PITTSFIELD, Mass. — At any given time, Permitting Coordinator Nate Joyner is talking with 10 potential marijuana business owners.
Every since Massachusetts voters approved recreational marijuana sales, Joyner's phone has been ringing off the hook. He has become the point person in the Office of Community Development to field inquiries from individuals looking to start marijuana retail, cultivation, or manufacturing operations.
"I've been surprised with the interest and activity. I hear at least every day from somebody new," Joyner said.
As of last week, Joyner was in regular conversation with six or seven individuals with a serious interest in submitting an application for a special permit to open such a business.
That was on top of the two a step ahead and going before the Zoning Board of Appeals seeking a permit and the six others which had already gone through the process. For every one of those with a serious interest in opening a business, there are a few who call about it but the plans never formalize.
There has been somewhat of a shift in interest. Joyner said at first a larger percentage of the phone calls were from people in the early stages of consideration who just wanted more information about the process and requirements. Joyner said there was also a greater percentage of local people calling for information.
"Now most people are serious and are shopping around [for a location]," Joyner said.
As the state continued to develop regulations and its permitting process, the majority of the inquiries are from people who have a serious interest - he estimated that nine out of every 10 calls are from more serious businesses - and more businesses from out of town considering Pittsfield as a potential option.
"It is picking up at this point because people are more comfortable with the state process," Joyner said.
Overall, more than fifty different prospective businesses have reached out to ask about the local permitting. Six total companies have gotten local permitting in place - four retail establishments and two cultivators - but yet none of them have gotten the OK from the state's Cannabis Control Commission yet.
Berkshire Roots is approved for recreational and medical sales as well as cultivation on Dalton Avenue. Temescal Wellness is approved for medical and recreational sales on Callahan Drive. Timothy Mack is approved for Kryppies on East Street and Jack Carney, owner of Green Biz, is approved for a dispensary on South Street.
There are two stand-alone cultivation operations approved as well. George Whaling purchased the former Cintas building in the Downing Industrial Park and plans to lease it to cultivators Andrew and Brian Vincent. Mack is approved for a cultivation operation on Commercial Street, near his proposed retail establishment.
Last week, Nathan, Nick, and Ben Girard received approval from the Community Development Board for a retail establishment on Merrill Road, but the Zoning Board of Appeals felt it needed more information and delayed a decision on the issuance of the permit. Daniel and David Graziani are looking at a retail shop on Bank Row but the Community Development Board wanted another review of that and had asked the ZBA to table it until August as well.
Those two are still in the process. City Planner CJ Hoss said there are two more cultivation operations expected in August as well.
"And we are hearing about stuff. There is a pipeline. Over the next several months we will still see applications coming in," Hoss said.
Joyner said the two cultivators proposed at the next meeting are on Taconic Park Drive and on Cloverdale Street. He said an application just arrived for another East Street retailer.
Another two other applications had gone before the permitting boards in the past but ultimately didn't move forward. Heka Health was planning a facility on Dalton Avenue as well but ultimately withdrew the application and Carney had a proposal for a North Street store but the city determined that it wasn't in compliance with local regulations because it was too close to a school.
Girard's application, under the name Bloom Brothers, faced opposition, however, from competitors. Frank Demarinis, who is associated with Berkshire Roots, questioned if the city should limit how close these shops can be to each other. Bloom Brothers and Berkshire Roots would essentially be situated on opposite ends of Plastics Avenue.
"We do not need to have one every half mile," Demarinis said. "There are not enough consumers here."
While there has been high demand in other states that legalized marijuana, that doesn't necessarily mean there will be high customer demand here in Berkshire County. Demarinis believes there will be a number of shops closing down shortly after opening because of that.
But, in the meantime, the city is seeing its vacant storefronts poised to be filled. Joyner said the interest has been a mixed bag of size and types of businesses. He said there are requests for larger operations and there are small boutiques. But while there are a few new builds - such as Temescal - but most of the plans look to reuse current space.
"A lot of these are going into existing spaces. We're seeing some of the vacancies filled," Joyner said.
The city has placed a cap of 35 retailers and put in provisions such as not being within 500 feet of a school or playground. Retailers were expected to be in operation as of July 1, but the state Cannabis Control Commission has only approved a few marijuana companies, all on the eastern side of the state. Many on the local level have placed the delays on the state, while many involved with the state say local communities have been delaying the applications.
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Oh, good grief, let us all get stoned, along with getting drunk as skunks. That should be a delightful mix! It will make driving such fun, dodging, not just the drunks but the stoned drunks. I can hardly wait to "get on the road again." "Snark"
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