AmeriCann has initiated preliminary site work on a nearly 1-million-square-foot cannabis greenhouse in Massachusetts. (Rendering courtesy of AmeriCann)

Massachusetts cannabis industry warns of “Colorado money” and “Pabst Blue Ribbon” weed

Every time he sees the cannabis cultivation and processing facility in southeastern Massachusetts, Peter Bernard says it makes his “New England blood boil.”

Bernard, president of the Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council, told state regulators on Monday that’s because the 1 million square foot facility is being funded by “Colorado money,” and he fears local residents could be shut out of the nascent industry.

A corporation in Colorado has raised $10 million in equity for the facility. The 52-acre site, zoned for medical marijuana, was once owned by the Boston Beer Company, which makes Sam Adams beer.

Bernard appeared before the five-member Cannabis Control Commission at the State House as the new state agency weighs creating the regulatory framework for the industry. Massachusetts voters endorsed broadly legalizing marijuana in 2016, while Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012.

Retail marijuana shops are set to open in July 2018. The new commission is also overseeing the state’s medical marijuana program.

Bernard said commissioners should seek to encourage “craft cooperatives” made up of Bay State residents through a limited liability company or limited liability partnership.

“A broad, commercialized cannabis industry in the Commonwealth would drive down retail prices dramatically, resulting in lost potential tax revenue and a monopolistic stranglehold on the market,” he said in his testimony. “Commercialization of cannabis cultivation will bring the Walmart of Weed to our Commonwealth, squeezing out opportunity for smaller and more skilled cultivators to take their rightful places in the industry.”

Regular marijuana users want higher quality cannabis, not the “Pabst Blue Ribbon” equivalent, he added.

“Craft cooperative grows will provide that top shelf product that commands a top shelf price, much like a fine bottle of wine commands a higher price than box wine. Only the tourists and occasional tokers will waste their money on Walmart Weed,” he said.

He suggested the commission create a tiered structure, ranging from a cooperative with three owners to one with seven owners. Anything beyond 15,000 square feet of grow space should be considered a commercial cultivation, he added.

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