Cannabis businesses push for off-Island marijuana

State panel looks at fixing supply chain for medical marijuana.

The state Cannabis Control Commission heard from Islanders at the Oak Bluffs library about the need for legal marijuana access. —Eunki Seonwoo

Cannabis advocates and business owners urged the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission to change regulations to allow the transport of marijuana over state-controlled waterways to help patients on the Island.

Commissioners visited the Vineyard on Thursday to hear from stakeholders before making a decision on how to address the broken cannabis supply chain to the Island. 

The commission is considering whether to enact an emergency order to allow marijuana shipments across Vineyard Sound, where it is currently restricted by state and federal law. Marijuana is a controlled substance under federal law, and it is illegal to transport it on federal waters.

Since the closure of the only legal marijuana farm on the Island this spring, cannabis advocates told the commission, some medical marijuana patients have lost access to cannabis products, which are sometimes prescribed to ease problems like arthritis pain and anxiety.

Geoff Rose, owner of the dispensary Island Time in Vineyard Haven, said Dukes County has 234 medical marijuana patients, but the demand could triple during the busy summer season.

Rose filed a lawsuit last month in Suffolk County Superior Court with the Green Lady Dispensary on Nantucket against the commission. Adam Dimitri Fine, Rose’s attorney, said settlement negotiations are underway, but he declined to provide details. 

Representatives from local dispensaries Island Time and Fine Fettle said state regulations have made it difficult to conduct business and serve their customers. 

Fine Fettle was the only licensed marijuana grower on the Island, but it stopped production in April.

“We halted to cut costs, as we knew we were slowing down operations,” Benjamin Zachs, chief operating officer of Fine Fettle, told The Times. 

Island Time closed its doors on May 14, but could still reopen.

Chloe Loftfield, a general manager at Fine Fettle, and Rose said their businesses may completely cease operation after this summer without some form of relief. 

“Island residents and businesses will soon be entirely, completely cut off from access to legal cannabis products, both medical and adult-use,” Rose said. 

“We’re seeing our inventory levels drop every day,” John Hardin, a licensed budtender at Fine Fettle, said. He expects their supply of marijuana flowers to run out first.

Gabrielle Bisson, inventory manager for Fine Fettle, said the restrictions force the cannabis grower to test its own products with expensive in-house equipment, rather than through another source, and the store has to pay pricey “Island rent.” 

Bisson also said she is a medical marijuana patient, and does not want Vineyarders to lose access to medical marijuana. At this point, she noted, bringing marijuana to the Vineyard by air or sea is illegal.

“The idea that I would have to commit a crime to bring my medicine home is baffling to me,” Bisson said. 

The business owners complained that it is more expensive to operate a marijuana business on the Island than on the mainland. They also complained about the need for a $50,000 state license and regulations that require medical marijuana businesses to grow, cultivate, and sell their own marijuana products. 

“It’s simply not a sustainable business anymore,” Loftfield said. Fine Fettle is a medical marijuana dispensary, but Island Time has a recreational cannabis license, and does not grow its own marijuana. 

Dr. Terry Kriedman, who diagnoses and prescribes medical marijuana to patients on the Vineyard, said her patients will be forced to buy marijuana on the mainland if supplies are not available on the Island.

Some Vineyarders expressed concern that eliminating ready access to legal marijuana would turn some people toward the black market.

“I’ve actually had friends that have overdosed from fentanyl being in [cannabis] products. It’s scary,” Hannah Gonsalves, an Islander who takes cannabis products for anxiety and depression, said. Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid drug. 

She said her friends used legal cannabis products once they were available. 

Bruce Stebbins, a member of the commission, said after the meeting that the panel is trying to make sure the Vineyard’s medical marijuana patients are not cut off from their supply, and that dispensaries stay open. 

“We don’t want to see any licensee close,” he said. 

Some states have eased regulations to allow shipping of marijuana over water. For example, New York State has an exemption in its laws for transportation via ferries. 

“We want to come to a solution that makes sense for Massachusetts,” Commissioner Kimberly Roy told reporters. “That doesn’t say we have to recreate the wheel. If it’s something that’s been done and is effective and helps with access, then I think we should look at it.” 

The Biden administration has proposed reducing federal restrictions on marijuana by moving it from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug. It’s unclear when that may occur, but Roy said federal and state regulations would eventually “merge.”

About 25 people attended Thursday’s meeting at the Oak Bluffs library, and more than 100 others joined virtually via Microsoft Teams. The commission has scheduled another hearing on the matter on June 13 in Worcester. Written comments can be emailed to