MA: Bourne Cannabis Group Tours Plymouth Marijuana Shop

Photo Credit: Brian A Pounds

Bourne Assistant Town Planner Jennifer Copeland arrived at Triple M, Plymouth’s medical marijuana facility, Wednesday afternoon, June 6, for a tour of the company’s operations. Walking from the parking lot to the building she was immediately struck by the absence of something that many opposed to cannabis shops point out as a possible problem with such a business.

“There’s no odor,” she said.

Ms. Copeland noted that odor pollution, the aroma of marijuana coming from the cannabis plants, has frequently been a problem cited by opponents of the industry. No such scent was evident, however, standing directly outside the company’s complex.

With Bourne facing the very distinct prospect of a similar operation coming to town, Ms. Copeland and other members of the Bourne Cannabis Working Group toured the facility this week. The group has been tasked with gathering information and making recommendations to the Bourne Board of Selectmen regarding such issues as zoning and taxation for marijuana establishments in Bourne.

Walking into Triple M’s lobby, one wall features the company’s logo of a green circle with the letter M in the middle. Another wall features a copy of a Jackson Pollock painting. The artist’s work, which features frenetic splashes of harsh color bursting across the canvas suggests entrapment in an anxious mind and body. The painting’s placement in the lobby seems a reflection of some of the conditions that the company seeks to alleviate with its products—pain, anxiety, and discord.

“Cannabis is really good for sleep problems. It’s quite good for pain. It’s also good for people that have spasticity issues, like people who have MS [multiple sclerosis] or people that have epilepsy,” said Keith H. Tibbetts, Triple M’s director of processing.

Mr. Tibbetts oversees manufacturing of the company’s non-smokeable products, such as marijuana-infused lozenges and oils. He took issue with the perception that cannabis feeds the opioid crisis and is a gateway drug that leads to addiction to harder substances. He cited clinical studies showing that cannabis can actually help people stop using opiates, such as heroin.

“Fifty percent of the people who tried and used cannabis to get off opiates are successful. They’re completely off opioids,” he said.

Triple M opened its facility on Collins Avenue in Plymouth’s industrial park area back in February. The company’s operations include the sale of medical marijuana, as well as the cultivation of marijuana plants, and the manufacture of medicinal products, including ointments, salves, and edibles. The company is awaiting state approval of its license to sell recreational marijuana.

Bourne currently has a moratorium on recreational marijuana sales that is in place until the end of November. At Special Town Meeting in late March, residents voted not to adopt a zoning bylaw and a general bylaw that would have prevented recreational marijuana sales in Bourne. With the moratorium coming to an end in November, selectmen are looking to address issues on adult use marijuana sales with articles to be presented during Special Town Meeting in October.

Group members who took part in the tour this week include George G. Slade, William F. Grant, Richard W. Conron, Robert O. Wheeler and Ms. Copeland. Triple M Chief Operating Officer Kevin R. O’Reilly and director of security Joseph Flaherty met with the group and offered looks inside the company security systems, retail store, cultivation rooms, and manufacturing lab.

Mr. O’Reilly said that state regulations as outlined by the Cannabis Control Commission require that Triple M keep track of its products “from seed to sale.” The phrase is somewhat inaccurate as the company no longer uses seeds to grow plants. Instead, cuttings are taken from mature plants to grow new plants, or “clones,” he said.

Each plant is assigned a bar code, and any product that is made from that plant—a pre-rolled joint, a lozenge, or cannabis-infused honey—is given that same bar code, which is registered at the point of sale. The products and bar codes are all tracked through a computer software system known as “Leaf Logic,” one of several such programs. It is all part of the state’s efforts to carefully monitor the emerging marijuana industry, Mr. O’Reilly said.

“They want to make sure that the product is going out the door, it’s been sold, and that somebody didn’t stick it into their pocket,” he said.

Entry to the facility is via a gated guardhouse. A patient must show a state-approved medical marijuana card to gain entrance. Inside the foyer, patients sign in before being admitted to the lobby and eventually the dispensary.

