Massachusetts Archives - Green Market Report

Kaitlin DomangueKaitlin DomangueNovember 27, 2019
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6min10640

A year has passed since Massachusetts began sales its sale of legal adult-use cannabis and while the state showed no interest in rushing the matter, customers showed their interest as they rushed to the stores.  

It was a long road to get there. Massachusetts voters said yes to Question 4 in November of 2016, effectively legalizing cannabis for adult recreational use. In 2017, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill changing the law, successfully setting back the start of recreational sales by six months. After many other snags, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission finally approved key regulations in March of 2018. By October of 2018, just four cannabis shops had their licenses approved, with only two being open at the time of Massachusetts’ launch of retail cannabis sales. 

In 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue had estimated that the state could collect anywhere between $44 million and $82 million in marijuana tax revenue in the fiscal year of 2019. Those estimates were based on what the state described as a “reasonable number” of dispensaries, which all admit was much lower than hoped and the DOR scaled back those original estimates. 

The program got off to a good start. Customers spent $2.2 million in the first five days of sales, with $440,000 being spent on the first day. The total number of units sold was 56,380, with an average price per unit of $39.33. 

One year later, the state reported that licensees generated $393.7 million in gross sales and that 33 dispensaries had been licensed. The customer demand is high, but the inventory is low. There aren’t many licensed cultivators in the state of Massachusetts, leaving little room for excess. Because the state has been slow to license businesses, only two testing facilities are in operation throughout the entire state, causing additional issues for dispensaries. 

“AmeriCann recognized years ago that Massachusetts was positioned to become one of the strongest cannabis markets in the country,” stated AmeriCann CEO Tim Keogh. “We expect to play an important role in providing much-needed cannabis going forward, with the recent completion of our initial building at our Massachusetts Cannabis Center development.” Building 1 at the MCC development is a 30,000 square foot cultivation and processing facility, 100 percent of which will be occupied by Bask, Inc., an existing Massachusetts licensed vertically integrated cannabis operator. 

“Marijuana Retailers and consumers should be commended for participating in an extremely smooth rollout of the legal adult-use cannabis industry in Massachusetts for the first year,” Commission Chairman Steven J. Hoffman said. “Hundreds of millions of dollars in sales are one measure of success, but I am even prouder of the way in which Marijuana Establishments have worked with the Commission to gain and preserve compliance with our regulations and patrons continue to inform themselves about the law and their responsibilities when they visit Massachusetts stores.” The state also said that another 54 Retailers with provisional or final license approval are in the process of completing the Commission’s inspection and compliance procedures towards that end. 

Canaccord Genuity senior analyst Bobby Burleson said, “Massachusetts has been a slower rollout than people had hoped originally. There were a lot of stale expectations out there. It was certainly partially due to the slowdown in Massachusetts, but also the immaturity of the cannabis sector as a public sector. The companies might have been dealt with better if they had more history.”

Burleson went on to say that additional operators are getting licenses and more dispensaries are opening closer to population centers like Brookline and Newton, which are suburbs of Boston. “We are increasing our 2019 estimate to approximately $600 million from $578 million. By 2022 we continue to forecast Massachusetts sales to exceed $1.2 billion.” 

Some companies like Sland Worldwide (SLNG) scaled back its efforts in the state as the program launch crawled at glacier speed. Still, others remained committed and are in for the long game. The state hasn’t reported the amount of taxes that were collected for the first year.


Debra BorchardtDebra BorchardtFebruary 5, 2019
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5min11200

Illinois-based Verano Holdings, LLC has acquired Four Daughters Compassionate Care Inc. of Sharon, Massachusetts and its provisional medical cannabis licenses for an undisclosed amount. The first cultivation and dispensary facilities in Sharon are expected to open in six to nine months. The company said it would hire 50-75 employees locally and train them for these sites in 2019

“We’re excited to join forces with the Four Daughters team to build upon the solid foundation of support and host agreements they secured within each of the communities, and put construction on the fast track to help bring Four Daughters’ dream to fruition,” stated Sam Dorf, Verano’s Chief Growth Officer. “This transaction continues Verano’s strategy to create a brighter way for health and wellness with high quality, organic branded products for cannabis patients, consumers and their communities through the acquisition of licenses and/or partnerships with operators in highly regulated, limited license states.”

Four Daughters Compassionate Care was co-founded by Brian and Lynne Striar, whose family has longstanding roots in the Sharon Community. The Striar family members, including the namesake’s four daughters, Stephanie, Kimberly, Nicole, and Robin, who have been heavily involved in cannabis advocacy, will be active members of Verano’s local operational management team. The dispensaries operate under the name Zen Leaf.

As a result of the acquisition, Verano has begun building a cultivation and production facility in Sharon Massachusetts. The company is also renovating an adjacent building for the dispensary. The acquisition marks Verano’s expansion into an additional adult-use market and its expanding geographic footprint into the Northeast from its current 10 operating facilities in Illinois, Maryland, Nevada and Florida, with 45+ licenses under active development in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Puerto Rico, and Maryland.

Four Daughters Assets

The statement noted that the FDCC assets in the transaction included: 

  • The medical cultivation and production facility and medical dispensary now under construction in Sharon, with local approval for additional recreational facilities  
  • Real estate and community host agreements in Plymouth for an adult use dispensary
  • Real estate and community host agreements in Halifax for a 180,000 sq. ft. adult-use cultivation greenhouse and a 20,000 sq. ft. processing facility  

Community Involvement

Verano said that it would continue sharing a percentage of its profits with the Town of Sharon in perpetuity, a holdover from FDCC. “We will be providing the training to enable local residents to manage and staff a broad array of full- and part-time positions from the moment the doors open,” noted Ron Goodson, Verano President and Chief Operating Officer. “Whether you have experience in the cannabis industry or not, this provides a great opportunity to get your foot in the door and learn about the world’s fastest growing industry, and the plant that has the power to positively impact human health and wellness.”

