Category: Massachusetts Cannabis News

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Cannabis Industry NewsFrom Our WritersLegal IssuesMassachusetts Cannabis News

Former Fall River Mayor Facing 11-Yr Sentence for Cannabis Extortion

terry roston

Federal prosecutors are seeking an 11-year sentence for the former mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts after he was found guilty in May of extorting cannabis businesses, the Associated Press reports. Jasiel Correia, 29, was arrested in 2019 on charges of extortion and fraud and was ultimately found guilty on all of the 21 charges levied against him.

In court documents filed last week, prosecutors also asked a judge to order the former mayor to pay nearly $300,000 in restitution to investors and more than $20,000 to the IRS, and forfeit more than $560,000, the report says.

Correia has appealed the conviction and, following the May verdict, was confident he would win the challenge.

“There were no facts that were brought forward, there was no overwhelming evidence. Unfortunately, there was a couple things that didn’t go our way that were technical today and that’s where we’ll be on grounds for appeal and we’ll win that appeal and I will be vindicated, and my future will be very long and great.”Correia, following his conviction on May 16, 2020, via the New York Times

In the sentencing documents, prosecutors argued that Correia is “remorseless and without empathy for his victims.”

“The betrayal of people who considered him like family, the pervasive lying, cheating, stealing, and blame-shifting, and the egregious breaches of the public trust must be met with a sentence that thoroughly repudiates the defendant’s abhorrent conduct and deters both this defendant and others like him from doing it again,” prosecutors wrote in the documents.

Correia solicited bribes ranging from $75,000 to $250,000 in cash, campaign contributions, and other payments from cannabis industry operators. He also bilked investors in his app, SnoOwl, out of at least $360,000. He was first elected in 2015 at just 23-years-old. In 2019 he was both removed from his Massachusetts office and voted back in during a special election in March. He would ultimately lose his re-election bid in November 2019 to Paul Coogan.

Underground Dispensary
Author: TG Branfalt

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Cannabis Industry NewsDispensariesFrom Our WritersGrowing CannabisMassachusetts Cannabis NewsRetail

Cresco Acquires Vertically-Integrated Cultivate in Massachusetts

terry roston

Chicago, Illinois-based Cresco Labs last week completed its $90 million takeover of Massachusetts’ Cultivate. Charlie Bachtell, CEO and co-founder of Cresco said the deal “constitutes another important step” for the company as it deepens its “presence in large, attractive states like Massachusetts.”

“Expanding operations in the most strategic U.S. cannabis markets is at the heart of our growth strategy and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to show what can be achieved through a maximized footprint in Massachusetts. We have been thoroughly impressed with the Cultivate team and the quality of their operations. We look forward to a productive and efficient integration process to carry their historical strong momentum into the fourth quarter and beyond.”Bachtell in a press release

The acquisition gives Cresco approximately 42,000 square feet of flowering canopy, bringing its combined canopy in-state to about 64,000 square feet, the company said. Cresco also adds three operational dispensaries in Leicester, Framingham, and Worcester, bringing its combined retail storefronts in the state to four. Concurrent with closing, the company’s Fall River retail location has transitioned to medical sales only.

The deal was first announced in March. In addition to the $90 million price tag, the transaction includes an earnout up to $68 million. At that time, Bachtell said the industry was “at the precipice of a transformational moment” and that, once the deal was completed, Cresco would “immediately vault to a top 3 share position in Massachusetts,” adding that it is “the third $1B-plus cannabis market” where Cresco has achieved such a status.

Underground Dispensary
Author: TG Branfalt

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AdviceCannabis Industry NewsentrepreneursFrom Our WritersMassachusetts Cannabis NewsRecreational

Black Cannabis Entrepreneurs Bond Through Collaboration in Massachusetts

terry roston

Cannabis has always been about community. Some people assume that consuming cannabis makes one a loner, but the foundation of a smoke “sesh” is communal: a gathering of cannabis lovers, consuming lady cannabis together. In fact, many great bonds are made from cannabis smoke sessions including business talks and industry collaboration. For a magnificent example, see three Massachusetts cannabis business owners who became friends because of their shared admiration for cannabis and each other.

