A day trip into Central Mass and a taste of what it feels like to actually have adult-use dispensaries
While Brookline Town Meeting members were busy deciding the fate of the only operating recreational pot dispensary in Greater Boston last week, our team hit the highway and headed for greener pastures. Sort of like the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, which this month packed its bags and set up shop in Worcester’s historic Union Station, we left the Hub in order to get closer to the center of the Commonwealth’s cannabis community.
Before taking you for a tour of operational shops as well as a few dispensaries that are set to open within the next couple of months, there is a small matter of business to clear up: Despite our catchy headline that took obvious advantage of the letter W’s alliterative allure, we’re not just talking about the City of Worcester here, but rather Worcester County as a whole, from the northern border on New Hampshire to the southernmost throes abutting Rhode Island and Connecticut.
We weren’t able to visit all of the open dispensaries, and will return soon to check out, among others, Sanctuary Medicinals in Gardner, Curaleaf in Oxford, and Caroline’s Cannabis, a noteworthy small biz in Uxbridge run by industry trailblazer Caroline Frankel. When that happens, we know that we won’t be alone in trekking out west for edibles, flower, and extracts; over and over, from the Summit Lounge in Worcester, where we enjoyed product between shopping sprees, to the waiting area at Cultivate in Leicester, where we met a 20-something weed and beer nerd who was pit-stopping on his way to pick up suds for Thanksgiving at Treehouse Brewing in Charlton, we met people who, like us, were on a pilgrimage to Central Mass because, well, that’s where the weed is.
At least for now.
LOCAL ROOTS (Fitchburg)
It wasn’t enough for us to just visit the places that are already open for retail sales on our trip. We also talked our way into the almost finished Local Roots in Fitchburg, which is shaping up to be a hotspot of sorts, with more than a dozen host community agreements for cultivators in addition to retail ops and testing labs. We met with the store’s director of retail Nikkie Hanley, who showed us the buildout so far and sat with us in its cozy consultation corner to explain the unique position that the business finds itself in.
“Fitchburg is very cannabis-friendly,” Hanley said. “There’s definitely some great options for sourcing local cannabis … Right now I’m just trying to make contact with as many people as possible—it’s no secret that there is a lack of cannabis flower in this market, and so we’re really just trying to get a little bit from as many people as we can … I’ve been in touch with the wholesale folks for six to eight months at this point, just [saying], Don’t forget about us. We’re coming up.”
It’s all about normalization at Temescal in Hudson, which is located beside a range of big box stores on Route 62. And community stewardship, especially since the start of its recreational sales in February. Though initially hurt by its lack of parking and shuttle situation, this high-traffic location seems to have settled in comfortably, and it’s just in time since Temescal has yet another facility slated to open soon in Framingham, making for three in the state, including its first place in Pittsfield. “We are super proud of the locations we have found,” said Linda Katz, VP of sales and marketing at Temescal. “It was very purposeful, as we wanted to make sure that we were easily accessible.”
For those who have the option, Katz recommends coming in the middle of the day during the week. You should definitely stop by—for its phenomenally large selection of extracts (we went with the Peanut Butter Breath butane hash oil, or BHO wax, from CORE Concentrates, which is relatively clean and easy to work with), as well as its newly branded “nest,” “hover,” and “soar” product classifications, which makes for easy selection. “Education is a big part of it,” Katz said, standing in a new consultation snug that was under construction. “We have customers with all levels of experience, and we’re really making sure that we are giving time and space for when that extra attention is needed.”
We dropped in on Cultivate just one day after its one-year anniversary, and the prop containers that don’t actually have weed in them were still on display in the waiting area for television reporters to pose in front of. Unlike those hairdos on the evening news, though, we actually imbibe, and first of all opted for a 10-pack of 5mg peach-flavored fruit chews. Sold under the in-house brand Hexies (all of the edibles on the menu at the time of our visit are made by Cultivate), these six-sided sours are fresh and jiggly, more like the texture of Jell-O than your average peach ring. Tart but not too sour, they are the best kind of fruity edibles. The creamy Flying BonBon brand milk chocolate bar was also stellar, making this a place we absolutely will return to for more bites.
