. Kevin also posted the selfie on Twitter and his other social media accounts.

Harley Quinn is currently working on a series with her father—but the details are under wraps at the moment. They discussed it during a recent interview last June. “It’s such a cool gift to be able to work with somebody you’re related to,” Harley Quinn told E! News in June. “We have pretty similar minds, so it’s kind of like you’re shooting with another version of yourself. It’s so much fun and we’re working on another thing together now which has been, in my opinion, the most fun yet, and I can’t wait for us to be able to share with the world what that is.”

“We’ve been writing together which is so much fun because that’s make pretend, right? Like I used to make pretend with her when she was a kid,” Kevin echoed. “Now she’s an adult and you rarely get to do that. But in this way we can, because it’s the same thing, you sit around going, ‘What if they did this, what if this happened, what if this happened?’ So you get to play again, which is a rare gift for a parent now.”

Smith’s career in Hollywood was boosted by a noticeably higher amount of stoner jokes, as the popular characters Jay and Silent Bob are notoriously known for selling weed outside a convenience store and for weed in general.

High Times ran into Smith on September 27, 2019, at the Herbarium in Los Angeles to promote his products in a collaboration with Caviar Gold. Like moon rocks but better, they feature powerful flower combined with an organic THC distillate and/or more, which provides for a very tasty smoke that you can grind up in a grinder like flower. The products also come in pre-rolls and in CBD/hemp varieties.

But Smith wasn’t always a heavy daily toker—or at least not until his mid-thirties.

Smith explained his smoking habits to High Times in May 2020—the most recent time he interviewed with us, which happens frequently. “I’ve been a pretty hardcore ‘wake and bake’ stoner since 2008,” Smith told High Times. “So 12 years. 12 years a stoner. I was not a stoner when I was a kid—when I made [my first] movies—which a lot of people consider stoner movies and stuff. Now I’m a pretty ardent consumer. We have our own strains of weed—Snoogans, Snoochie Boochies, and Berzerker—that Caviar Gold fuels for us. We’ve been on the cover of High Times. Big figures in the world of weed, but I didn’t earn it. I became a stoner late in life, at age 38.”

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Montana Launches Legal Recreational Marijuana Sales

Legal sales of recreational marijuana began in Montana with the new year on Saturday, less than 14 months after voters in the state legalized adult-use cannabis use and commerce.

Montana voters legalized the use of recreational marijuana and regulated sales of adult-use cannabis with the passage of Initiative 190 in the November 2020 general election, when 57% of the electorate voted in favor of the ballot measure. A companion measure to set the legal age to purchase cannabis in Montana at 21, Constitutional Initiative 118, was also passed by a margin of 58% to 42%.

Under Initiative 190, the use of recreational marijuana and possession of up to one ounce of cannabis became legal for adults 21 and older on January 1, 2021. But regulated sales of cannabis were delayed until January 1, 2022 by House Bill 701, legislation passed by lawmakers last year to implement the successful ballot measure. HB 701 also allows adults to cultivate up to two mature and two immature cannabis plants at home, with a cap of four mature plants per household.

Recreational marijuana products sold in Montana are subject to regulations under the legislation, including a 35% THC cap on cannabis flower. Edible products are limited to 100 mg of THC per package and a maximum serving size of 10 mg of THC. The Montana Department of Revenue is tasked with developing and regulating the state’s new recreational marijuana market and will be responsible for licensing adult-use cannabis cultivators, processors, distributors and retailers.

Brisk Start to Retail Cannabis Sales

In its first weekend, Montana’s recreational cannabis market pulled in $1,566,980 in sales. Chris Fanuzzi, founder and CEO of Lionheart Caregiving and Dispensaries, which currently operates five medical marijuana dispensaries in Montana, attests to the weekend’s success. 

With 2022 already marking 15 years of cannabis cultivation, extraction, infusion and retail sales for the company, the onset of recreational marijuana sales in the state made New Year’s Day a particularly memorable occasion for Lionheart this year.

“I was extremely excited, indeed,” Fanuzzi told Cannabis Now. “It’s been super hectic, but there’s been a lot of activity. Lots of hustling, moving, shaking and getting things done.”