Meet Seun Adedeji, Ulysses Youngblood, and Reginald Stanfield

The journey into cannabis entrepreneurship isn’t easy, especially for the BIPOC community; however, Seun Adedeji, Ulysses Youngblood, and Reginald Stanfield all launched their cannabis businesses despite the industry’s murky waters. Seun and Reginald relocated and lived on-site to make their businesses launch. Ulysses leaned on his network to launch his business. Their journey, their struggle, their hustle is one that any aspiring cannabis entrepreneur can learn from.

NBC News recently covered black entrepreneurs struggling to enter the cannabis industry, reporting that “the numbers are disturbing. Less than a fifth of the people involved at an ownership or stake-holder level were people of color.”

And so, when black people in cannabis are accomplishing what seems to be the impossible, noise must be made and we must give these business owners recognition, especially when their mission in the cannabis industry is centered around community, passion for the plant, and passion for the people.

Seun Adedeji is the Founder and CEO of Elev8, a black-owned multi-state cannabis dispensary with locations in Oregon and Massachusetts. Seun is the youngest black man in America to own a cannabis dispensary. He says the mission at Elev8 is, “to elevate our community.”

Ulysses Youngblood is the Co-Founder and President of Major Bloom, the first black-owned manufacturing operator coupled with a retail and delivery license, located in Worcester, Massachusetts. When it comes to their company mission, Ulysses says, “innovation is at the core of Major Bloom.”

Reginald Stanfield is the CEO and Head Horticulturist of JustinCredible Cultivation, the first black-owned and licensed cultivation on the East Coast, located in Cummington, Massachusetts. Reginald says that the mission at JustinCredible Cultivation is, “to be a positive example to bigger commercial cultivators; keeping the integrity of the cultivation process while scaling.”

A fateful meeting

In a recent trip to Massachusetts, sponsored by JustinCredible Cultivation, I had the pleasure of visiting JustinCredible Cultivation in Cummington, Elev8 Cannabis Dispensary in Athol, and Major Bloom Cannabis Dispensary in Worcester; and the pleasure of spending time and space with cannabis business owners Seun, Ulysses, and Reginald. I was and still am so intrigued by their individual journeys, their businesses, and their friendship. I was intrigued by their individual journeys, their businesses, their friendship, and the way they collaborate and show up for each other, so I asked about how they first met.

Reginald: “I met Ulysses Youngblood through a newly formed organization that focuses on developing black- and brown-owned businesses in the cannabis space, The Block. Someone gave me Seun’s contact information. We had a great conversation then later met face to face, from there a brotherhood bond developed. Now he’s one of the only people I allow to call me at 9 am (LOL).”

Seun: “Reginald reached out and I’m glad I picked up. Our conversation was not forced and I could hear his sincerity and hustle; nothing was given to him and I connected with that right away. I heard of Ulysses in 2018 while lobbying for a license in the state of Massachusetts. His business partner was one of my attorneys/advisors (Lori, aka Big Mama). I finally met Young at the Block meeting, respect was mutual.”

Cannabis entrepreneurs Reginald Stanfield, Ulysses Youngblood, and Seun Adedeji pose together for a group photo.

Embracing unity and collaboration

A beautiful “no man left behind” sentiment has developed between these three cannabis business owners:

Ulysses: “Our relationships became solid after a local trade association attempted to repel equity provisions, by suing the state over the exclusive delivery license period. We all agreed not to join that trade association when they wanted to do damage control. Additionally, because we are not cultivators, our job is to narrate and share the story and power of creating products with the first black cultivator on the East Coast.”

