At Lanesborough community outreach meeting, developers air pot shop plans

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LANESBOROUGH — Bobby Saberi has spent four years cultivating a cannabis customer base in Washington, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. He and his partners operate small retail shops featuring marijuana-infused edibles, lotions as well as traditional pot and assorted paraphernalia.

He hopes to recreate that business in the Berkshires.

Saberi and three partners spoke of their backgrounds and intentions Tuesday in Lanesborough during a community outreach meeting, one of four requirements potential cannabis retailers must follow before hanging out the open sign.

Ken Crowley said he looks to emulate Saberi's business model in establishing recreational marijuana stores in Lanesborough and Pittsfield.

"Our security will be like a jewelry store, by the time you get into the store, the police will be there," he said.

Crowley has teamed with Saberi and John and Katie Bohanon, a Vancouver, Wash.-area couple, relying on their expertise and experience to get the pot shops up and running, possibly by early next year.

Crowley has been a medical marijuana grower in Maine for several years, but is getting out of the cultivation business due to its high costs. If the retail stores get the go-ahead, the New Hampshire resident plans to move to the Berkshires.

The Bohanons produce a line of recreational cannabis-infused products as well as medical marijuana.

"We bring cannabis to market in a safe manner," John Bohanon said.

Initially the Bohanons say they are strictly getting involved with retail in the Berkshires; production may come later. Under state law, marijuana products sold in Massachusetts must be made within the commonwealth. Products can't be shipped into the state.

Crowley and his partners already have a community host agreement with the town; now they must apply for and receive a special permit from the Planning Board and state license courtesy of the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). The approval process for the Pittsfield store is just underway. A community outreach meeting schedule for Monday at the Berkshire Athenaeum will have to be rescheduled due to a technicality, according to Crowley.

The proposed Lanesborough location is vacant commercial space at 126 South Main St., while in Pittsfield, the location is a soon-to-be vacated building at 1317 East St., next to S & A Supply. Both properties are roughly 1,000 square feet that would be renovated and leased from the owner, Louis Costi.

Costi sits on the Pittsfield Community Development Board, the permit-granting authority for recreational marijuana retail stores. The former city councilor says he would recuse himself from any discussion or vote on that pot shop proposal.

Recreational sales of marijuana officially began July 1. The CCC has granted only one license. Several are in the approval pipeline for the Berkshires.

For the Lanesborough store, developers project $1 million in sales in the first 12 months. Crowley had previously told The Eagle he expects a payroll of 12 people, with at least three people on duty at all times from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

"Anyone who handles product must be state licensed," he noted.

Crowley said the start-up cost is in the neighborhood of $100,000. Stocking shelves with cannabis products represents the biggest purchase.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireegle.com and 413-496-6233.


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