PITTSFIELD — Leaders behind what will likely be the city's second marijuana shop are focused on youth diversion and uplifting Pittsfield.
Temescal Wellness, which is applying for a recreational retail license at its future facility at 10 Callahan Drive, made a presentation Friday before a sparsely attended community meeting. Chief Operating Officer Julia Germaine said the company broke ground at the site last week under its medical license.
As required under the permitting process, Germaine and one of her colleagues walked through the security measures they'll take at the new Pittsfield facility, and what the company will do to prevent youth consumption.
But they also talked about the good things they expect the industry to do for Pittsfield. Germaine, who lived in Pittsfield for several years and has family in Becket, said she feels the industry can draw young people back to the Berkshires.
Germaine has an undergraduate degree in plant biology, and has long been passionate in the plant's ability to reduce stress and ease pain.
"We're hoping for a happier, better-rested, more empathetic society," she said.
If a recreational retail license is granted by the state, Temescal Wellness would be the second marijuana operation in Pittsfield. Berkshire Roots, a medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation facility, opened on Dalton Avenue last weekend. It is expected to apply for a retail license as well.
Retail sales of marijuana for recreational use could begin as early as July under the November 2016 ballot referendum that legalized the drug for adult use.
Temescal's 3,000-square-foot facility will employ about 10 people, she said, promising to hire locally with an eye toward minorities negatively impacted by the war on drugs. The retail-only shop will offer marijuana in bud form, vapor cartridges, capsules, tinctures, infused sugars, oils, gummies and chocolate bars. It won't offer much in the way of edibles, Germaine said, but will have infused coconut and olive oils so customers can cook and bake with it at home.
Amy DiSciullo, the company's assistant manager of retail, said the company will use American Alarm to secure the establishment with 24-hour monitoring. At the store's entrance, those seeking entry must show identification to be buzzed into "the man trap," she said, an enclosed area where staff positively identifies you before allowing entry to the sales floor.
"Youth use of marijuana is the lowest it's been since 1994," Germaine said.
She said evidence actually suggests a correlation between marijuana regulation and reductions in young people using marijuana. As marijuana comes out of the shadows, more honest education can deter young people under 21 from damaging their developing brains. She said research is disproving the "gateway" theory surrounding marijuana, and so youth education should focus on negative impacts on the brain, and how that inhibits their future success.
"I think kids are smart and deserve a little respect," she said, noting when she was young she didn't use marijuana because she was working to get into college and concerned about "ruining my brain."
In addition to prohibiting sale to people under 21 without a medical card, the law limits retail shops from selling more than an ounce of marijuana to a person per day, they said, noting many people are still learning the laws. DiSciullo said the company is making it a mission to educate consumers on topics like open marijuana container laws — you can have marijuana in the car, they said, but only stored away in the glove box or trunk — and those against public consumption.
If staff at the store believes someone to be a risk to themselves or others, they can decide not to sell to them, Germaine said.
"That may include an intent to divert to minors," she said, adding the company will also be able to track its products back to the purchaser if it's found in the wrong hands. "It is not good for us or for Pittsfield for the product to be used inappropriately."
The company already has two dispensaries in New Hampshire, one in Maryland and plans to open two other shops in Massachusetts.
Several caregivers came to hear the presentation, noting they're seeing the stigma start to dissolve as people see how marijuana can be a healthier way to reduce pain than opiates, and a less mind-numbing way to treat anxiety than benzodiazepines, as well as a way to ease the aches and pains of aging.
Diane Wojcik, a Windsor resident caring for her mother with Alzheimer's, said marijuana could offer a way to ease the daily anxiety caused from vascular dementia.
DiSciullo said the plant drew her in after seeing how it helped her girlfriend, who at the time was coping with the effects of chemotherapy she was taking for breast cancer.
"It was a game changer," she said.
Amanda Drane can be reached at email@example.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.