Nevada Lawsuit

Verano had no new comments regarding the recent lawsuit filed in Nevada by Naturex and BB Marketing. The $135 million lawsuit is alleging that Verano cut its Nevada partners out of an application process. George Archos, Verano’s CEO, said in a statement to the Las Vegas Review that “based on what we know of the allegations … we do not believe the complaint has merit. We intend to defend aggressively against these claims.”

Verano owns 50% of Naturex, which was founded by Michael and Robert Frey. The brothers claim they submitted all of their information to Verano for an application on behalf of Naturex. Verano said it didn’t have all the information needed to submit the application. However, it did submit an application through Lone Mountain Partners, which is the Verano local entity. Lone Mountain was awarded 11 retail licenses.


Debra BorchardtDebra BorchardtJanuary 16, 2019
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4min31760

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 BorchardtDebra BorchardtDecember 6, 2018
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3min12730
Ascend has plans to become the leading cannabis operator in the Massachusetts, Michigan and Illinois markets and it just got a big jump on the effort. This vertically-integrated cannabis operator completed its latest equity fundraising round.
Ascend raised $40M with the completion of this round and is developing licenses in three major cannabis states that are just beginning to build their markets: Massachusetts, Michigan, and Illinois. Combined, they create the largest market east of the Mississippi, which is equivalent in size to California or Canada, two of the most profitable Cannabis regions in the world.
The company’s chief executive officer Andrea Cabral started her career in Massachusetts law enforcement before getting appointed as the state’s top public safety official in 2012. As the leader of the company, she is sensitive to hiring people with minor arrest records in a demonstration of the company’s commitment to social justice.
“We are thrilled to be investors in Ascend, and to see such a warm reception to the dispensary locations under approval,” says Emily Paxhia, the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Poseidon Asset Management. “Ascend’s focus on a customer-centric retail environment will help to demystify the cannabis experience and create a new paradigm of cannabis retail.”
Ascend Wellness said it currently has plans for three high-end, licensed adult-use cannabis retail locations in three metro-area Boston locations. Additionally, the company said it plans to develop a significant retail presence throughout these emerging markets as it solidifies itself as a leading U.S. Cannabis operator.
“We are delighted to announce our initial round of funding,” says Abner Kurtin, founder of Ascend. “With a potential 30 million cannabis consumers in these three strategic markets, Ascend is poised to be one of the largest operators in the country. With our plans for best-in-class retail experiences and the development of global brands and partnerships, we could not be more excited for the future of Ascend.”
Leading this funding round are Poseidon Asset Management, Salveo Capital, JM10 Partners, and Shire Capital Advisors. Proceeds from the capital raised will be used to build out locations in these markets and acquire future assets.

Debra BorchardtDebra BorchardtNovember 20, 2018
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4min11351

Adult-use cannabis sales began in Massachusetts on Tuesday morning making it the seventh state to legalize and establish an adult-use market. Two dispensaries are set to open at 8 am to service customers.

Cultivate Holdings, LLC, which has a retail shop in Leicester and New England Treatment Access (NETA) LLC in Northampton were given approval by The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. Adults 21 and older with a valid ID will be able to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana from licensed marijuana retail stores, of which no more than five grams can be in concentrate form. It will remain illegal to consume marijuana in public.

“Marijuana prohibition is officially coming to an end in the Bay State,” said Marijuana Policy Project Deputy Director Matthew Schweich, who oversaw the successful Question 4 campaign in 2016. “It will not be missed. Voters in Massachusetts wanted a more sensible policy, new tax revenue, and safer communities, and that is what they are going to get.

The Boston Globe reported that the first customer at Cultivate will be Iraq veteran and medical marijuana advocate Stephen Mandile. He will buy a quarter-ounce of pot and edibles once Cultivate opens at 8 a.m. Over at NETA, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz — an Air Force veteran — will purchase an edible.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, marijuana possession has been legal for adults 21 and older since Question 4 took effect on December 15, 2016. The initiative was approved by 53.7 percent of voters on November 8, 2016, and legislation to implement the initiative was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker on July 28, 2017.

“Finally, adults will be able to purchase marijuana safely and legally in regulated, taxpaying businesses instead of resorting to the underground market,” Schweich said. “Adults will simply stop at a licensed store, show their ID, pay, and be on their way. It won’t be long before the novelty wears off and it feels just like buying alcohol from a liquor store.”

MPP noted that regulated adult sales began in Colorado in January 2014; Washington in July 2014; Oregon in October 2015; Alaska in October 2016; Nevada in July 2017; and California in January 2018. In Maine, they are expected to begin in fall 2019. In Michigan, where the law was just adopted during the midterm election earlier this month, adult sales are expected to begin in 2020.

“Implementation took longer than expected, but the system is now up and running, and it appears to be on the right track,” Schweich said. “We applaud the many state and local officials who have taken part in the historic transition from prohibition to a regulated model. This is a living system that will grow and evolve over time, similarly to what we’ve seen with alcohol, and it can set an example for other states in the region and around the country. Massachusetts is firmly ahead of the curve on cannabis.”

Marijuana products sold for adult use will be subject to a 6.25 percent state sales tax and a 10.75 percent state excise tax, and municipal officials have the option of levying additional local taxes of up to 3 percent. A study released in June by the Department of Public Health estimated adult marijuana sales would generate more than $200 million for the state and up to $3 million for local governments in the first two years alone.



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