Inside Amherst’s first weed dispensary
Security at RISE Amherst is tight. Anyone coming into the building must show identification to a camera outside the locked front door. Once inside, identification and a medical marijuana card must be shown once again before an associate scans you in through another locked door to a waiting room.
Red couches line the wall of the very professional and modern interior of the second antechamber — walls are adorned with high resolution photos of cannabis plants and tables are covered with reading materials about the many different strains of marijuana.
The next door leads you into the sale room, a large space with walls lined with bowls, bongs, vaporizers and other paraphernalia along with cannabis wax and concentrates showcased in glass cases. There are six points of service circling across the room, where patients can sit down and speak with a specialist. Management at RISE Amherst did not permit The Massachusetts Daily Collegian to identify and quote workers at the dispensary.
Having a high level of service, Yee explained, was essential to a successful operation as an early business in the industry.
“We have a great menu selection, and walking people through all of the items that we have is a really important thing and part of our procedure here,” Yee said. “We’re really lucky to be able to achieve excellence in service.”
Along with their most popular flower products, the dispensary also sells other goods like oils and wax to patients. However, not all of the marijuana sold at the dispensary contains THC, the main psychoactive chemical compound found in cannabis.
“[We sell] CBD and other various cannabinoids,” Yee said, noting that the chemical compound CBD does not get you high in the traditional sense. “CBN is [also] becoming one of the more noted cannabinoids, it’s mostly responsible for sleep aid, but we’re starting to see these products begin to develop here in Massachusetts.”
RISE Amherst has yet to submit an application to the CCC for a retail license, but they are already putting into place procedures to deal with an influx of customers. In addition to the existing sales room, another space, specifically designed for recreational and not medical sales, is currently under construction.
Yee explained that the dispensary works in tandem with eight different cultivators that grow marijuana. One of those cultivation facilities, a 46,000 square foot space with 40 employees and four growing rooms is owned by Green Thumb Industries and located in Holyoke. Samples from batches are then sent to MCR Labs in Framingham, Mass. where it is tested.
Once the batch is approved, the Holyoke facility is able to then package pre-measured marijuana in glass jars to be delivered directly to the dispensary to be sold.
The product they sell now would have to be re-tested, though many of the requirements that medical marijuana must meet would be the same for recreational pot. The only difference between the tests for recreational and medical marijuana would be a different “stamp of approval,” Yee explained.
“We would have medically-tested products and then retail-tested products,” Yee said. “We have a full medical inventory here, we would have to convert that inventory to retail if we wanted to sell it for adult use.”
Black market sales provide an initial challenge to legal stores since illegal pot is not taxed and is therefore cheaper than its legal counterpart, Yee noted. But he said legal cannabis provides consumers with higher quality pot.
“It’s always a competitor as for price. But in a regulated market, quality control is there, testing is there, [and] those are things people gravitate toward,” Yee said.
There is an abundance of other requirements RISE Amherst must fulfill both in Amherst and with the state before they are even considered for a retail license by the CCC. Regardless of the challenges, municipal and state-level policy, RISE Amherst is confident that the dispensary will eventually sell retail marijuana.