A selection of top-shelf Indica strains at Lionheart Caregiving in Billings, Montana. PHOTO courtesy Lionheart Caregiving

To protect Montana’s existing medical marijuana infrastructure, only dispensaries that were licensed before November 3, 2020 will be permitted to make retail sales of adult-use cannabis for a period of 18 months. Fanuzzi said that on the first day of recreational marijuana sales, Lionheart saw a mix of adult-use customers and medical marijuana patients, with approximately 30 cars parked at the company’s Billings location by 8:30 a.m. on January 1.

“There seemed to be a lot of new users,” Fanuzzi said. “Probably half and half. Most people were looking for flower and then concentrates, followed by edibles.”

According to Fanuzzi, Lionheart is already reaping the benefits of recreational marijuana legalization in Montana, including the ability to sell cannabis products to all adults 21 and older. The result is a much broader marketplace for the industry.

“It’s easier to do business not having such a small, restricted customer base,” Fanuzzi said. “One of the biggest pros is that more people have access to quality medicine that’s safe. That’s the biggest pro for everybody.”

Recreational Sales Only Allowed in ‘Green Counties’

But not all residents will have easy access to recreational marijuana, despite this week’s launch of legal adult-use cannabis in Montana. Under the terms of HB 701, cannabis possession and use are legal statewide. But retail sales of recreational marijuana are permitted only in those counties where a majority of voters supported the 2020 legalization initiative in the general election. As a result, Montana has 28 “green counties” where recreational marijuana sales are now allowed and 28 “red counties” with a ban on sales of adult-use cannabis.

Existing medical marijuana dispensaries located in red counties are protected by a grandfather clause in the legislation and will be allowed to continue operating. Recreational marijuana sales can be authorized in red counties with the passage of a countywide referendum to permit adult-use cannabis commerce.

Approximately 380 medical marijuana dispensaries were expected to begin serving adult-use customers with the launch of recreational marijuana sales, according to media reports. Leise Rosman, CEO of the new Betty’s Roadside Provisions in Big Sky, says that the company has been hard at work preparing for Montana’s new adult-use cannabis market, and plans are underway to open dispensaries in Bozeman, Butte and Livingston in the near future.

“We doubled down our efforts in the last two months to make sure it was perfect for opening day,” Rosman told Cannabis Now. “We figured on January 1, it might be a lot of people’s first time in a dispensary, so we wanted to make sure that first impression was right for them.”

Opening day cannabis purchases at Betty’s Roadside Provisions in Big Sky, Montana. PHOTO Raphael Pierson

Betty’s Roadside Provisions is a boutique dispensary where visitors can feel welcome and enjoy the shopping experience as much as the product itself. 

“When we looked at creating a curated experience, we wanted to make sure all the years we spent working with other dispensaries and talking to customers all got into Betty’s stores,” said Rosman, whose family has been in the cannabis business for the better part of a decade. 

“Cannabis isn’t behind glass or counters, or in the back,” she explained. “It’s an experience where we want you to touch and feel the product you are about to take home with you.”

Betty’s Big Sky location strategically appeals to the millions of tourists traveling to Montana each year.

“In Montana, the domestic population isn’t high, but the tourism effect is incredibly high,” Rosman said. “It felt like a great place to meet people where they are in an environment to unplug and recharge. Our product makes perfect sense for that.”

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The Big East: Theory Wellness Berkshires

Walking into Theory Wellness, an impeccably styled, high-end East Coast dispensary, I felt the same excitement I’d had the first time I stepped foot into a fabled Beverly Hills luxury retailer back in the day. And I loved it.

Fred Segal is, in essence, a luxury conglomeration of (mostly) one-of-a-kind boutiques that all live within the chic walls of its only-in-LA retail campus; think of it as a couture farmers market, but instead of $8 heirloom tomatoes you’re surrounded by $400 T-shirts, $1200 boots and $700 sunglasses. It’s an intoxicating, surreal shopping trek for retail rookies, to be sure, but once you experience this particular elevated gauntlet of sticker shock privilege, you find yourself wanting more. So. Much. More.

