Amid procedural questions, pot grower/retailer seeks OK for Great Barrington shop

Andy Vincent, left, and Brian Vincent discuss plans to open a retail marijuana shop, Commonwealth Cultivation, on Railroad Street, during Thursday's meeting of the Great Barrington Planning Board.

This story has been modified to correct the status of the company's state and local permits.

GREAT BARRINGTON — A third company has made its pitch to open a retail marijuana operation in the community.

Partners Brian and Andy Vincent went before the Planning Board on Thursday with a proposal for a shop, Commonwealth Cultivation, at 82 Railroad St.

But the Vincents found that the road to approval might be a bit bumpy as the town sorts out procedural steps for these new and complex business ventures.

"You guys are like our guinea pigs," said board Chairwoman Brandee Nelson.

The Vincents, who recently received permits for a cultivation facility in Pittsfield, are waiting for approval from the state for a license to cultivate. Likewise, they will need permits from Great Barrington before they can apply to the state for this retail license.

Upon reflection, board members realized that the brothers and the town should probably complete other steps before attending to site plan elements like security, parking and lighting.

But it's confusing. The town's new cannabis bylaws don't specify an order for which step to take first, said Town Planner Christopher Rembold. But he said that site plan review does require that a state license be in hand first.

Since this is a "chicken and egg" situation, approvals at the Planning Board would be conditional on that, he added.

With cannabis retail sales and cultivation heading toward legalization as early as next month, entrepreneurs across the state are closing in on town approval by taking all the steps prescribed by the state's Cannabis Control Commission, which issues licenses to operate.

So far in Great Barrington, Commonwealth and another new retailer have chosen downtown locations, while medical marijuana dispenser Theory Wellness will add recreational cannabis to its menu at its existing building on Stockbridge Road. Commonwealth's chosen spot was most recently the commercial kitchen for the Daily Bread Bakery, which is no longer operating.

Brian Vincent, Commonwealth's chief financial officer, said that upon approval, the brothers will rent the building from Highland Capital Realty Corp., which is based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Vincent later told The Eagle that the principal of Highland is their "business partner." The building is listed at $505,000 with Stone House Properties.

Theory and Calyx, which is eyeing the vacant former Joe Dagget men's clothing store at 294 Main St., have signed host agreements with the town that include stipulations like a 3 percent tax on gross sales, and a $10,000 donation to a nonprofit that provides "health, wellness and/or substance abuse education programs."

Theory also has held its state-mandated Community Impact Meeting, a forum at which the retailer's security and other safety measures are outlined and questions are answered.

Commonwealth isn't quite there yet. But the Vincents, who live in Connecticut but plan to move to the Berkshires as their plans progress, explained some basics of a plan that includes an interior renovation of some sort using local contractors, and hiring what will be about 18 local employees.

The shop would be open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a heavy security presence that would include cameras inside and out, as well as a security guard.

"We'd have one entrance ... double-locked doors, with fire and burglar alarms monitored by two companies and connected to the police station," Brian Vincent said.

Andy Vincent, the company's chief executive officer, said the two are projecting $5 million in annual sales. If he is right, that's $150,000 to the town every year at the 3 percent tax, as well as the $10,000 annually to a local nonprofit they have agreed to add to their host agreement.

The Vincents did not yet have a prepared site plan to submit to the board, but they expect to come back with one at the end of June. In the meantime, Select Board member Ed Abrahams told the board he is going to try to sort out what the order should be for firms looking for town approval.

"This is the Wild West," he said. "When someone calls Town Hall, no one really knows who to tell them to see first."

It vent differently for the Vincents in Pittsfield, when they applied for a cultivation permit, which also is pending the state license.

They said that the city's Planning Board had done the whole approval process soup to nuts, including a generic host agreement supplied by the board.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.