|Williamstown Dispensary Still Aims to Sell Medical Cannabis|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
05:51AM / Saturday, January 14, 2023
|Silver Therapeutics opened on Main Street in Williamstown in 2019.|
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Five years after the Select Board lent its support to a planned medical cannabis facility, the proprietor still is working toward obtaining a license to be a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center in the commonwealth.
Silver Therapeutics opened its doors as an adult use recreational cannabis retailer in April 2019
in what then was called the Colonial Plaza shopping center on Main Street.
In January 2018
, the Select Board cleared the way for Silver Therapeutics by authorizing the town manager to send a "letter of non-opposition" to state licensing authorities.
At the time, the nascent Cannabis Control Commission had not yet finalized the rules for recreational dispensaries; recreational cannabis only became possible in the commonwealth after a successful public question on the ballot in the November 2016 general election.
Silver Therapeutics proprietor Joshua Silver in 2017 was upfront with the town about the fact that while he was applying for a license to be a medical dispensary, his ultimate intention was to sell both medical and recreational cannabis at the location.
This month, he explained why the medical side of the operation has been slow in coming.
"In order to have medical in Massachusetts, you need to be a vertically integrated organization," Silver said.
That means retailers are required to cultivate and process the medical cannabis they sell.
"We're under construction in Boston right now for such a [grow] facility," Silver said. "Once that's open, we'll be eligible to make all of our dispensaries medical and adult use."
Silver said the grow facility is scheduled to be completed this summer, and he expects to "co-locate" medical and recreational facilities at the Williamstown location in 2024.
Silver Therapeutics also operates three dispensaries in Maine.
Silver said there are a variety of reasons why the company's production facility has lagged.
"We had some fits and starts with different facilities we started to develop that, for whatever reason, didn't work out," Silver said.
"It wasn't really the pandemic [that caused the delay]. If anything, in the pandemic, there was really strong demand [for cannabis], which probably isn't surprising to folks."
According to the state's CCC website, there are three Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, or MTCs, in Berkshire County: Berkshire Roots and Temescal Wellness in Pittsfield and Theory Wellness in Great Barrington.
Although the 2016 plebiscite and subsequent creation of the CCC allows for any resident 21 and older to legally purchase and use marijuana in the commonwealth, MTCs are advantageous to residents who are certified for medical use by a qualified health care provider.
"There are a couple of benefits to being a medical patient," Berkshire Roots director of marketing Holly Aliberti said. "You don't have to pay [sales] taxes, but you do have to go through a certifying physician.
"It's probably $100 to $200 per year to get a letter of recommendation [from a health care provider]. It's not a prescription. It's simply a letter from a certified physician. It can be a doctor or a nurse practitioner."
In addition to the tax savings, medical customers can acquire higher quantities of cannabis per visit to the dispensary. And retailers like Berkshire Roots can "discounts, specials and loyalty programs" to medical customers that are unavailable in the recreational side of the industry, Aliberti said.
Statewide, medical cannabis sales are a significant part of the business. In 2021, the CCC reported that retail sales in Massachusetts were just more than $1.3 billion; last year, the agency reported there were $260 million in sales from MTCs.
It is more expensive for the retailer to operate a medical dispensary. According to the CCC website, the annual license fee for any "marijuana establishment" is $10,000 per year; for an MTC, it is $50,000 per year.
Silver said the higher fees are not a factor in his company's delay to get a medical dispensary up and running in Williamstown.
"It is more expensive to have a medical license, much more expensive," he said. "But the real expense is having to build out a cultivation facility that's going to be competitive in Massachusetts. You have to be pretty buttoned up and have a professional cultivation facility, which is expensive."
Ironically, while the vertical integration requirement has held back Silver in the Bay State, he is facing the opposite concern in his home state.
"In New York, they passed some rules that prevent anyone who has cultivation interests in state or out of state from having an ownership stake [in a retail operation]," Silver said. "It was a little frustrating because we had made efforts to secure real estate in anticipation of licensing rules coming out.
"It's disappointing because I grew up in Albany, and I've been in Saratoga for 15 years. I really was looking forward to bringing the brand I created home. But we've still got a lot on our plate right now."