Berkshires dispensaries seek delivery partnerships with new licenses approved

Theory Wellness in Great Barrington was the first dispensary in the Berkshires to open its doors for recreational marijuana sales, on Jan. 11, 2019. After the Cannabis Control Commission approved new delivery licenses, the dispensary is looking for a delivery company to partner with for each of its locations.

NORTH ADAMS — Marijuana dispensaries in the Berkshires are looking for delivery companies to partner with after state regulators approved a delivery licensing plan Monday.

“We’ve had our eye on recreational delivery for a while,” said Berkshire Roots CEO James Winokur.

Berkshire Roots, for its Pittsfield location, “will identify a company or they will approach us,” Winokur said. The company already has lined up a delivery partnership for its Boston location, which could begin delivering as early as February, pending regulatory approvals.

For Theory Wellness, adding delivery at each of its locations, including Great Barrington, is “not as much of a question of ‘if’ as it is ‘when,’” said co-founder and CEO Brandon Pollock.

The Cannabis Control Commission plan includes two licenses. A “courier” license, for which applications have been open for months, will let companies charge a fee to deliver products from CCC-licensed retailers and dispensaries, such as Berkshire Roots and Theory Wellness. More controversially, a newer “delivery operator” license will allow businesses to buy their own stock to sell.

Both licenses are exclusively available to members of the CCC’s Economic Empowerment and Social Equity programs, which seek to create opportunities in the industry for people in communities “disproportionately harmed by marijuana law enforcement.” Applicants must meet eligibility requirements, and North Adams and Pittsfield are among the 29 cities listed as areas of disproportionate impact.

Massachusetts’ marijuana industry, The Boston Globe reports, is predominantly white and corporate-backed.

Advocates of equity and delivery have championed the delivery operator license, while the license has faced pushback from dispensaries and the Massachusetts Municipal Association, which expressed concerns that online sales would take tax revenue away from municipalities.

The Massachusetts Cannabis Association for Delivery, along with other supporters, argued that the delivery operator license will help level the playing field for small businesses. Opposition, it said, came from “larger groups who really want to keep the status quo.”

The Commonwealth Dispensary Association, which has threatened a legal challenge, warned that the decision could have the reverse effect by enticing larger corporations to enter delivery, creating a more difficult market for existing dispensaries.

Pollock said he shared the concern that “well-capitalized individuals” would seek “to take as much market share as possible.”

“Without limits around the number of vehicles a delivery operator can have on the road, there is an inherent risk of consolidation of the marketplace into very few well-funded enterprises,” he said. “We very much hope we are wrong in that prediction, but it is certainly a possibility, as any online retail business is most successful with large fleets and large purchasing power.”

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, was among 19 state lawmakers who signed an Oct. 15 letter that questioned whether the CCC had authority to create the delivery operator license. The CCC has maintained that it has the ability from the law allowing it to “establish and provide for issuance of additional types or classes of licenses,” including for delivery.

“We’re going to see what happens,” Farley-Bouvier said Wednesday. “We did give the CCC a lot of authority, and I guess they decided to use it.”

The Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association, in a news release, called the new regulations “a major step” toward an equitable industry.

“Since 2018 alone, the retail cannabis industry has generated over one billion dollars in revenue, but entrepreneurs with limited access to start-up capital, especially Black and Latino entrepreneurs and those who have been harmed by the failed war on drugs, have been largely shut out of this fast-growing market,” said President and CEO David O’Brien said in the release. “These regulations will open the door.”

Danny Jin, a Report for America corps member, is The Eagle’s Statehouse news reporter. He can be reached at djin@berkshireeagle.com, @djinreports on Twitter and 413-496-6221.