Board’s Grades Will Decide Who Can Score A Retail Marijuana License

By: Ed Maroney

Five companies are vying for two retail marijuana permits in Orleans. The select board will announce its choices June 2. PIXABAY PHOTO

ORLEANS Final grades for five applicants for two retail marijuana licenses are due in the town administrator’s office today (May 27). The marks given individually by the select board will be tallied and the successful candidates, plus a back-up, will be announced at the board’s June 2 meeting. The top two will then begin negotiations with the town on a host community agreement, an essential step in acquiring a state license.

After the board completed a second night of interviews with the applicants on May 18, Town Administrator John Kelly advised members to focus on the written responses to the town’s request for information (RFI) using criteria created by the board. “Because this is a competitive process,” he said, “the fact that you received letters of support should have no bearing on your decision-making… Your selection is based on those criteria.” That guarantees, he said, “a level playing field… Your obligation to the process is to be impartial.”

The criteria are fairly straightforward: quality and completeness of application; compliance with local bylaws; experience in the cannabis or similar industry; relevant business experience in Orleans and in Massachusetts; a sound preliminary business plan; strong employee training process; a sound preliminary security plan; a “safe and convenient” traffic and parking plan; commitment to youth safety, abuse prevention, and community education; and commitment to diversity and local hiring. Each criterion is scored from 0 to 10 points.

“I’ve already gone through an attempt to rank them myself,” Select Board Chair Kevin Galligan said. “This is tough. I think we’re all going to have to take the time to do this right. They all put in incredible, great presentations. They really did a lot of work.”

On March 17 and 18, the five applicants made short presentations to the board based on their RFI responses and then answered questions. Seaside Joint Venture touted its Cape ownership and long-term business plan starting with retail sales before eventually adding manufacturing, wholesale, and delivery services. The company projected $12 million in revenue in its first year, an amount select board member Cecil Newcomb said was higher than some other applicants’ figures. “If you’re coming down to the Cape today, this is probably one of the most convenient locations for adult use cannabis,” the company’s Tim McNamara said of the proposed Lots Hollow Road outlet. “Lots of Lower Cape folk have been doing a lot of shopping in Orleans anyway and would find this a convenient stop-off.”

Attorney Phil Silverman, representing Dune Wellness, noted its “combination of local ownership with industry expertise.” The company’s projection for first-year revenue is $2,646,000, then from $3 million to $5 million in the next few years. Newcomb asked whether the group was still interested in curbside service. Silverman said that option was looked at because of the pandemic, but “it has never been our intention to have that replace an in-store visit. I’m not sure that with the state of emergency ending June 15 that curbside pickup will be a reality anymore.”

As a social equity company, Strain LLC partner Blake Mensing told the board, the organization will have access to a courier license and the ability to provide wholesale delivery as well as retail sales from its location in Orleans. “We think delivery will be a little bit of a buffer against a seasonal dip,” he said. “You will get the tax revenue as well as vehicle excise tax for every vehicle registered in the town of Orleans, and there’s the dual effect of reducing potential traffic and parking issues.”

Ember Gardens CEO Shane Hyde described a company that’s very active in Massachusetts with applications for retail licenses and cultivation, manufacturing, and home delivery while also working with local partners, as in Orleans. Given the store’s proposed location on high-traffic Route 6A, select board member Mefford Runyon asked whether the company would design a curb cut that would prevent left-hand turns in and out. “I think that makes total sense,” Hyde said. Like all the applicants, Ember Gardens talked about contributions it would make to local organizations. Among those it specified was the Orleans Conservation Trust, which Galligan and Runyon serve as trustees. Both said they would withdraw from further negotiations and decisions about licensing if Ember Gardens advances.

Karen Nash, CEO of b\well, spoke of how her dispensary in Provincetown has been handling traffic at its location on Commercial Street, where parking is not allowed, and described plans to keep things moving at her proposed shop in Orleans. She’s opening a production facility as well in Provincetown, and would like to establish a delivery service based in Orleans in addition to the retail operation. Asked by Galligan if she’d looked into other locations such as vacant property at the nearby Skaket Corners complex, Nash said she had. “Going into the (empty) bank would have been perfect,” she said. “It already has a vault. The company did not want to lease to a marijuana company.” Other applicants spoke of similar responses at the location.

During public comment on the 17th, all five speakers supported Seaside Venture. “All five companies could probably operate a great little dispensary,” said Josh Stewart. “For me, location is key.” Seaside’s proposed location on Lots Hollow Road is “a great spot, with access through Route 6, Route 6A, Route 28 from Chatham and Harwich.”

This “is a tough decision for you guys,” Stewart told the board. “Don’t be afraid to pick only one. It might be interesting to see what happens with only one.”