Lee's first pot shop readies for early April opening

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LEE — The town's first retail recreational marijuana store could open in two weeks.

Canna Provisions officials told The Eagle on Tuesday plans are nearing completion to covert a former used car business into a pot shop on Housatonic Street. The state Cannabis Control Commission in February awarded the Boston-based firm a provisional license, a prerequisite before the CCC will consider approving a final license.

"If all goes well, we expect to open the first week in April," said Canna Chief Operating Officer Erik Williams.

Williams noted Mass. Property Partners LLC, which owns the property, is doing the renovation and site preparation work on behalf of Canna.

The landlord bought the 1.8-acre site for $917,200 from Bart Collins, owner of Southern States Auto Sales, a long-established business the auto dealer is looking to relocate in the Lee area.

Canna is currently owned by Williams, CEO Meg Sanders and Eugene McCain from West Newton, who originally formed the company.

During the renovations, Canna hired 24 people, with another 12 hires likely once operational. The new employees are going through extensive training from a variety of experts in the marijuana field, according to Williams.

"There's a lot of technical stuff people have to learn," he said. "We aren't looking for people who just want jobs, but those looking to build a career in this business."

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To start, the store will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week and have security personnel on-site. Williams said hours of operation could expand to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., the maximum allowed under town regulations.

A major concern from the beginning for Canna and town officials is the traffic impact, given the pot shop is just off exit 2 of the Massachusetts Turnpike and is located next to a Dunkin' eatery and across from a McDonald's. Canna officials have noted the property will have a one-way in entrance and one-way out exit to minimize impact on traffic flow along Housatonic Street.

As for parking, Williams said he's trying to arrange nearby overflow, but no arrangements have been made yet for off-site parking.

He's also been working with Lee Police Chief Jeffrey Roosa on a traffic mitigation plan that would include hiring off-duty police officers to direct traffic, especially during peak times. With Canna being a private business, Roosa said he can only make suggestions, but Canna is taking the traffic issue seriously.

"They have been very open and honest about their plans," he said. "I assume they will get a lot of traffic off the [MassPike]."

Lee's foray into retail recreational marijuana has been in the works since late June when Canna and the Select Board signed a host community agreement, the first step in a lengthy approval process. Under the deal, Lee would receive a 3 percent tax of gross retail sales and an immediate $15,000 upfront payment applied against the overall municipal tax revenue received in the first year.

By early August, the Lee Planning Board approved the project's site plan and the Select Board granted a special permit for the business.

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


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