Berkshire County’s first adult use recreational marijuana store has revealed how much it’s raked in since opening in January.
Six months ago, Theory Wellness opened its doors on Route 7 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, to an exuberant crowd waiting in the bitter cold. Now, CEO Brandon Pollock knows exactly how much the lines of customers the store caters to each day is worth to his business.
“To date, we’re about $17 million in revenue, which is certainly more than we expected," said Pollock. "We’re continuing to grow.”
Theory Wellness employs 130 workers, 50 at its Great Barrington location in the town of around 7,000. The company also has a medical dispensary to the east in Bridgewater, and is continuing to expand.
“We just were fortunate to receive a special permit in the city of Chicopee so we can certainly now afford to reinvest in that community as well and build out another very high class dispensary there,” said the CEO.
The marijuana business is also carrying out its state-mandated investment in a social equity program. The Cannabis Control Commission requires Massachusetts weed retailers to work with people disproportionately impacted by the state’s former drug laws on building opportunity, specifically Black and Latino communities.
“Theory is looking to help with both capital and expertise a social equity entrepreneur to open their own dispensary, so we’re providing up to $250,000 in initial startup funds and inventory as well as pro-bono consulting services both within our own company and some of our professional service partners as well.”
Pollock attributes the surprisingly high numbers to the state’s slow rollout of the burgeoning marijuana industry.
“It’s been a slower than expected process for other stores to come online, for one reason or another. There’s still very little competition in the marketplace.”
With five marijuana retailers open around the county – another just opened in Lee – Theory’s dominance in the region might be short-lived. But for now, its success has produced a windfall for the community that hosts it.
“Great Barrington gets two different 3 percent taxes.”
Select board member Ed Abrahams. The cut the town gets from Theory’s $17 million amounts to over a million dollars, a considerable income for a town with a fiscal budget of just under $30 million.
“When you purchase cannabis legally in Massachusetts, you pay 17 percent – in effect – sales tax. It’s the regular sales tax plus an excise tax that goes to the state. Localities like Great Barrington are allowed to add up to 3 percent to that which we did.”
That first cut from Theory’s revenue is collected by the state and sent back to the town’s general fund. Abrahams says the town followed the advice of the Department of Revenue and hasn’t budgeted the marijuana money for the coming 2020 fiscal year. Great Barrington leaders will determine how to spend it for the 2021 budget, which residents will have the opportunity to vote on at the next annual town meeting.
“An additional 3 percent called the community impact fee is given directly to Great Barrington by the retailer, so Theory will write a check to us for 3 percent of this quarter’s sales. That money is required to be used to mitigate the negative impacts of legal marijuana.”
Great Barrington officials are already holding meetings on how to spend that second portion. But here’s the thing – so far, it isn’t really clear what those negative impacts are.
“People complain about a line of people standing in front of a pot store – that’s actually a kind of prejudice against the kind of people who stand in front of a pot store, or what we think the kind of people who stand in front of a pot store are. You know, if there was only one place in the county to buy wine, there’d be a long line. Probably the same for coffee.”
But that doesn’t mean they won’t come.
“The other impacts we’re not sure if we’ve seen yet are driving under the influence, which we are in the process of training our police to identify because there’s nothing like a breathalyzer. It’s been reported some people are walking around high, although I suspect that’s been going on forever because marijuana’s been available forever.”
Abrahams notes that some impacts are both harder to quantify and may play out over a long time.
“Children drive by there, they see a line, they tell jokes. Children are going on the website for Theory Wellness where they are being told of all the medical and other benefits of marijuana. Somebody needs to counter that.”