Springfield dispensaries discuss state of business, possible expansion of hours

SPRINGFIELD — Representatives for Liberty Cannabis and Insa expressed concern to city councilors at the Economic Development Committee’s online meeting Tuesday that the business could be challenging this year. Meanwhile, council members and representatives of the city’s dispensaries discussed the possibility of extending their opening hours.

Steve Reilly, Insa’s director of compliance and general counsel, said he has seen price swings at both the wholesale and retail levels and expects this to continue. However, he isn’t sure Massachusetts has struck the right balance between product supply and demand.

“We anticipate a very difficult retail environment for 2023,” Reilly said. “We are very cautious regarding the Massachusetts market going forward.”

According to data from the state Cannabis Control Commission, the price of adult cannabis has dropped. In November 2021, the average price of an ounce of flower was $376.64. The price fell to $219.97 an ounce in November 2022.

The sentiments were echoed by Jamie Ware, Holistic Industries’ senior vice president of legal, regulatory and government affairs, who represented Liberty Cannabis.

“I think it’s a challenge for any state to open up an industry and figure out how to help that industry thrive,” Ware said. “We will do the best we can to serve the patients and consumers that we do in Massachusetts, but we expect 2023 to be a difficult year.”

Payton Shubrick, the CEO and founder of 6 Bricks, expressed similar thoughts, though he’s in a different boat because the company is an independent store rather than a multi-state operation.

“We are still in the brand recognition and customer acquisition phase,” he said.

Councilman Michael A. Fenton said he wanted to know the hours of operation for each location, to make an assessment of whether the current hours are appropriate for Springfield dispensaries to be competitive with other stores in the area.

According to Reilly, Insa’s Salem location is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., which hasn’t caused any problems as far as he knows and provides a competitive advantage to other marijuana establishments in the community. The West Columbus Avenue location in Springfield is open until 9 p.m.

Ware said Liberty Cannabis would welcome the opportunity, but needs to make sure its zoning ordinance allows it to operate after 8 p.m.

Shubrick said it presents an exciting opportunity for his business, which is open until 9 p.m.

“Especially if you combine it with the nightlife that we’re starting to see emerge with MGM and a lot of other establishments in the city like Dewey’s (Jazz Lounge),” he said.

City Councilman Melvin A. Edwards, head of the city council’s Economic Development Committee, asked his colleagues to possibly discuss extending the hours of each establishment to 11 p.m.

“This industry needs support,” Edwards said. “Your contributions to our taxes and the employment of our residents are important.”

During the meeting, representatives from the dispensaries provided updates on how they are fulfilling their agreements with the host community.

Under state law, as detailed by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, the agreements require rules and regulations that marijuana establishments must adhere to within the municipalities in which they operate.

One of the requirements of a host community agreement is that staff be hired within the municipality, which the three representatives confirmed.

In addition, attorney Talia Gee said the three facilities have had excellent communication with her and with the Department of Health and Human Services.

“By the time I needed to contact those three carriers, I received a response immediately, if not within 24 hours,” Gee said. “I would say that operations from my point of view are going well.”

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