State’s first pot store to open in Leicester

Retail outlet likely to open after Labor Day

THE STATE’S CANNABIS Control Commission on Monday awarded its first license for a retail recreational pot store to a medical marijuana facility in Leicester, where sales will probably start sometime in September.

The board unanimously approved the provisional license for Cultivate Holdings to add retail pot to the medical marijuana the company sells at the firm’s Main Street store in the small town bordering Worcester on the west. The license is provisional until Cultivate meets a few more conditions, such as fingerprinting employees and passing state-mandated inspections.

“We’re very excited to be the first,” Sam Barber, president of Cultivate, said immediately after the meeting. “We have everything at our facility. In terms of having the ability to do it, we’re ready to go.”

Barber said Massachusetts will benefit from the addition of new jobs and tax revenues. Under the law, the state will collect a 10.75 percent tax on retail sales (plus 6.25 percent sales tax), and communities can levy up to a 3 percent local option tax. In addition, host communities can get up to 3 percent of a store, grower’s, or manufacturer’s gross revenues to cover expenses incurred by the community in dealing with the new businesses.

Pressed by reporters, Barber initially said he expected to be selling marijuana to his first retail customer “in the next few weeks.” But later, in a quieter moment after the media scrum disappeared, Barber acknowledged it would likely be September before he would be able to open the retail side of his business because of the lack of product and the need for independent labs to set up and begin doing testing mandated by state law. Cultivate also has license applications pending for manufacturing and cultivation facilities in Massachusetts.

Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman said he was hopeful Cultivate could move quickly but said it is now on the company, not the commission, to make it happen.

“I think the timetable is at his control,” Hoffman told reporters. “He has to get back to us and tell us he’s met the conditions of the provisional licenses and then we’ll do the inspections immediately.”

In addition to the retail license, the board also awarded on Monday its first marijuana transportation and manufacturing licenses to Sira Naturals of Milford. Sira last week received the first license of any kind when the commission granted the firm a provisional license to grow recreational marijuana at its medical cultivation facility.

“Every day is a milestone,” Hoffman said of the commission’s recent actions. “I think it’s a big day but it’s one of many big days.”

Sam Barber, president of Cultivate Holdings in Leicester, said he expects his first-in-the-state pot shop to open in September.

Cultivate’s license was granted one day after many thought retail stores already would be open and selling pot. When the Legislature revamped the voter-approved law legalizing recreational marijuana, it set the timetable back for everything by six months. But while the first day of sales could not begin before July 1, it did not mean sales must begin on that day.

Hoffman said the board has been consistent in not targeting a date despite the public perception pot sales would begin on Sunday.

“We are doing this right, we are doing this for the long term,” Hoffman said. “There is no legislative mandate for pot stores to open on July 1.”

Barber said he is not frustrated with the pace of the law’s implementation, saying it’s essential to get it right, not get it done fast.

“I’d rather have the program done in the right way,” he said. “This is one of the most rigorous states to get through the process but I think they’re doing it the right way.”

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.