A Simple Survey Of The Massachusetts Cannascape

In which we ask industry leaders and keen observers: “How is recreational cannabis going so far?”

A lot of people ask me how I feel about the recreational cannabis industry and about weed in general. They always have, as I’ve been reporting on trees in many forms for two whole decades, in which time I have sailed a major sea change.

I’ve written endlessly about the exponential bend that Massachusetts has climbed in regard to the public perception of cannabis, and for that and other reasons I am suddenly some kind of information hub for everybody from my mother, to my doctor, to some of the same stiffs and politicians who once looked down at consumers like me through the fisheye on the bottom of their whiskey glasses.

Last week, as our team at DigBoston participated in the New England Cannabis Convention, I explained the cannabis climate to my curious benevolent interrogators thusly: The culture’s growing fast and wide. And as the industry expands, trade shows and institutions in general will become more fragmented. So while you can still find an impressive cross-section of everyone from glassblowers to bankers at a forum like NECANN in 2019, more and more things will be divvied into specialties and silos. For better or worse.

In the meantime, I thought it would be helpful to throw questions at professionals who know a whole lot more than I do, especially in their specific corners of the Mass cannabis atlas. This is a compendium in progress; answers were still pouring in as the Dig goes to print, so stay tuned to digboston.com for additions (we will also update readers through our free cannabis newsletter, Talking Joints Memo, which you can sign up for at talkingjointsmemo.com). Without further ado, here’s what we asked people:

  • In one sentence, please tell us how you feel about how recreational cannabis is going in Mass so far. Please feel free to go positive, negative, or both.
  • Also give us a sentence about something you’re working on. Preferably cannabis-related, though it doesn’t need to be.

Alex Brandon

Founder, Ralph’s Garden handcrafted topical CBD products

  • SO FAR: Simply put, Brandon says, “This is really an exciting time to be a part of the cannabis industry here in Massachusetts with all that will be happening in the near future.”
  • UP NEXT: “I’m focused on the release of a turmeric-ginger-juniper CBD body spray, which is easier to apply than a lotion or a salve and smells really good too.”

Jim Borghesani

Chief operating officer, Tudestr

  • SO FAR: “As communications director for the 2016 legalization campaign I witnessed the good, bad, and crazy of Massachusetts opinion on ending prohibition, and I’m pleased to see and say that the bad and crazy are slowly being dissipated amid the success and the logic of legal, tested, taxed cannabis.”
  • UP NEXT: “We’re working with cannabis applicants at the local and state level and I couldn’t be more impressed with the commitment and sense of purpose they’re bringing to their pursuits.”

Mike Collette

Cannapreneur and partners/co-founder/investor relations, Nature’s Remedy

  • SO FAR: “I thought at this point the state would have moved a bit further along. However, I can understand that the [Cannabis Control Commission] has a lot on its plate with taking over medical from the DPH. I also believe they are doing the right thing with a slower rollout.”
  • UP NEXT: “My business partner and I recently launched Cannapreneur Partners, which aims to find and strategically place capital and leadership in the hands of the top cannabis entrepreneurs and startups. Additionally, we host our Cannapreneur events every six to eight weeks to bring together the top cannabis business operators and investors to collaborate and facilitate meaningful connections.”

Grover Daniels + David Crowley

Co-Founders, Two Buds, LLC

  • SO FAR: “If you want to join the fun,” Grover and David recommend reading 935 CMR 500 and M.G.L. c. 94G—better known as the Mass recreational cannabis rules and regulations. “Read these two docs several times,” they say, and “the rest is being smart, honest, hardworking, and patient.”
  • UP NEXT: Two Buds, which has applied to license three cannabis businesses in Rockland, is “attracting qualified applicants with a passion for growing and making great weed products—people who think digitally and grow hydroponically.”

Michael Dube

Producer, Disrupt : Boston TV

  • SO FAR: “Recreational (and medicinal) cannabis still has major barriers preventing poor people to take part as business owners or consumers. High prices and the inability for low-income residents to legally consume because of social consumption laws is problematic, and there are currently no avenues for underprivileged people to take part aside from entry-level jobs.”
  • UP NEXT: “We’re busy developing the Cannabis Supper Club for television, producing high-end cannabis social and educational events, starting a national cannabis talent agency, and prepping for investment into a sports-centric products company.”

Nick Falco aka “Doc”

Owner, Humble Family Farms

  • SO FAR: “I’m scared for the rec market. To grow a plant that’s changed my life in so many positive ways is an amazing feeling. Watching it turn friends to enemies, families to foe, I realize it will only get worse with the greed.”
  • UP NEXT: “Our current projects are bringing sustainably grown foods to the same medical patients that need our cannabis.”

Robert  N. Fireman

Founder & CEO, MariMed Inc.

