The first medical marijuana dispensary to open in Cambridge looks more like an Apple store than a pot shop.
Located in a heavily trafficked area in the basement of the long-shuttered Orson Welles Cinema at 1001 Massachusetts Ave., SageNaturals will hold its grand opening Thursday after a several-year approval process.
Set up to accommodate a flood of patients, the large open room features couches and velvet ropes funneling consumers to more than a half-dozen display cases. Within those display cases are a variety of marijuana products: from flowers and edibles to oils and tinctures.
But unlike an Apple store where anyone can browse, getting into the window-less dispensary is a process. One must flash his or her medical marijuana license several times before even entering the main retail room.
“It’s a very small proportion of the general population who can even enter the facility,” explained CEO Michael Dundas. “If you don’t have a card, you can’t come in.”
Security checkpoints start outside the below-street-level storefront. Patients must display their marijuana license into a video camera monitored by a SageNaturals employee. They are then buzzed into a foyer, where they must sign in with the front-desk and show a state-issued ID as well as their medical license. Then they’re buzzed through yet another locked door into a waiting room with bathrooms, pamphlets and an ATM. An employee is there to greet them, before they walk through a third door to enter the 4,000-square-foot retail space.
At any given time, there are a dozen or so employees working at the retail space: managers, sales agents and greeters. The organization has a total of 80 employees: 30 working out of the Cambridge retail space and 50 out of the 30,000-square-foot facility in Milford. This is where the marijuana is grown, extracted and transformed into new products in the lab or commercial kitchen.
“It’s quite an operation,” said Dundas. “Currently under Massachusetts regulation, an entity that applies for a RMD (Registered Marijuana Dispensary) license must be fully vertically integrated.”
Fully integrated means that an organization looking to open a dispensary must have its own production facility where the cannabis is grown and the products are created. Then the organization is allowed to open a maximum of three dispensaries, Dundas said. (SageNaturals is looking to open two more dispensaries in Davis Square, Somerville, and Needham within the next year.)
This tight operation is required of all dispensaries in Massachusetts. In fact, the Department of Public Health doesn’t even allow dispensaries to have uncovered windows, said Dundas. Dispensaries must also be nonprofit.
“We’re privately funded,” said Dundas. “We’re required to be a nonprofit, operating for the benefit of patients. So we can’t sell equity.”
Growing product line
Everything SageNaturals sells has the Sage logo on it since its manufactured in the Milford facility. Sage is also a provider of Zoots, a national brand of cannabis-infused edibles recreated in the Milford facility that includes flavored drops, lozenges and baked brownies.
The organization currently has 10 products, not including varying permutations and flavors, and hopes to double that amount in the next 90 days.
“We’re rapidly developing new products,” said Dundas.
Right now Sage is working on an ointment that can be applied directly to the skin for muscular pain and other ailments.
“Unless the THC molecule is heated up, it doesn’t turn into with they call the ‘activated form.’ Only the activated form has psychoactive effects,” he said.
With all the varying methods of use and ingestion, education is a big component to the Sage approach.
“If people are buying edibles for the first time, we like to talk to them about the delayed affects. We use the mantra, ‘Start low and go slow,’” said Dundas.
Sage is also looking to expand its edible choices to include savory products that are made without sugar, as well as under-the-tongue sprays.
“There are a wide variety of things cannabis can be infused into. It’s just a question of choosing which ones are going to be affective and appealing to patients here in Massachusetts,” said Dundas. “We’ve only been open here for 3 weeks, as part of our soft opening, so we’re trying to take stock of what the patients are purchasing and really listen to what they want.”
Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by WICKEDLOCAL
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