There’s not much to say about parking and the wait at Cultivate that won’t be outdated by the time you read this. According to the shuttle bus driver who rolled us from a designated lot down the road to the front door, a closer parking lot will be ready before December. Honestly, though, we kind of like taking the bus, or as our escort called it, “Flight 420 out of Terminal C”—somehow the experience, a 30-second drive with less than two minutes of waiting on either end, was actually easier than parking on the street by some other dispensaries. The lesson, we suppose, is one that anyone who is concerned about a dispensary coming to their town should pay close attention to: After a year of operating, things will probably run pretty smoothly, the sky won’t fall, etc.
DIEM CANNABIS (Worcester)
We showed up outside of Diem Cannabis on Grafton Street as a swarm of tradesmen walked in and out of the front door, almost as if transforming the 4,600-square-foot standalone building into a cannabis dispensary in fast forward, like on a renovation show. Fortunately, production manager Alex Howbert took a minute to bring us inside, show us around, and explain how the company is planning for its flagship shop to service an estimated thousand people a day, or about 100 per hour. “This is our first project here in the state—we’re putting all our pennies, all of our tools into this place so we can get it built out,” he said. “Location-wise, there’s tons of foot and car traffic, plus we have a parking lot and street parking. About five blocks south from here there is going to be the new minor league baseball stadium, … We have the freeway right behind us, with entrances and exits, and Grafton Street is a main artery for Worcester. ”
Howbert continued: “Public safety is pretty much the number one thing here. … We definitely have to take the extra effort to make sure we manage traffic flow outside of the dispensary and maintain customer safety. … Product offering is [another big] thing—we’re trying to put as much product out there as possible. So if someone’s looking for something specific, you can find it here at our dispensary. … We’re making contact with vendors and getting all that lined up so we can offer people not just our in-house product, but also products from all across Massachusetts.”
Its planners see potential for Resinate as a common space, an area where you might actually catch an inning of the Red Sox game as you consult an expert to tour you through the menu or take in a demonstration of a new rolling technique. The best dispensaries strive to be something different, wholly original in some way or another; that doesn’t always require a whole lot of space, but since they have the room at Resinate, along with a significant parking lot, they’re designing for openness. Even the service counters are relatively low compared to most shops in Mass, sure to make for a more intimate experience for medical patients early next year when they open, and recreational heads at a later date TBD.
Resinate also has plans to open adult-use shops in nearby Grafton and Northampton. Meanwhile, in Worcester, director of retail Matt Yee said the team will experiment with creative patient engagement that takes advantage of their massive footprint. “Our point of sale system allows for us to roam around and take orders, or if you want the more traditional system up at the counter, you can do that,” Yee said. “We’re right off the [Mass] Pike, so we’re hoping to see some traffic. There’s plenty of parking, a nice big facility. … With [space], we can do a lot of things. Our AV and PA system—everything is hooked up. We can host events here, have live music, cooking events, demos on dabbing, things like that.”
NATURE’S REMEDY (Millbury)
We could hear the sales floor employees inside Nature’s Remedy having a good time before we walked in the door. This is a place that clearly has a customer-service focus—from the welcoming intake area that doesn’t make you feel like you are being checked into a prison to a chill area off to the side of the queue where you can sit down to relax, learn, and speak with a floor rep, the Millbury dispensary is built for you to stay, not get pushed out the back door. There is even a soundproof private consultation room behind a wall of glass, a seriously nice touch that will prove useful for patients who need extra time and don’t want to feel like cholesterol in the artery of a busy dispensary.
And busy is what Nature’s Remedy is likely to be. From the aforementioned hospitality and welcoming vibe, to its prime location—right off I-90, less than an hour from Boston and Cambridge, and just 10 minutes from the heart of Worcester—to ample parking and a cornucopia of products from manufacturers across the state, this will likely be a destination dispensary, a gateway to the east or west, whichever way you’re headed for a weekend of parties or relaxation. We grabbed a gram of Sour Love Potion terp sauce by Sira Naturals for $80, and really can’t speak highly enough (pun intended) about its soft and crunchy consistency, and how it has the texture of a key ingredient in the heart of a perfect sushi dish. Next time we roll out, Nature’s Remedy will have its own brand of edibles on the shelf, and from the looks of the samples locked in a glass case for previewing purposes, it will be another worthwhile excursion.