The first adult use marijuana retailer in Lee, Massachusetts opened Friday morning.
Canna Provisions sits less than a quarter mile off Exit 2 on the Mass Pike, the east-west route that bisects the Bay State.
“Through our experience, we know that stores that are right off of major thoroughfares do super well, as well as stores with high visibility and good parking. Those are big criteria for any real estate, but obviously, cannabis specifically," said CEO Meg Sanders. She's a seasoned veteran of the marijuana industry in Colorado. Sanders says the placement of her first business in Massachusetts was carefully calculated.
“We did look at the 2.6 million visitors that come every year to the Berkshires, we did look at, what is the town of Lee? Well, it’s the gateway to the Berkshires," said Sanders. "You can’t be in any better place as far as making sure people are going to drive by you or within 300 yards of you right here when they get off the Pike. And the other part was what was already happening. So, we looked at our competitors. We looked at Theory [Wellness] and that they have lines every day, we visited what’s going on in Pittsfield, and we just felt that this was the sweet spot for us to be.”
There are four other recreational marijuana stores in the Berkshires.
Sanders estimates that Canna Provisions represents over a million dollars of investment, which includes the store’s staff of 43 full-time employees – called ‘guides’ in the business’s parlance.
Wages start at $16 an hour, and quickly move up to $18 an hour, with health benefits including dental kicking in after 90 days.
“We have a lot of opportunity to turn into senior guides, as well as managers, assistant managers," said the CEO. "Our managers are around $55,000.”
Representatives of Lee’s business community were there to welcome Canna Provisions with open arms. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Colleen Henry said the opening was the town’s most exciting in the last decade.
“It’s number one, yes," Henry told WAMC. "We’ve had other openings that are interesting and exciting – the only one I can think right now is the Starving Artist. That was a big deal, because again, it was something so different from what we’ve had before – but this is definitely a big deal. A bigger deal, I should say.”
Josh Cohen has owned and operated craft beer bar Moe’s Tavern in Lee, a town of about 6,000, for the past 12 years. He sees Canna Provisions as the perfect complement to what the town already offers, as well as a way to bolster Lee’s economy in the winter.
“I’ve always said, our growth issues here in town were going to have to be solved by other people joining us here in town," said Cohen. "If we could have solved all our own issues ourselves, it would have been done. So to find people who truly want to live here, truly want to work here, invest all their money here – it’s great for us. It’s great to see people excited to be here, it’s great to see a new diverse workforce of all ages, of all backgrounds. Everyone’s here for the same goal. And at the end of the day, it’s just a great business opportunity.”
Pat Carlino, a 21-year member of the Lee Select Board, says the town has been anticipating the opening since the company first came forward in spring 2018.
“Canna Provisions, since they first came in, were very professional," said Carlino. "Knew exactly what they were talking about. Unfortunately, it took a few months longer on the state’s end but they’re up and running and we’re really thrilled with another business in town.”
Initially, not everyone in Lee was as excited.
“I always liken it to Prohibition," said the selectperson. "I’m sure they had the same arguments when Prohibition were gone, and someone said, ‘I’m going to open a liquor store!’ And I’m sure people were very upset about it. But it’s law, and they’re here, and now this is law, and it’s here.”
Expectations around the revenue Canna Provisions could bring in for Lee are high.
“If Great Barrington’s any indication, I believe they’re up close to a million since Theory Wellness has opened. I guess eventually we’d hope for at least that much,” laughed Carlino.
With a ceremonial horn blast, the dispensary officially opened around 10 a.m.
Carlino suggests a visit to the store for anyone in town still skeptical of its presence.
“Just come down and look and research, find out about it," she told WAMC. "My experience with cannabis is very limited, but I’m learning.”