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  • Writer's pictureKarissa Schaefer

How local Mass. cannabis companies are expanding communities with their products

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

Over a century after Massachusetts put a marijuana prohibition in place in 1911, on December 15, 2016, the Bay State officially legalized recreational use for people over 21. It made history on November 20, 2018 when the first two east coast cannabis stores opened—Leicester’s Cultivate Holdings and Northampton's New England Treatment Access (NETA). Today, MA has around 250 cannabis retail stores, with just 11 located in Boston.

The city will need to approve over 50 more stores to meet a legal state minimum, paling in comparison to Boston’s roughly 1,400 liquor licenses, according to The Globe. Boston is no stranger to the local pub, but is it time for residents to ditch the hangover and familiarize themselves with the local pot shop instead?

Adam Terry, CEO and co-founder of THC-infused beverage company Cantrip, believes alcohol is more harmful than cannabis, so he hopes drinks like his help people find more healthy relationships with the substance they choose. As tobacco use steadily declines, more people are coming around to smoking marijuana; in 2022, Gallup reported 16% of Americans use cannabis, the first time it has surpassed cigarette use (11%). As Americans view marijuana far more positively—three in four adults find alcohol to have a negative societal effect—Terry combined his work experience as a bartender, budtender, and chemical engineer to create an accessible way for beginner and advanced consumers to use cannabis.

“The best way to increase cannabis use and possibly decrease alcohol use across the country is providing an easy alternative that is recognizable to consumers that they can reach for and understand—something faster acting than a traditional edible because of its water solubility,” Terry said. “I found beverages not only one of the more difficult things to do in cannabis correctly, but also one of the more flexible things you can do with taste, flavor, and different options to make your mark.”

Beverages are more popular amongst student populations, with ranges from 12-16% between ages 16-45, making up 1% of cannabis sales with over $27 million to date since December 2018. The estimated category growth sits near 54% between now and 2028, with the possibility of expanding into a $29 billion industry; MA has seen $4 billion in marijuana revenue since Nov. 2018. The state’s standard dose is 5mg per beverage, typically taking between 10-15 minutes to set in, and lasting around two hours.

Cantrip has sold about half a million cans to date, finding their average consumer to be young urban professionals and older baby boomers. Its products can be found in 60-80 dispensaries at any time—including Boston’s Watertown’s Ethos, Dorchester’s Pure Oasis, and Rooted In. Terry finds Boston cannabis better than people credit it for, being more potent and effective, straying a bit on the dry side. Through Cantrip, he’s focused on enhancing fun with friends.

“Because it’s distributed over an entire drink, you can decide how much you want and where to stop, as opposed to getting too high to a point of not being able to have a conversation or withdrawing into yourself,” Terry said. “That makes it a more social experience and one that you don’t have to pass around a joint for, not dealing with all the viruses. Small amounts, particularly with CBD, improved my socialization capabilities.”

Specializing in THC-infused gummies, Freshly Baked Company is a Taunton-based brand started by veterans, Philip Smith and Jenny Roseman, as an effective way to soothe their PTSD. Found in around 200 state retailers, their products are aimed towards anybody looking for relief from an ailment or chronic illness, complementary to the typical doctor visit. Executive Coordinator Gina Calitri, who is in charge of visual and field marketing, says cannabis is a great way to take control of the unavoidable, with the company there to provide instructional guidance—medicinally and recreationally.

“Having people understand [cannabis] and bringing products into the environment that people can buy knowing it’s not only reputable, but there’s explanations—that’s really special and leaves people who are hesitant or haven’t found the right product able to go search for it,” Calitri said. “The benefits are much more immense.”

Freshly Baked’s mission is to help other smaller companies expand with more craft growers and social equity programs (SEP), which is the key to shifting cannabis culture more positively. As the first state to mandate equity in its cannabis industry, the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) started the SEP to encourage and enable participation from those disproportionately harmed by prohibition enforcement. Smith is part of the newly created Social Equity Trust Fund Advisory Board, which will divvy grant money to up and coming social equity companies.

“We have a really strong desire to help the community, and because we’re veteran owned, Black owned, [and] woman owned, one huge thing for us is to help local organizations,” Calitri said. “Social equity is how every state makes this culture more open for everybody. It’s going to push forward a whole bunch of smaller growers, delivery companies, and dispensaries to be able to get into the industry easier.”

The company is heavily involved in fundraising for local organizations, like Taunton’s VFW. Every couple months, Freshly Baked does a new collaboration with organizations, creating a gummy specifically to dedicate a portion of the proceeds. They previously partnered with Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Pink Sunday, as well as for the winter holidays and The Purpose Locker.

CCC’s 2022 cannabis use survey reported edibles as the second most popular method of consumption at 61%, trailing behind flower at 73%. The possibilities and opportunities that cannabis products bring have changed for the better over the years, influencing the shifting story of marijuana coverage in the media. Cannabis publications—like DigBoston’s editor Chris Faraone’s Talking Joints Memo—loops the public in on all different forms of cannabis news, connecting with consumers and interested non-consumers.

The social climate of weed grows increasingly prevalent, especially amongst young adults. While alcohol may not go anywhere any time soon, weed is certainly making an effective cut into its popularity, especially since recreational businesses have allowed product variety and easy accessibility for the community.

“Weed has always been this common denominator,” Faraone said. “The science and things they’re able to do they’ve never even thought of before, crazy stuff. Socially, it creates a totally different environment. We’re getting places and it’s mind blowing.”


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