Ready to roll: Theory Wellness in Great Barrington preps for county's 1st retail pot sales

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GREAT BARRINGTON — The retail floor at Theory Wellness vibrated with excitement on Thursday afternoon.

Marijuana plants painted with black outlines loomed overhead, and a low-key reggae softened pre-opening jitters. Big smiles abounded.

There were no sugar plum fairies, but one employee likened the vibe to anticipating Christmas morning.

"It feels like it's Christmas Eve," said Marketing Director Thomas Winstanley, his feet shifting back and forth and a grin reaching across his face.

Come Friday morning, the county's first recreational cannabis sales will commence at the Stockbridge Road shop. Employees braced for impact on Thursday, as did medical customers already using the dispensary.

"Today's been sort of the day before the storm," said CEO Brandon Pollock, noting a steady stream of medical clients coming in to purchase their products ahead of the impending bustle.

Winstanley kept reaching for his MacBook, his eyes widening as he monitored the shop's web analytics.

"It's just been surging," he said.

Store Manager Teva Smith spent time on Thursday reviewing cannabis facts with a team of about 20 employees. Pollock said Theory hired 15 more people last month to prepare for the demands of the recreational market.

Smith urged budtenders to "go low and slow" when offering customers guidance about dosage. Blake Gurgul, a budtender for Theory, smiled at hearing the repeated phrase. He called it the "captain's mantra," inducing giggles from his colleagues.

Smith and the employees said sleep issues and pain are the most common maladies bringing customers into the store. CBD products — especially lotions and other alternative ingestion methods — have been popular with older people, they said, as they tend to shy away from smoking marijuana products.

Many also ask questions about how much to take before getting "too high."

"Dosage is really important," Smith said.

As he milled about, Smith couldn't wipe the grin from his face.

"The terpenes are in the air," he said, referring to a cannabis component that gives strains their unique smells and flavors. A soft, earthy marijuana smell wafted through the room.

At each point of sales station, a tablet awaited customer fingers and a tray of lighters and Raw rolling papers stood at the ready. Their strains range from $45 to $50 for an eighth of an ounce.

Medical patients of all ages came in one after another on Thursday. For one of them, an employee weighed out several grams of an indica-leaning strain called Wedding Cake, placing the buds in a container on the scale.

"There will be no interruption in their access," Pollock said.

Still, he said, he can understand why they might like to avoid what is likely going to a very busy period for the establishment.

In short, Pollock said, "we're psyched." Tomorrow is something he's been working toward for over three years.

Pollock said he got his start in the industry by doing consulting work for a California dispensary, helping them grow their business into surrounding areas.

"It really had a positive impact, seeing what they were doing out there," he said.

An employee sitting in a vestibule separating the main entrance from the retail floor fielded phone calls from curious potential consumers.

"It's illegal to cross state lines," she told one caller.

But that said, retailers can sell to anyone 21 and up, whether they live in Massachusetts or not. "You can be from any state," she told the caller.

Marijuana remains illegal in New York, but the New York Times reports recent moves to treat marijuana infractions more like speeding tickets. Recreational marijuana is decriminalized in Connecticut, and is legal in Vermont.

For Berkshire County, Pollock said Friday means "the repeal of prohibition."

Change is in the wind, Winstanley agreed. "And we get to be the first."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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