Upon entering the buzzy dispensary for the first time (after waiting in line and going through the required ID verification process), it took me all the way back to those heady days so many years ago in LA. Theory Wellness — at least its super busy Great Barrington, MA location in the bucolic Berkshires region — would fit right in at my favorite luxe retailer as it touts its many best-in-class cannabis offerings. Theory Wellness isn’t what most of our mothers think of when they imagine a marijuana dispensary: It’s clean, smartly designed, expertly managed, and, ultimately, a first-rate shopping experience. It’s ready for primetime. Even the staff at the registers are cannabis experts not unlike the Apple Store’s Genius Bar squad. Very cool.

I met up with the company’s young and affable Marketing VP, Thomas Winstanley, to help guide me through the excellent maze that is Theory Wellness and we talked and talked as we watched the crowded dispensary operate without a hitch. It was, to say the least, impressive, and all I kept thinking about was how much money they must be making right now. Winstanley, a proud millennial, was apparently determined to single-handedly dispel all perceived negative stereotypes associated with his generation merely by being whip smart and displaying a contagious indefatigable energy. It was, again, impressive, but it was also incredibly on-brand, as Theory Wellness’ co-founders are a pair of millennialpreneurs, CEO Brandon Pollock and Chief Strategy Officer Nick Friedman. If these guys met, say, two decades ago, one could imagine these BFFs launching a competitor search engine to Google to take on that giant’s own dynamic duo co-founders.

Pollock smiled when I brought up the search engine’s co-founders; he didn’t disagree. “Yeah, it could’ve been, yes!” Pollock said, laughing. “Even though we weren’t first to market in Massachusetts for a medical dispensary [Theory was 12th], we’ve been really fortunate with our team who really embody the spirit of doing cannabis right and carry out the company’s mantra of focusing on our customers first.”

To hear the independently owned, vertically integrated, small-batch, craft cannabis company’s marketing/public relations/social media/customer relations expert, Winstanley, merrily recount the earliest days of Theory Wellness — a whopping six years ago — you’d think cell phones and the internet weren’t around yet. But, as he insisted, time moves extraordinarily fast in the cannabis industry; so, half a decade in dispensary years feels like a veritable lifetime.

Look, to buy into what Theory’s selling isn’t difficult, and undeniably evident with my own eyes. This is a world-class cannabis company that prioritizes details and a positive customer experience, precisely as Pollock and Friedman conceived it to be. So, no, it’s not complicated, perhaps, but exceedingly difficult to pull off consistently. That’s what moves Theory Wellness from being simply good to decidedly great — and maybe even legendary.

“Theory began as a medical cannabis brand in Massachusetts following the roll-out of the state program,” Winstanley said. “Patients and wellness have always been at the heart of our business and where our company originates from. We produce more than 70 products that we sell at our stores, both to patients and recreational customers. Each product is specifically designed, tested and packaged to provide a customer with a premium experience with cannabis — whether it’s to help you sleep at night, relieve a sore muscle, or simply to have a good time.”

OK, but what makes Theory Wellness different, or better, than the more than 100 dispensaries currently operating in Massachusetts alone? “We’re independently owned and operated, unlike many competitors who are venture capital and/or private equity-backed or publicly traded,” Winstanley said. “This allows us to move quickly, pivot when we need to, and not wade through layers of bureaucracy.”

Also, according to Winstanley, many of the giant players in the industry — including MedMen and Aurora Cannabis — are posting losses. Theory Wellness numbers show that it’s growing and scaling at unprecedented rates showcasing the power of a hungry company. The secret, according to the Theory, is that they operate more like a start-up than traditional brands. The formula is working like a charm.

The Numbers

Theory Wellness has been financially solid from the start. In 2018, the company posted revenue of more than $10M and employed 50 people. Just a year later, Theory made some $55M in revenue, employed 100 team members and claimed more than 200,000 unique customers. Winstanley says the company gave — via the 3% sales tax for the municipality — Great Barrington more than $3M in new revenue to a town that’s home to less than 6000 people.

In 2020, the brand made $80M in revenue. Winstanley confidently states that number would’ve been north of $100M if they didn’t have to shut down for two months due to COVID-19 restrictions. The company also tripled its workforce to 300 and became a multistate operator (MSO) by opening two retail locations in Maine as well as a cultivation and production facility. A multi-state operator helps a brand expand nationally while carefully remaining within federal laws limiting interstate commerce.