  • SO FAR: “As a multi-state cannabis operating company, we recognize the Cannabis Control Commission’s immense effort to plan, implement, and roll out this program, so we are thrilled to see it becoming stronger and safely provide tested cannabis products to more consumers, while generating needed tax revenue for the state.”
  • UP NEXT: “Our R&D teams are in overdrive developing CBD and THC formulations and compounds derived from cannabis and hemp and we are currently launching our new cannabis-based DabTabs—all to improve people’s lives and health.”

Kamani Jefferson

President, Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council

  • SO FAR: “We’re at 12 stores total, including one in the Greater Boston area, but no economic empowerment applicants have made it through the licensing process, nor has a cooperative/microbusiness commenced their operations.”
  • UP NEXT: “We are planning our annual Cannabis Freedom Run and 710 events, bringing on more interns, and continually focusing on municipal government relations around equity and smaller cannabis businesses.”

Shanel Lindsay

Founder and president, Ardent Cannabis

  • SO FAR: “I’m excited that adult-use sales are finally here but concerned as always about whether equity will become a reality or the harms of the drug war will be further embedded in our communities while others become rich at our expense.”
  • UP NEXT: “Ardent’s new infusion kits let people make potent gourmet edibles with less than a gram of flower.”

Stephen Mandile

President/Founder, Veterans Alternative Healing Inc.; Director of Community Outreach, Alternative Treatment for Veterans

  • SO FAR: “From the consumer point of view I believe recreational cannabis is thriving here in Massachusetts, but from the perspective of trying to start a cannabis small business there are too many barriers at the municipal level and furthermore [the process] is lacking in social equity.”
  • UP NEXT: “Currently I am working on creating new policy for veterans access and entry to the medical cannabis program in Massachusetts. I have already gotten nine medical dispensaries to offer the Veteran Care Program in their 16 locations that give veterans that have been awarded the highest service-connected disability rating of 100 percent by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides them with a 40 percent off discount on purchases. The goal is to grow the VCP so that any veteran that is getting their medications like opioids and benzodiazepines as an earned benefit from the VA without having to pay a penny, and can get cannabis at medical dispensaries for minimal to no cost as well.”

Joseph Nelson + Patrick Mulcahy

Owners, Mass Cannabis Chefs

  • SO FAR: “Legalization, while going slow, is going in the right direction. The talks of social consumption locations being available and opening in the near future gives us hope.”
  • UP NEXT: “We are working on expanding the range of our events, working with different groups, plotting events out of state, all while waiting for social consumption locations to be allowed for us to take the next steps.”

Keith Saunders, Ph.D.

NORML board of directors, Boston Pot Report

  • SO FAR: “The supply is low, the prices are steep, the tax is burdensome, the rollout is sluggish, and since the folks who have been meeting the demand for decades were not invited to the dance, I still buy from them because they are the best deal in the Commonwealth. This will change as supply increases and prices drop.”
  • UP NEXT: Dr. Saunders is working as an educational consultant for the cannabis industry.

Shaleen Title

Commissioner, Cannabis Control Commission

  • SO FAR: “Like everyone who is committed to the goals of legalization, I feel like the rollout is frustratingly slow, but it’s inspiring to imagine that every time we make a change in the right direction, that positive change will compound as the industry grows and other states use us as a model.”
  • UP NEXT: “I’m working with the CCC chair and leaders from five municipalities to develop a framework for a social consumption pilot program to be considered by the CCC this spring.”

Sherri Tutkus

Registered nurse and CEO and founder of GreenNurse Group

  • SO FAR: “Start low and go slow is definitely a cannabis theme for the rollout of adult use cannabis in Massachusetts. At this particular time we are in our third year of recreational cannabis and there are only 12 shops open in the state. Take your time and hurry up!”
  • UP NEXT: “We are recruiting a team of volunteer nurse reporters who want to get involved in the community, provide community outreach, and bring information to others through our media platform and report live and/or create short-form educational content to assist people. We are also working on a home health agency model to bring cannabinoid nursing education and care to patients in their homes along with other ancillary services.”

Jeffrey M. Zucker

President, Green Lion Partners (also active with Dip Devices, AICA, LeafList, Natural Order Supply, MPP)

  • SO FAR: “While Massachusetts took quite a while to begin to establish order around the industry, we’re starting to see things come together. I have been impressed with the work of the Cannabis Control Commission to ensure that the industry is established properly and equitably. I knew Mass could set an example for the East Coast, and they’re finally starting to do so.”
  • UP NEXT: “We’ve been very focused on advocacy via MPP and SSDP. … We’re also in the early stages of planning for our third annual cannabis startup competition in conjunction with Boston University.”

Ed. note: NECANN was founded by former owners of DigBoston. The two are are no longer formally affiliated, though we do share content and help to promote each other.