When Massachusetts cannabis shops first opened their doors, both New York and New Jersey seemed on the cusp of legalization. Polls showed a strong majority of voters in support, and newly elected governors in both states pledged to get it done. But as those plans fell through, Massachusetts transformed. Rather than a novel trip for out-of-towners to visit a legal pot shop, it became a go-to source for residents of nearby states to pick up their stash.
Earlier this month, Theory Wellness announced that there were actually more people coming to their shop from New York—about a 15 minute drive away—than from Massachusetts. It’s a trend other Western Massachusetts cannabis retailers have noticed, too.
“I’m not surprised to see New Yorkers here, but I am surprised to see people from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, even Buffalo,” said Meg Sanders, co-founder of Canna Provisions, which opened earlier this month in the nearby town of Lee. “That’s such a commitment!”
The steady flow of customers from New York and other nearby states has been a boon for shops like Theory Wellness and Canna Provisions, which have scaled up at a rapid clip to meet the high demand. Theory, for its part, has raked in more than $11 million in sales since opening in January.
“We’re all still learning,” said Thomas Winstanley, director of marketing at Theory Wellness. “We’ve tried to be as nimble as possible.”
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That’s meant things like doubling the number of staff at the store since opening, he said, and announcing plans to expand its indoor grow operation to include a nearby two-acre outdoor garden. The company has already hired Ted Dobson, a veteran organic farmer, to lead the charge. “Outdoor cultivation hasn’t been explored very much in the legal market on the East Coast,” Winstanley said. “It takes some weight off of our environmental footprint from indoor cultivation.”
To make the wait times more manageable for those who’ve made the trek, the store has also extended its hours and now posts regular updates of current wait times on its Twitter account.
In nearby Lee, Canna Provisions taking a different approach to cut down wait times. Rather than put all its budtenders behind a common counter, the shop places them at standalone stations. After ordering, the customer goes to a separate counter where orders are processed and packaged.
“There’s a notion that in Massachusetts, you have to stand in line to buy weed,” said co-founder Sanders, the former CEO of Colorado cannabis retail chain MiNDFUL. “There’s a way to do it better.”
She added: “The longest wait today was 10 minutes, seven people waiting at a time.”
While Theory staff seem almost tired of fielding questions about their border-adjacent spot (which makes sense; they’ve been getting press for months), Sanders at Canna Provisions was quick to tout the store’s strategic location.
“We’re in Lee because 2.6 million people visit the Berkshires every year,” she said. “It’s not by accident that we’re in this location.”