The facility’s security system features 72 cameras throughout the building that record activity 24 hours a day. Mr. Flaherty said cameras monitor people who arrive to make purchases, as well as all the rooms where employees are working. Cameras are not tied into monitoring systems at the Plymouth Police Department. However, any issues at Triple M are caught on camera and can be immediately referred to the police.

“We can record it all, put it all on a thumb drive, and if we have an issue, give it to the police,” he said.

Transactions can be made either through cash or debit card. Credit cards are not accepted because the federal government still lists the sale of marijuana as a crime. Once a sale is made, patients must leave through a separate exit from where they entered. That was a suggestion made by Plymouth Police Chief Michael E. Boteiri, Mr. O’Reilly said.

Triple M also operates the medical marijuana establishment in Mashpee, and product for both facilities is grown at the company’s Plymouth plant.

Asked about the financial benefit Triple M’s operation is to the Town of Plymouth, Mr. O’Reilly said that the host community agreement calls for an annual payment of $100,000, twice the property tax of $50,000. That is just for operating the cultivation facility.

For the medical marijuana dispensary, there is a graduated payment schedule, he said. When Triple M was issued its zoning permit in 2016, the company paid the town $20,000. When they received their building permit in 2017, they paid $40,000. Having opened this year, they now pay another $100,000 annually, which escalates at three percent a year, just for the medical side, he said.

“Right off the bat, they’re making $200,000 off us from medical before we even start any of the recreational sales,” he said.

Similar to Bourne, Plymouth has a moratorium in place through the end of this year on the sale of recreational marijuana. Triple M plans to expand into recreational sales after that, Mr. O’Reilly said. Toward that end, the host community agreement has been amended to include the three percent tax on recreational marijuana allowed by the Cannabis Control Commission regulations.

The company has already submitted an application to the state for a sales permit. He said that Triple M should be one of the first dozen companies in the state to offer recreational marijuana sales, and “for the first year, the town’s going to do pretty well off us.”

“Hopefully, the town’s going to make half a million dollars off [recreational] sales off us, because we’re going to be selling a lot of product,” he said.

The other benefit Mr. O’Reilly pointed out comes from the number of jobs the company offers. He said that, at present, there are 22 people working for Triple M. Those include management, sales staff, and cultivation and manufacturing employees. When the company expands to include recreational sales, the staff is expected to expand to roughly 70 to 80 people, he said.

“I used to run the chamber of commerce in Plymouth, so for me, it’s like, I want to be local, I want to hire local, I want to use local. I don’t want people from out of state coming in and taking advantage of the industry here,” he said.

Members of the Bourne group asked about the illegal sales of marijuana, the so-called black market, and what kind of issues it poses for Triple M. Mr. Flaherty said there will always be a black market for young people, who cannot buy at a licensed facility like Triple M. Adults, however, will prefer Triple M, or similar operations, because of the purity of the product, as opposed to what is available on the street.

“You don’t know what you’re getting. There’s pesticides, mold, mildew,” he said.

Strict testing requirements have been put in place by the Cannabis Control Commission to ensure the product’s safety and purity, he said.

Group members at their meeting later that night said they came away from the tour impressed with Triple M’s operation.

Mr. Conron said he liked the coordination between Triple M and Plymouth police in designing the facility’s security system.

Mr. Grant mentioned the measures taken by Triple M to ensure the safety of its products versus the black market. He also pointed out that, in his estimation, multi-use facilities, such as Triple M that encompass medical and recreational marijuana, along with cultivation and manufacture, “are the future of the industry.”

Mr. Conron suggested that each member who took part in the tour write a report containing thoughts and impressions, as well as recommendations, based on their observations. The group agreed and decided that the reports will be finished and compiled by group chairman Dominique Rapoza in time for presentation to the full group at its next meeting, scheduled for Monday, June 11, at 7 PM in the professional library at Bourne High School.