The two Island marijuana shops describe their first few weeks in business as steady.
Fine Fettle in West Tisbury and Island Time in Vineyard Haven have been open three and two weeks respectively, and one thing has become clear to them, there’s a demand for edibles on the Island.
“There’s definitely a demand that we’re looking to meet,” Zachs said. “We just brought our first edibles to market — hard candies — and they sold out in one day.”
Both shops are supplied by Fine Fettle’s grow facility in West Tisbury, which up until now only had one room available for production, Ben Zachs, chief operating officer of Fine Fettle, told The Times. But recent construction will quadruple the production at the facility, he said.
The 7,500-square-foot building only had one cultivation room completed by the original owner, Patient Centric. With the second half completed, and those two rooms “double-stacked,” Fine Fettle will quadruple its growing capacity, Zachs said.
The other issue is testing. Because the operation is located on-Island, the products can’t be sent out to a lab for testing. Marijuana has not been legalized by the federal government, and Vineyard Sound is considered federal water. So it’s a more complicated process for testing that includes the Cannabis Control Commission coming to the Vineyard for onsite testing, and soil being sent off-Island to be tested for metals. Once the process is in place, Zachs expects testing to become more streamlined.
Geoff Rose, the owner of Island Time and the godfather of the Island’s marijuana business, told The Times things have been “steady” thus far in his Vineyard Haven shop.
But with only flower and prerolled products available for the most part, some customers aren’t getting what they want. He’s looking forward to getting more edibles, beyond the hard candies, to meet the demand.
“One interesting thing is that two-thirds of the people who have visited us do not live on-Island. That’s just a fact,” Rose said. “Do I hope or expect it will shift over time? Probably. When locals are not working 60 or 70 hours a week and have time to shop.”
The two facilities enter an industry that’s booming in the Bay State. The State House News Service reports that through eight months of 2021, recreational marijuana retailers in Massachusetts have sold over $140 million more in products than they did throughout the entirety of 2020, and total legal Bay State bud sales have now eclipsed the $2 billion mark.
According to the news service, the Cannabis Control Commission said Wednesday that its licensees have sold $844 million worth of nonmedical cannabis and cannabis products since the start of the year. That has been enough to push gross sales since the Nov. 20, 2018, launch of the legal industry here to $2,009,007,478 as of the start of Wednesday, the four-year anniversary of the commission’s launch.
“As the commission reflects on our four years of work, I hope the commonwealth is proud of the agency we have built and the new industry that has been introduced and established,” CCC Executive Director Shawn Collins said. “This milestone speaks to the success of licensees that have interacted with the commission from the application stage, maintained compliance with our strict regulations, and contribute every day to communities across the commonwealth.”
Wednesday’s announcement from the CCC highlighted recent growth in the cannabis industry, which was made legal by voters in 2016. The adult-use market hit $1 billion in sales on Nov. 3, 2020 — nearly two years after the first stores opened — and then took less than a year to bring in the next $1 billion.
Legal sales began on Nov. 20, 2018, with two stores in operation, the news service reported. The first full calendar year, 2019, generated $444.9 million in gross sales. Last year, despite a two-month closure of adult-use retailers, 91 total retailers recorded $702 million in sales, the CCC said. The Bay State cannabis industry is on pace to do about $1.26 billion in sales in 2021.
Since 2018, the CCC has licensed 908 marijuana establishments in Massachusetts, including cultivators, product manufacturers, retailers, testing laboratories, couriers, and more. The commission has approved 165 retailers to open, and another 205 retailers are in the agency’s queue, it said.
The adult-use cannabis industry in Massachusetts included about 16,667 active employee registrations as of August, the CCC said. Of those, 35.4 percent identify as female and 64.1 percent identify as male; 72.4 percent of registered and proposed employees identify as white, 7.6 percent as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish, and 6 percent identify as Black or African American, the CCC said.
Unlike Island Time, Fine Fettle has had 65 percent of its customers come from the Island, according to Zachs.
Both businesses are significant employers. Island Time has a dozen employees, Rose said. At Fine Fettle the cultivation facility has five full-time employees, and could use 10, Zachs said. The dispensary employs another 11 people, he said. “I need more employees, if you could put the word out,” he said. The jobs pay $18 to $26 per hour, are year-round, and have benefits, he said.
Rose is happy with things, even though all the appointments aren’t being filled.
“Overall I’m pleased,” Rose said, adding with a laugh, “and I look to contribute to a greater portion of the $2 billion next year.”