Cannabis Retail In The Berkshires Is Open For Business This Summer

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PHOTO: Perfect Location: Right Off The Pike In The Town Of Lee, Cannabis Retail Shop Canna Provisions Is Now Open

A few weeks ago in early June, at Canna Provisions- a recreational only Cannabis retail shop- in Lee -"Gateway To The Berkshires" -Massachusetts, employees were scrambling around the interior of the store.

 After being singed in,  I was shown around by Meg Sanders, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Canna Provisions. We first looked at a chalk mural on the wall thanking various local businesses, including both the Lee Police and Fire Department. "The Lee Police Department has been very supportive of us from the beginning," Ms. Sanders said   

There was a stunning marble slab with the Canna Provisions navigator logo carved by a local mason hanging in the corner nearby. On the other side of the room sits the very desk of the old blind Judge James E. Hannon, who convicted Arlo Guthrie of loitering on November 28, 1965, thereby inadvertently blocking him from military service in Vietnam. Next to that is a large window of glass shelving with plush glass bongs, pipes and chillums blown locally by Witch Doctor which look like birch wood. Above Judge's Hannon's desk, strung high up close to the ceiling was a custom, wood kayak, On the main floor stand twelve antique jelly jar shelves fastened together from the back on six wheeled stands. These movable displays were carefully designed to help move foot traffic in and out of the shop at a quicker pace then their competitors. There was, of course, only one thing missing.

There was no bud!

That had been the case since April, the month Canna Provisions had originally planned to open, but painterly waited in a holding pattern to get the final green light to open the shop from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Cannabis Control Commisiion (CCC). . 

On June 28, there was light at the end of the tunnel- when the CCC finally told Canna Provisions they could open their doors July 5.

Ms. Sanders said she "respect(s) the process," yet was eager to finally open her doors to the public. They expect over a thousand customers a day to come in and out of their doors each day to purchase a broad array of cannabis recreational products including: flower; oils and other concentrates; vaporizer cartridges; pre-rolls, tinctures; topicals such as ointments and lotions; and an extensive line of edibles and baked goods. Canna Provisions also sells rolling papers, vaporizers and pens, pipes, grinders, screens, carrying cases and other related supplies.  

For many It is still hard to imagine 50 years after President Richard M. Nixon declared the nightmarish "War on Drugs," that recreational   cannabis is actually now legal in 10 states. 

And for the first summer season in the Berkshires,-where for decades- New Yorkers and others within the tri-state region have gone to escape the city swelter and go camping, canoeing, wine tasting or catch a show at Tanglewood can now purchase legal cannabis products for those same summer adventures. 

Before Canna Provisions opened this month in Lee, other cannabis retail shops opened in the Berkshires earlier in the year.  The first was Theory Wellness in Great Barrington on Jan. 11. Both Pittsfield's cannabis shops- Berkshire Roots (folks favorite shop in the Berkshires) and Temescal Wellness- opened a few days later in on Jan. 15. In April, Silver Therapeutics opened in Williamstown.  

After Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved legalizing cannabis on Nov. 4, 2016, it was expected that progressive towns like Great Barrington and Williamson along with economically depressed Pittsfield would move quickly on cannabis retail. 

But with the opening of Canna Provisions in Lee, it feels like a tipping point is starting to emerge- not just in Massachusetts or New England, but nationally. If a town like Lee, the capital of Normal-Rockwell-Americana, can open a cannabis shop with the full support of the town Police Dept. than it could theoretically happen anywhere in America. 

And to get the town of Lee into the end zone of cannabis retail, no one was better suited for that mission than Ms. Sanders and Erik Williams, Co-Founder and COO of Canna Provisions Group

As Canna Provisions CEO, Ms. Sanders oversees all operations, but has a particular passion for store design, customer service experience, and employee training.

Ms. Sanders is a cannabis industry pioneer who helped pave the way in Colorado, the birthplace of legalization. In 2010 she opened Mindful, one of Colorado’s first medical cannabis dispensaries, and was later appointed by the state’s governor to assist officials in developing retail cannabis regulations after the historic 2012 voter approval of adult-use cannabis.

As CEO of Mindful, Ms. Sanders went on to expand operations and grow the company into one of the most widely recognized and highly respected cannabis businesses in the country; it’s now a leading cannabis producer and infused product manufacturer with medical and retail dispensaries in Colorado and Illinois. She parlayed this experience into co-founding the consultancy Will & Way with her partner, Erik Williams, and has advised startups, government agencies, investors and institutions.

As a leader in the legal cannabis movement, Ms. Sanders has been featured on National Public Radio and in Rolling StoneThe New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, Le Monde60 MinutesDer Spiegel, and High Times. Prior to her cannabis ventures, Ms. Sanders worked for more than two decades in retail and nonprofit business leadership as well as managing financial compliance for private equity companies. A native of Texas, Meg currently lives in Connecticut with her family.  

Erik Williams is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Canna Provisions. He oversees facilities operations, store design, customer experience, merchandise, cultivation, extraction and marketing. 

Since 2012, Mr. Williams has been heavily involved in cannabis business operations and regulatory matters. As executive director of the Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Mr. Williams was instrumental in assisting state officials with the development of regulations for the state’s medical cannabis program and dispensaries. 

Mr. Williams went on to be a Founding Partner of Will & Way, a consulting firm specializing in cannabis business solutions that he operates with his partner, Meg Sanders. He has advised startups and government agencies about all levels of business, including operations, cultivation and compliance, among others. Previously, he held the role of National Director of Government and Public Affairs at Mindful, a leading multi-state cannabis producer and infused-product manufacturer with medical and retail dispensaries in Colorado and Illinois.

For the emerging Massachusetts cannabis market and the first Canna Provisions store opening in Lee, the duo has a new vision for the retail experience.

“People are looking for guidance around cannabis products, but too often dispensaries just don’t provide it,” Ms. Sanders said. “At Canna Provisions, we’re going beyond basic transactions and elevating the standard for cannabis customer service. We want to offer everyone who walks through our doors a thoughtfully curated experience.”

Canna Provisions claims they are the next generation of cannabis dispensary focusing on a  broad range of top-grade craft cannabis products that are locally sourced and thoughtfully produced.   

We want consumers to think of Canna Provisions as that trusted, go-to place where you can always find the best-quality provisions for your journey,” Mr. Williams said. “Additionally, our knowledgeable guides—like friendly forest rangers—arm you with all the info you need to enjoy a stress-free experience.”

To facilitate this next-level cannabis dispensary, Ms. Sanders and Mr. Williams assembled an experienced team of growers, extractors and production managers. While most customer-facing dispensary employees are colloquially known as budtenders, Canna Provisions sales-floor staff are called Guides. To deliver on their promise of sterling customer service, all Guides will complete three weeks of customer service training. Canna Provisions is also bringing local vendors in-house so that Guides learn about product offerings directly from the makers.

Canna Provisions will soon do its own cultivation and extraction, and is partnering with local craft and co-operative purveyors. “Our ultimate goal is to source selectively and locally,” Mr. Williams said. “We’re working with small businesses that might not be able to get licensed and operational without our help, so we can bring their unique products and stories to our customers. Canna Provisions will offer amazing product lines you won’t be able to get anywhere else. It’s a win for our patrons, small business owners across Massachusetts and economic development in our community.”

The Lee store, located at 220 Housatonic St. Operating hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m

Holyoke is the next city where Canna Provisions will operate; it’s one of several venues to come. 

 

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