Drive-up marijuana sales start Monday

Recreational stores will offer curbside services

DRIVE UP IN YOUR CAR, pay for your marijuana, take the bag, and leave.

A global pandemic has moved Massachusetts’ legal marijuana industry into what had previously been the domain of illegal street market sales – curbside pickup, where a customer can buy marijuana without leaving their car.

The curbside sales will still have all the hallmarks of a legal sale – security cameras, age verification, taxes, and tested products. But when marijuana stores reopen on Monday, the process for purchasing will not include walking into a physical store.

“It’s going to be very different,” said Theory Wellness CEO Brandon Pollock, whose company will resume recreational marijuana sales in Chicopee and Great Barrington.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plan allows retailers – including adult-use marijuana shops – to begin offering curbside pickup for orders, effective May 25. Baker said since the virus spreads most easily in indoor spaces where people are present for a long time, allowing curbside retail seemed like a “viable and attractive option.”

The Cannabis Control Commission published guidelines Wednesday laying out what exactly this will look like.

Under the guidelines, orders can be taken via phone or online, in addition to in person. Customers can pick up marijuana either from their car in a store parking lot, or from an outdoor vestibule or area near the store’s entrance. The only time a customer will be allowed into a store is to pay for their marijuana in cash, although most stores are encouraging customers to pay using an app or a debit card, and some will not accept cash.

Sales are not allowed on public sidewalks. Stores will need measures in place to control traffic.

Medical marijuana facilities, which were never shut down, were already authorized to sell curbside, and 32 were doing so. According to the Cannabis Control Commission, the state’s 44 adult-use marijuana retailers – many of them at the same site as medical marijuana dispensaries – can now adopt the practice.

What curbside pickup looks like in practice will depend on the store. At Solar Therapeutics in Somerset, customers will drive up and be handed a disposable menu. A budtender will approach their car, and they will place their order, show identification, and pay with a debit card. Their order will be relayed via walkie-talkie, and the customer will then drive on to pick up their marijuana near the exit. Customers will never get out of their cars.

Solar Therapeutics has a large property with capacity for 60 cars traveling through the lot. “I’m sure it will be touch and go the first few hours, but I’m confident we can make this happen,” said Solar Therapeutics spokesman Derek Gould.

Other stores – like Temescal Wellness, NETA, Theory Wellness, and Silver Therapeutics – are requiring customers to order online in advance. Some will have designated pickup times.

Silver Therapeutics in Williamstown will have customers choose a half-hour window in which to pick up. Customers will respond to a text message when they are in the parking lot, so a budtender can come out to check their identification, then bring out their marijuana.

Theory Wellness will tell customers when their order is ready, but will not have designated pickup times. Pollock said the company will regulate how many orders it accepts at different times of the day in an attempt to control traffic, so customers placing an order on the website might be directed to come back later.

Pollock is expecting high traffic, especially at the beginning. With legal cannabis sales suspended for more than two months, he said, “There’s certainly a lot of pent-up demand out there.”

While dispensaries with a lot of land can offer drive-through services, those in urban areas need to find solutions that do not require large parking lots, and that can serve customers without cars.

Kobie Evans, co-owner of Pure Oasis in Dorchester, is using an outdoor vestibule near the entryway as a location to hand out marijuana, which must be ordered ahead of time and picked up at an automatically assigned pickup time. Evans is encouraging customers to arrive via public transportation or via rideshare to reduce traffic. “We’re trying to keep it as low profile as possible without causing too much congestion for neighbors,” he said.

NETA is offering drive-up service in Northampton. But at its more urban Brookline store, where there will be no on-site parking, customers will have to come in person to a cordoned-off area in the parking lot. Both NETA stores will require adult-use customers to reserve ahead and schedule a pick-up time.

One concern Baker has consistently voiced about reopening recreational marijuana shops is that, because other nearby states have not legalized marijuana, the stores would draw out-of-state customers. While some marijuana advocates suggested restricting sales to Massachusetts residents, there were conflicting legal opinions about that, and Baker said he does not believe he can do it without a change in state law.

Pollock said he expects fewer out-of-state customers now than he had before, since people are not vacationing in the Berkshires. “I think we’ll serve more of a local population when we reopen Monday,” Pollock said.

Meet the Author

Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Brendan McKee, co-owner of Silver Therapeutics, said it does not matter to him where customers come from because they are staying in their cars. “Because it is curbside, it really doesn’t matter where they’re coming from,” McKee said. “There’s very little interaction, customers are not entering our store.”

While the face-to-face interaction of browsing a store and asking about products will be gone, Silver Therapeutics is offering video and phone consultations with budtenders – its way to assist customers while accommodating two employees who are uncomfortable returning to the store.