Noni Goldman Of Four Trees Pushes For Social Consumption In Holyoke

Noni Goldman got into the cannabis industry in 2016 with a 50,000-square-foot greenhouse. With a background in supply chain management and agriculture, she says it “seemed like a cool thing to look into,” but “coming from a conservative family, it was definitely a shocker for everyone who knew me.”

Goldman, meanwhile, has “been a closet stoner and cultivator for a while.” 

“Being a part of the industry helped me feel more comfortable coming out of the cannabis closet,” she says, and “getting that taste of freedom was addictive.”

In the time since, Goldman has “had the pleasure of starting up cannabis grows for businesses of all sizes in the United States and Canada, guiding cultivation teams on best practices for compliance and inventory management.” We asked about her current endeavor.

What do you hope for the Massachusetts industry and for patients and consumers?

That the backlog of licenses finally goes through and more operators open up, specifically smaller craft grows and analytical laboratories. Craft grows because I think that’s a more attainable way for the traditional market to participate in the new legal market (as opposed to giant grows), and also a lot more fun from a consumer perspective—I think of craft grows like microbrews. We [also] desperately need more [labs] to come online so we don’t have a bottleneck in the supply chain, which we saw happen last year. I’m also hoping more labs drive down the price of testing, which right now is about $500 per every 10 lbs harvested.

What are you working on right now? You run a company, Four Trees, and I’m noticing you publicly offer a lot of quality information and education.

Four Trees is actually three companies. Four Trees Management LLC is our hemp and cannabis consulting firm that works with cultivators to start up their grows and scale rapidly, and works with the state to produce an educational curriculum for the CCC’s Social Equity program. Four Trees Management Co. is our separate C Suite company, of which Four Trees Holyoke is a nested entity that is going for licensure in Holyoke as a Tier 1 cultivator and dispensary. I am CEO/president of all entities, but it’s important to distinguish the different companies for transparency and financial reporting.

We do offer a wide variety of free information to the public because we feel it’s important to make sure the cannabis industry is inclusive. At an early stage of our careers, someone had to take a chance on us, and we feel honor bound to carry that on and hope more canna-professionals follow suite. Some people have this feeling that everything in cannabis is brand-new intellectual property or privileged knowledge, and that’s just not true. Production scheduling and yield analytics and environmental control process engineering and facility design are things we learned from previous careers in other industries and adapted successfully to cannabis. For consulting, we charge a sliding scale fee depending on your number of licenses and canopy size, and we love working with microbusinesses and farmers.

You started a facebook group, “Holyoke Social Consumption,” to “discuss ongoing efforts to include Holyoke in the upcoming Social Consumption Pilot Program.” What is social consumption? Why Holyoke?

Social Consumption is a new license type only accessible to social equity, economic empowerment, microbusinesses, and craft cooperative [applicants]. The idea is that an adult 21-plus can visit a social consumption lounge, purchase a metered dose product (like a 5 mg infused beverage or preroll), and consume on site. Because we are a prepilot program, it’s impossible to know what the first round of social consumption venues will look like, but some early ideas we’ve heard are yoga studios, independent movie theaters, and board game cafes. This license is exciting for me because of the exclusivity to small businesses and [economic empowerment] applicants, and also because I selfishly want to go to these kinds of places. 

The social consumption pilot program is only available to 12 municipalities for this first iteration, and municipalities need to sign up to be included. Obviously because we’re setting up our cultivation and dispensary in Holyoke, concentrating my efforts in Holyoke makes the most business sense, but I can’t stress enough how receptive Holyoke has been to our community in general. Something like 15 licenses are in varying stages of operations, provisional approval, or application review in a 10-block radius, so it’s definitely fertile ground for something cool like an Alamo Drafthouse (but for weed) to pop up in the neighborhood.

I created the facebook group Holyoke Social Consumption to build pathways of communication between cannabis industry professionals, supporters from the Holyoke community (like public officials and commercial real estate landlords), and individuals interested in pursuing a social consumption license to get together and share resources. Holyoke is also an area of disproportionate impact as defined by the CCC’s Social Equity program, so in theory if a Holyoke resident wanted to pursue a social consumption license they could do so. Right now, our first goal is to continue to pressure our legislators to pass S.1125 that would create the social consumption pilot program, and then to sign up Holyoke as one of the 12 pilot program municipalities. From there, it’s anyone’s guess, but if we continue the momentum and build bridges between the local government, available real estate, interested investors, and public support, I think that’s a pretty good start. 

What should supporters of social consumption be doing to make it a reality in Massachusetts?

S.1125 still needs to pass through the legislative branch. You can find your representative and drop them a note of support. 

Do we have the political will to pass social consumption in Massachusetts?

I hope so. A bill was drafted, it passed the first hurdle, it’s currently in front of the next tier of legislators to vote on it, [and] a working group published an outline of their concept of a workable program this past summer. Alaska’s social consumption program is already off and running—there’s a lot of momentum to build on.

Obviously I’m not naive to the political process, so it’s not untethered enthusiasm, but if there was ever a time to push for it, it’s now. I think it’s also important to view social consumption as an issue of compassion. A medical patient consuming legally purchased meds shouldn’t be afraid of getting thrown out on the streets because [they] live in subsidized housing. The inverse: A yoga instructor shouldn’t have to dramatically change their business operations and be charged exorbitant fees (like redundant video security systems and perimeter armed guard requirements) just so their afternoon Bikram class can enjoy a 5 mg gummy with their vinyasa flow. That’s dumb.

What are your hopes for social consumption and why is it important? 

That we see cool spaces to consume so that cannabis use can finally come out in the open. It’s already happening in private lounges and members-only event spaces and, to my knowledge, not a single violent incident or serving an underage minor has occurred. I would rather a dozen social lounges open up in my neighborhood than a dozen bars. Social consumption is an important element to finally busting the stigma of cannabis use.

Talking Joints Potcast