In any industry or in any occupation there are detractors for those at the top — not everyone wishes you well — and Theory’s no exception.

“There are a lot of players in cannabis right now, and you can see the beginnings of the war for licenses that occurred out in the western U.S. and the consolidation of the independently owned dispensary,” Winstanley said. “It’s still too soon to say which competitors are coming to the surface on the East Coast as legalization is really starting to take root and open up the playing field.”

But, today, another unexpected competitor is upsetting the apple cart for many cannabis operators: the illicit cannabis market. Winstanley says that legal cannabis sales haven’t proliferated to the extent that a significant market share has been consumed from the black market. “The products are cheaper, untested, and you don’t need licenses or IDs to purchase.”

But, after years of vacationing and enjoying the Berkshires region of Massachusetts, particularly its chic epicenter, the picture-postcard slice of Americana that is the town of Great Barrington, I wanted to know how this unlikely, scenic, low-key destination suddenly became widely regarded as the Humboldt County of the East Coast.

Northern California’s Humboldt County, of course, is universally known as the mecca for West Coast cannabis and now, in a matter of a few short years, Great Barrington has emerged as the title holder on the other side of the country. But how?

“The whole cannabis dispensary industry in Great Barrington is crazy, it’s become this whole thing, like a cannabis-centric area in the East Coast,” Pollock said. “My business partner Nick grew up in Great Barrington, and when we launched our medical company we realized that Berkshire County, which has about 130,000 residents, didn’t have a single cannabis dispensary because existing operators were focused on more high-density population centers. People were driving an hour-and-a-half each way just to get their medicine. There was a huge need here, so we opened our dispensary soon thereafter.”

While currently enjoying such a rosy financial picture, I wondered in what areas, specifically, Pollock believed Theory could improve, if at all. “Everything! Our ethos is ‘the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know anything’ and we’re always trying to improve every touchpoint with customers, every touchpoint in our production — every aspect of our organization needs improvement, particularly the two biggest issues facing the industry as a whole today: social justice and social equity and the environment.”

And Theory Wellness isn’t just talking the talk here: They decided to launch an unprecedented social equity program in Massachusetts and opened applications and interviews with economic empowerment candidates to apply for a sponsorship that included $100,000 in debt-free financing, $150,000 in wholesale consignment of products, and access to the brand’s legal, finances, insurance, and marketing solutions to help the new companies succeed. Winstanley says the initial recipient of Theory’s program, Legal Greens in Brockton, is the first Black female-owned dispensary on the East Coast. Theory Wellness has had a two-year relationship with Legal Greens that continues to this day.

But it doesn’t stop there. Winstanley emphasized that Theory also looks to ensure they make local impacts across all of the company’s locations, even as they expand. “We’ve supported nearly two dozen non-profits thus far and those range from affordable housing in Great Barrington to a farmers market in Bangor, ME,” he said. “We feel it’s incumbent on us to use our success to demonstrate the positivity around cannabis.”

The company takes an equally serious approach when it comes to tackling our ever-warming planet. “This same approach comes with sustainability practices, too,” Winstanley says. “We have one of the first East Coast outdoor farms to reduce our environmental footprint. Theory uses green energy to power our indoor cultivation and we’re constantly introducing recyclable packaging solutions — we even have hybrid vehicles for our deliveries.”

Theory Wellness VP of Marketing Thomas Winstanley

On the product side, Winstanley was excited to discuss Theory’s small-batch unique genetics. “One of the more exciting elements of cannabis legalization is the breadth of knowledge cannabis consumers are developing,” he said. “We take this seriously in the same way a sommelier considers the terroir of the grapes he’s serving. We work directly with breeders to source genetics to complement our portfolio of flower that we think will find a good home in our indoor or outdoor gardens. The result speaks for itself with 50 percent of our sales coming from flower.”

The Future

Five years from now… Winstanley jumped in. “The simple answer is we just don’t know,” he said. “With so many New England states allowing recreational and medical marijuana use in the future, things are changing by the minute and we’re evaluating all possibilities. We find that cannabis time is not unlike dog years, so five years is really, really far away!” [Laughs]

Winstanley makes this next point emphatically. “We also firmly believe that the cannabis industry should be accessible to all,” he says. “The legacy of cannabis from the past generations has been embroiled in turmoil and hardships. It’s time to end that age and bring everyone a seat at the table to have the opportunity to capitalize and prevent it from being a pay-to-play industry. We want this industry open for all entrepreneurs from a diverse set of backgrounds.”

