LEE — The town's lone retail recreational marijuana store has become a cannabis cash cow for the community.
Since opening 12 months ago, Canna Provisions has made the municipality a total of $988,000, evenly split between the state-mandated community impact fee and local sales tax. Each assessment of $494,000 is based on 3 percent of the gross annual sales of $16 million — far exceeding the owners' projected $10 million in sales in the year since opening day on July 5, 2019.
"If we had stayed open during the pandemic, we would have exceeded $20 million," Canna co-founder Erik Williams told The Eagle on Wednesday.
The nearly $1 million windfall for Lee will help soften the blow of less local revenue and state aid because of the coronavirus outbreak.
"It's good news for the town," said Select Board Chairman David Consolati. "It's pretty impressive during the pandemic."
Gov. Charlie Baker ordered recreational pot shops and other nonessential businesses closed in mid-March due to the global outbreak of COVID-19. Ten weeks later, in late May, the governor allowed Canna and other retail marijuana businesses to reopen under guidelines that include mask-wearing and social distancing.
During the Lee Select Board meeting Tuesday, Williams and co-founder Meg Sanders predicted a healthier bottom line by next summer. Williams said Canna is "on track for $24 million" in gross sales in its second year of operation.
Williams added that the financial impact goes beyond boosting the town coffers.
Canna currently employees 73 full-time workers, 16 living in Lee with more ready to relocate.
"We have several people actively looking for a place to live in Lee," he said.
Williams cited numerous ways that Canna staff have conducted community service in town, and noted that the company has made financial contributions to organizations and nonprofits that serve Lee residents.
"We hope this continues and we thank Erik and Meg and their employees for their community involvement," Selectwoman Patricia Carlino wrote in a text to The Eagle.
Furthermore, Canna is renting office space from Fox Homes across the street and has spent $25,000 on off-duty police details to manage traffic to and from the store on Housatonic Street, about 300 yards from Exit 2 of the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Williams had three suggestions on how to use the community impact fee revenue — money set aside for town services and programs to deal with the impact of selling, growing and manufacturing cannabis products within a Massachusetts community.
With online orders accounting for about half of Canna's sales, an internet upgrade would benefit all of Lee, not just Canna.
"We have limited bandwidth," Williams said. "We suck a lot of juice out of the system."
He urged the town to use some of the community impact fee to bolster the Tri-Town Health Department's budget and extend the sidewalk a few hundred feet from Dunkin' to Canna's entrance on the south side of Housatonic Street.
This would allow Canna customers using the crosswalk from the Fuller Street intersection to Dunkin' safe passage to the marijuana store.
Consolati reminded Williams that any sidewalk plans would have to come from the state, which maintains Housatonic Street, part of U.S. Route 20.
Dick Lindsay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.