GREAT BARRINGTON — In the last three months alone, the first legal pot shop in Berkshire County sold $10.3 million in cannabis.
And these second-quarter sales from Theory Wellness will generate about $535,000 that will ultimately head into town coffers, according to town accountant Sue Carmel.
The town will immediately receive $309,000 of this amount from Theory's April 1 through June 30 sales as part of its host agreement with the company to pay a 3 percent community impact fee. The rest — $225,800 — will arrive later, and is revenue from the municipality's 3 percent local tax, which passes through the state first.
The news rolled into Town Hall last week in a note from Theory's co-founder and Chief Financial Officer Nick Friedman, asking to whom the business should cut the $309,217.62 check.
The money is earmarked for mitigating the harmful effects of marijuana, according to state regulations. But town officials aren't yet sure how to spend it.
There is no precedent, said Select Board Vice Chairman Ed Abrahams, who, with board member Kate Burke, is a point person for all things marijuana in town.
"This is all new and the guidelines are vague," Abrahams said. "We haven't had the discussion yet about what constitutes negative impact, and our lawyers will be involved in that discussion."
Since it was legalized last year, the world of recreational marijuana is full of firsts from everything to zoning to concerns about the potential for a legal pot boom in town to clog roads and suck up parking spaces.
Theory opened in January to great fanfare, and that has not settled down much, as cars with New York and New Jersey license plates fill the parking lot, and long lines out the door continue unabated. It's all come to resemble a roadside attraction, though it is expected to die down somewhat, now that a new shop has opened in Lee, and with more expected to open in Great Barrington, Egremont and Sheffield.
But one thing is certain: the town is making some much-needed revenue during this Theory hot streak.
Theory grossed more than $6 million in sales in its first quarter, which was shorter than three months. The community impact fee from those sales was $185,807.
Buds are the hottest seller, followed by concentrate and infused edibles and nonedibles, according to Theory's second-quarter sales report.
Theory Wellness spokesman Thomas Winstanley could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
But at this rate, it could easily amount to close to $1 million to the town from Theory in this first year, said Abrahams, who also cautioned that the windfall is likely to be tempered by the competition of other stores opening.
"This is not money we can count on," Abrahams said.
And as far as how to mitigate harm in the community, he wants to get the public involved in possible solutions, with all of it being brought to voters at next year's annual town meeting.
"I would like the town to think wide open about how to spend that money," he said.
He also said the issue of mitigation of harm is tricky to discern, and that it's something that could end up in the courts as retailers might begin to see the 3 percent fee as a form of extortion for something nebulous.
"We might actually decide that there aren't any negative impacts," Abrahams said. "One could make the case that if $1 million comes in over the course of the year in mitigation fees, it's possible there aren't $1 million in negative impacts."
In that case, he said, towns might decide to change their agreements with retailers and growers if the courts and the state's Cannabis Control Commission begin to require that the money spent on mitigation of harm is justified.
"The ethical thing to do would be to say, `We're charging too much, and to reduce it.'"
Heather Bellow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.