Yesterday, business owners Brad Tosto and Peter Wilson held an information session about the marijuana dispensary, Sundaze, they’d like to open at the old Sal’s location at 2500 Main St. About 20 residents were on hand to see their presentation and to ask questions. This is the first dispensary the pair have opened.
Tosto, a CPA, shared that he was born and raised in Tewksbury and still lives in town, while Wilson, a dentist, grew up in Ohio and is a Massachusetts transplant.
The presentation started with some facts about the history of marijuana legalization. It was first decriminalized in 1972, 1996 began its medical usage, and the first states legalized in 2012. And as of April 4, 2022, a bill passed allowing for medical research into marijuana. Massachusetts legalized cannabis in 2016, and there are currently 18 states with full legal status.
There are two bills working their way through Congress. The first, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, has passed the House but still needs Senate approval. This bill would decriminalize and de-schedule cannabis and expunge certain cannabis offenses. The second, the States Reform Act, is currently still under debate in the House. This bill federally decriminalizes cannabis and fully defers to states powers over prohibition and commercial regulation.
Since legalization, Massachusetts has created a Cannabis Control Commission, which strongly regulates the industry. For example, every product sold in Massachusetts must be grown in Massachusetts, and every item is tracked by the commission from seed to product. The CCC also manages all licenses for both dispensaries and medical customers.
The cannabis industry seems to be booming in the Bay State, bringing in $3 billion in sales to date. Sales are highly lucrative for the state and localities, with a 6.25% sales tax, a 10.75% excise tax and an optional 3% tax that towns can levy. The state has also received $78 million from fees. Currently, 22,000 people are employed at state dispensaries.
in December 2021, Massachusetts collected excise taxes of $51.3 million from sales of alcohol versus $74.2 million from marijuana.
Tosto and Wilson ask for a yes vote for three Articles at Town Meeting on October 3. We’ve previously reported on the warrant here.
Article 8 would allow for sales of marijuana in town, Article 9 would update the zoning bylaw to allow dispensaries and Article 10 would allow the town to levy the 3% optional tax.
Security and safety were also addressed extensively. They are working on a flow to the parking lot to minimize any traffic and parking issues. There are spots behind the current building for staff, and there are 20-30 spots planned for customers. They will have a ventilation system installed to ensure there is no smell outside the building. There is no smoking allowed on the premises, including tobacco, and all staff will be required to attend Responsible Vendor Training.
Although studies have shown there is no crime increase in areas that have dispensaries, the building will have two security points before patrons can enter. Security at the door will let shoppers into a waiting room, where IDs will be scanned before patrons can get onto the sales floor. This helps ensure no one under 21 enters the building. There is a plan for a large waiting area to eliminate any customers waiting outside to enter the sales floor. While the floor plan isn’t complete, they plan on nine check-out stations and one express station for pre-orders. Buyers will have to show IDs to the sales person again when completing a purchase.
Per state law, the business must pay for any costs that could be accrued by the town, like additional signage. And don’t expect any advertising around town, since you can advertise a cannabis business only if you know that at least 85% of the viewers are over 21. Tosto and Wilson say they will be advertising through word of mouth.
All entrances to the building will be secured, and staff will have access cards to get behind the sales counter. Cameras will be recording 24/7, and security staff will also monitor loitering on the property to make sure people are conducting their business then leaving.
All products are clearly labeled as containing cannabis and will be stored in a vault used in high-risk industries after hours. Any expired or contaminated product will be properly disposed of.
Store hours are stipulated by the town, and Tosto and Wilson are planning to be open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. and noon – 6 p.m. on Sundays. The two said they may offer a delivery service at some point but are currently focused on opening the storefront.
Tosto and Wilson stressed they want to have a positive impact on the community. They plan to hire local residents and vendors and will donate to local charities. They plan on 20-25 employees, with six to 12 on site daily. They would like a positive collaborative relationship with town officials, the police department and fire department.
Even if the town approves the warrant articles at Town Meeting on Oct. 3 and the dispensary goes forward, they don’t plan on opening for at least a year.