Boston Is Getting Its First Recreational Dispensary

Ascend Massachusetts was awarded the first conditional-use permit for adult-use cannabis retail sales in the city of Boston. The flagship store will be the first adult-use retailer to operate within a major East Coast metropolitan city and is expected to open by the end of the year.

Massachusetts legalized adult use cannabis sales, but it took two years to license operators and open stores. When sales began on November 20, 2018, only two locations had been approved resulting in traffic headaches and customer lines. Still, the state managed to log $7 million in sales in just the first three weeks. A new report by ArcView Research and BDS Analytics projects that cannabis spending in Massachusetts will reach $1 billion by 2022 and that it will be the fifth biggest market in the U.S.

“Ascend Massachusetts is honored to be chosen as the first company awarded a license for an adult-use retail store by the city of Boston,” said Andrea Cabral, CEO of Ascend Massachusetts, which is a wholly own subsidiary of Ascend Wellness. “A core value of our company is to positively impact our neighborhoods and communities. We are proud to have the support of leaders and organizations across Boston and Massachusetts in this endeavor.”

No doubt that support helped sway the approval process.  Ascend managed to get letters of support from State Senator Joseph Boncore (D); State Representative Aaron Michlewitz (D); Boston City Councilors Josh Zakim and Ed Flynn; The Downtown North Business Association; as well as a letter of non-opposition from the West End Civic Association.

The store will be located in downtown Boston close to Faneuil Hall, a site built in 1742 for merchants and where the Sugar Act was protested in 1764 and established the doctrine of “no taxation without representation.” The store will be multi-leveled and designed by the Andrus Group, which has designed stores for Apple, Tesla, and Burberry. The designers noted that the store will combine innovation with education in order to create an engaging in-store experience for shoppers.

James Andrus, principal at The Andrus Group said, “This is a unique project that builds upon our experience in creating highly visited retail locations that serve the needs of tourists, consumers, and the community.”

So far, five retail locations have been approved in the state. There are still about 200 completed applications waiting for the state’s review and approval.

“We are proud of the work that Andrea and her team did to secure and plan our location,” says Abner Kurtin, CEO of Ascend Wellness. “We are gratified by the confidence the City of Boston has in Ascend Massachusetts to create best-in-practice and best-in-class adult-use retail for the Boston community.”

Ascend Wellness is a private multi-state operator located in three states: Illinois, Michigan, and Massachusetts. The Massachusetts CEO Cabral was the Executive Secretary of Public Safety in Massachusetts where she oversaw 14 public agencies. She was the twice-elected Sheriff of Suffolk County and the first female sheriff in Massachusetts’ history.

Debra Borchardt

Debra BorchardtDebra Borchardt

Debra Borchardt is the CEO, Co-Founder, and Editor-In-Chief of GMR. She has covered the cannabis industry for several years at Forbes, Seeking Alpha and TheStreet. Prior to becoming a financial journalist, Debra was a Vice President at Bear Stearns where she held a Series 7 and Registered Investment Advisor license. Debra has a Masters degree in Business Journalism from New York University.


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