The brand-new computers, minimalist modern decor and iPad check-in seem more akin to an Apple Store. But the security guard and the very slight sickly-sweet smell upon entering reveal the true nature of the new business on Main Street: It’s the region’s second marijuana dispensary and it celebrated its grand opening Wednesday.
“It’s surreal, to be honest,” Maura O’Brien, dispensary operations manager of Curaleaf, said of the opening at 425 Main St. “It’s amazing to work with the patients and be a part of their success … and it’s good timing that we’re here. It’s definitely an underserved area.”
Curaleaf operates a dispensary in Hanover and a state-of-the-art grow facility in Webster. It plans to open a third dispensary in Provincetown at the end of the summer. It opened its roughly 2,000-square-foot dispensary in Oxford on Saturday and held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday morning.
The facility joins Cultivate Holdings Inc., in Leicester, as the only medical marijuana dispensaries in Central Massachusetts, according to the Massachusetts Medical Use of Marijuana Program.
It is not the typical business opening on Main Street.
First, it takes two forms of identification to get inside – a government-issued photo ID and a medical marijuana ID card – both checked by a security guard and a receptionist.
Patients are allotted 10 ounces of marijuana every 60 days (although most come to pick up only an eighth of an ounce or an ounce at a time, O’Brien said) and an employee ensures that the patient is eligible to pick up their allotment before letting them into the facility.
Then the facility becomes like a doctor’s office.
New patients fill out paperwork in a small waiting room, receive information about cannabis, then proceed into a private consultation room, where they discuss their medical needs and treatment options.
“We make sure that any patient, regardless of their past experience, doesn’t have any questions about what they are using,” O’Brien said.
Finally, the new patient is ready for checkout. He or she can purchase everything from marijuana chocolates – in milk, dark and white varieties – to topical salves, cannabis accessories such as vaporizers, pipes and papers, and more than half a dozen strains of “flower.”
A follow-up call several days later ensures that patients’ questions are answered and comments about the patient experience is received, O’Brien said.
Oxford Selectman John G. Saad praised Curaleaf for negotiating a community host agreement that he said devotes a percentage of sales to the town and involves the business in community activities. He also was impressed with the business’ renovation of a building that he said had been an eyesore.
“Just like after Prohibition, when we issued alcohol permits and licenses, I can see this following the same path. It will be the norm in years to come,” Saad said. “So we may as well take advantage of it. And if these companies are willing to do a host agreement with the community so that the community can benefit, and we can benefit by issuances of licenses and permits and what have you and percentages of sales, I think it’s a benefit to everybody – not only the marijuana industry but also the communities who wish to participate.”
O’Brien said Curaleaf also is applying for a recreational marijuana license for the Oxford facility, and was working with town officials to ensure that zoning regulations going before town meeting would accommodate the business.
“It’s very fulfilling being here and being able to see patients improve their quality of life and do things that they weren’t able to do before cannabis,” O’Brien said. “If I can make somebody’s quality of life just a little bit better, it’s worth it.”