I put it to CEO Pollock a little differently: Why will and won’t Theory Wellness be successful forever? “First, I think we’re pretty good at anticipating the future while having a great team to navigate us once we’re there,” he said, smiling. “We won’t be successful because, hopefully, a bunch of younger, hungrier, more diverse entrepreneurs beat us at our own game.”

Full disclosure: Prior to departing Theory’s still bustling retail floor, I purchased a couple of four-packs of the dispensary’s best-selling, game-changing, cannabis-infused seltzer, Hi5 (pineapple and lemon, if you must know).

But here’s the thing I’ll take away from this sunny day in the gorgeous Berkshires: If I ever see Theory Wellness tucked away in a prime corner inside Fred Segal, I’ll smile to myself at the knowledge that I’d been right all along: quality attracts quality — be it in Great Barrington or even Beverly Hills.

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

The post The Big East: Theory Wellness Berkshires appeared first on Cannabis Now.

NorCal Cannabis Cup Winners Now Available—Exclusively at High Times Dispensaries

Be the first one in your neighborhood to get your hands on exclusive award-winning cannabis products—carefully selected by the judges at High Times. As cannabis brands duked it out over the most terpene-rich, flavorful and potent offerings, when all was said and done, only a handful of top brands could claim the titles of winners and finalists.

We’re celebrating over three decades of hosting the world’s leading cannabis competition—and for the first time ever, High Times Dispensaries are exclusively selling The Cannabis Cup Northern California 2021: People’s Edition winners and finalists. The cup was virtual and socially distanced this year, with our People’s Choice edition making it possible for judges to safely sample brands from the comfort of their own homes.

Part of NorCal’s territory overlaps with the infamous Emerald Triangle—spanning Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity Counties—which is home to some of the finest herb on the planet. Heritage growers in this region can trace their roots back several generations. To this day, the area produces cannabis that is worthy of the top connoisseurs in cannabis.

High Times has been the world’s most well-known cannabis brand—established in 1974—championing the cannabis lifestyle and educating the masses on the benefits of this natural flower. Since its humble beginnings in Amsterdam in 1988, the only place it could take place at the time, High Times Cannabis Cup has evolved into an assortment of events scattered through several markets across the U.S.

We have now evolved into a rapidly growing network of the best cannabis delivery service and dispensaries across California, currently open at locations on Oakport street in Oakland, as well as Shasta Lake, Coalinga and Redding. Delivery services are available in other areas.

Starting October 5, you can shop and browse through The Cannabis Cup Northern California 2021: People’s Edition winners and finalists—available ONLY at High Times dispensary locations. We scoured through flower, pre-rolls, edibles, ingestibles, concentrates and more to narrow down the best of the best.

Shop the winners now:

Courtesy Atrium Cultivation

Indica Flower, Atrium Cultivation

Courtesy of Garcia Hand-Picked

Sativa Flower, Garcia Hand-Picked

Sungrown Flower, High Supply

Concentrate, High Supply

Courtesy of Ursa

Solvent Concentrate, Ursa Extracts

Concentrate, Ursa

Courtesy Holy Water x Grandiflora

Non-Solvent Concentrate, Holy Water x Grandiflora

Courtesy of Dripp

Sativa Vape, Dripp

Courtesy of Kingpen

Indica Vape, Kingpen

Courtesy of Cream of the Crop

Individual Infused Preroll, Cream of the Crop

Individual Non-infused Preroll, Cream of the Crop

Courtesy Green Revolution

Gummies, Green Revolution

Courtesy Manzanita Naturals

Drinks, Manzanita Naturals

Courtesy of Dr. Raw Organics

Topical, Dr. Raw Organics

We offer delivery; express, in-store pick up and the best open-sell experience available in-store. Find the closest High Times store near you.


Don’t miss out on the chance to shop Cannabis Cup winners all in one place. To learn more about the 2021 NorCal Cannabis Cup, click here.

Learn more about High Times iconic history with the Cannabis Cup.

HIGH TIMES Delivery 
What 2020 taught us was that in-store pickup doesn’t always work out in all situations. With safety in mind, delivery options are available to those who are seeking to continue to stay out of the crowd and safely stay socially distanced. Get weed delivered directly from our top shelf to yours. New customers get 30 percent off their first purchase using code HT30

The post NorCal Cannabis Cup Winners Now Available—Exclusively at High Times Dispensaries appeared first on High Times.

First Nevada Cannabis Dispensary Approved at Border of Idaho

The Nevada-Idaho border is about to get a little bit greener. 

Officials in Elko County, Nevada last week signed off on a proposal for a marijuana dispensary to open in Jackpot, Nevada, which straddles the border between the two western states.

Commissioners in Elko County unanimously approved the license for the business, according to the Associated Press, adding that the shop could open as early as Monday.

“We have no issues moving forward with the license,” Elko County Undersheriff Justin Ames said Wednesday at the commissioners’ meeting, as quoted by the Associated Press.

The Elko Daily reported that the business, known as Thrive Cannabis Marketplace, “passed background checks” and had “interviewed nearly 60 candidates to work in the dispensary, giving preference to Elko and Jackpot residents.”

As of a month ago, 35 people had been hired and paid, according to the Elko Daily.

The dispensary’s proximity to Idaho, where marijuana is still illegal, brought attention to the licensing approval process.

The Thrive in Jackpot will be “Nevada’s first along the Idaho line,” according to the Associated Press, and that its opening aroused anxiety among law enforcement officials in Idaho.

Across the border from Jackpot, commissioners in Twin Falls County, Idaho “had raised safety concerns about the dispensary on U.S. Highway 93, which connects Jackpot and the town of Twin Falls,” according to the Associated Press.

The Associated Press reported that authorities in Idaho “expect to increase patrols in the area once the pot shop opens.”

In a statement, the Idaho State Police said that anyone “engaging in illegal behavior should be aware they risk attracting attention from law enforcement.”

Historically, conservative Idaho finds itself surrounded by neighbors that have embraced legalization: to the south, regulated marijuana sales in Nevada began in 2017; to the west, sales opened in Washington and Oregon in 2014 and 2015, respectively; and to the east, voters in Montana passed a ballot proposal last year to legalize recreational pot use for adults. 

The discrepancy in those laws has sparked some tension among officials in Idaho—and, in some cases, increased sales along the border. 

A report released last year from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis found that marijuana sales along the Oregon-Idaho border were about 420 percent the statewide average—a data point that was almost too on the nose.

“Obviously, recreational marijuana is not legal in Idaho, but even after throwing the data into a rough border tax model that accounts for incomes, number of retailers, tax rates and the like, there remains a huge border effect,” Oregon Office of Economic Analysis economist Josh Lehner wrote in the report. “Roughly speaking, about 75 percent of Oregon sales and more like 35 percent of Washington sales in counties along the Idaho border appear due to the border effect itself and not local socio-economic conditions.”

In what could offer a glimpse of things to come in Elko County, Nevada, Lehner noted that the jump in sales along the Oregon-Idaho border is likely linked to the presence of three stores along that state line.

“Initially the closest retailers to Idaho were located in Baker County, [Oregon], however that changed last summer,” Lehner explained. “There are now three retailers in Ontario, [Oregon] (Malheur County) which is right at the border. These new retailers are 30-60 minutes closer each way to any potential customers traveling into Oregon along I-84 than the retailers in Baker County. 

“As one might expect, as these new stores in Malheur County came online, sales plunged in Baker County by around 80 percent. This is a knock-on impact of the border effect. Proximity or distance traveled matters as do product availability, prices, and taxes.”

The post First Nevada Cannabis Dispensary Approved at Border of Idaho appeared first on High Times.

Small Business Spotlight: Green Mountain Cannabis

Locally owned and operated, Green Mountain Cannabis is an up-and-coming dispensary with two locations. The friendly and knowledgeable staff was really helpful in assisting my search for a decent vape cartirage and typical restock.

The post Small Business Spotlight: Green Mountain Cannabis appeared first on Latest Cannabis News Today – Headlines, Videos & Stocks.