Seun: “JustinCredible played a role in Elev8’s grand opening. There was a shortage of flower in the state of Massachusetts when we opened and JustinCredible came out, showed love, and made sure we were the first dispensary they sold their flower to. I also had the honor of going out and supporting Major Bloom for their grand opening which was amazing!”

15 tips for aspiring ganjapreneurs

Seun, Ulysses, and Reginald speak from a place of experience and sacrifice—there aren’t many cannabis business owners or CEOs that can talk about the building and launching of a cannabis brand from the same place as this trio. Seun made his dispensary his residence to save money and gave everything he could to the launch of Elev8. Reginald shared an RV with three other people to live onsite while working to build JustinCredible with the rest of the team.

The following 15 business tips come from their blood, sweat, tears, and passion:

  • Making a decision is better than procrastinating.
  • Be optimistic and it’s ok to have a subtle naiveté.
  • Get around those who inspire.
  • Understand your company values and hire people that meet them.
  • Motivate your team.
  • Find your strength and surround yourself with people that can complement your weaknesses.
  • Even with a small-scale cultivation, you need help to stay compliant.
  • Test for terpenes.
  • Be willing to become the COE (Chief of Everything) when you first start. As your company grows, be ready to take on the CEO position.
  • Win-win collaborations are the best.
  • Have a pirate mentality; get involved!
  • It’s ok to revise and update your business plan; even when you are operational, keep reviewing and updating.
  • Hoarding equity does not increase your overall company.
  • Raise money when you don’t need it.
  • It’s not a race, it’s a marathon.

Conclusion

The trio reports some great things coming up. Reginald states that JustinCredible is launching their lifetime strains next harvest. Ulysses says that Major Bloom will continue to carry JustinCredible flower, and bring unique products to the market like slow-burning blunts and infused pre-rolls. They are also working on an edibles chocolate line and a beverage line. Seun says that Elev8 has two additional dispensary openings in Massachusetts, making Elev8 Cannabis Dispensary the first minority-owned company to own and operate three dispensaries in the state.

Underground Dispensary
Author: Veronica Castillo

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Cannabis Industry NewsDispensariesFrom Our WritersLawsuitsMassachusetts Cannabis NewsMedical Cannabis

Massachusetts Dispensary Wins Right to Operate For-Profit Despite Local Laws

terry roston

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Monday ruled in favor of a cannabis business that it can operate as a for-profit business, Courthouse News reports. In the ruling, the justices determined that the state’s cannabis legalization law preempted the town of Mansfield’s bylaws which required cannabis dispensaries to operate as not-for-profits.

The dispensary owner, Ellen Rosenfield, started the medical cannabis dispensary prior to the state’s passage of the broad legalization law and in 2017 the state began allowing dispensaries to operate as for-profit ventures. The following year, Rosenfield converted her business to for-profit status, but neighboring businesses filed a lawsuit arguing that while state law had changed, the town’s bylaws had not.

“The Legislature evinced its clear intent to allow for-profit entities to distribute medical marijuana. This legislative purpose cannot be achieved in the face of [Mansfield’s] by-law on the same subject.” Massachusetts Judicial Supreme Court Ruling via Courthouse News

The court also rejected the town’s argument that under the state law medical cannabis dispensaries could only convert to for-profit status if their facilities were actively “engaged” in cannabis sales and that since Rosenfield’s business was in start-up mode at the time the state law was passed, she wasn’t “engaged” in sales.

The court ruled “engaged” means simply involved or occupied with and that “it hardly can be said that the plaintiffs were not ‘involved in’ and ‘occupied’ by the sale of marijuana, even though the dispensary is not yet operational.”

Rosenfield’s attorney, Jason Talerman of Mead, Talerman & Costa in Millis, told Courthouse News that, in the ruling, “the court is saying, ‘Let’s not throw up artificial barriers; let’s figure out how to manage it instead of just saying no.’”

All seven of the court’s justices were appointed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker who opposed the ballot initiative to legalize cannabis in dispensaries.

Underground Dispensary
Author: TG Branfalt

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EventsMassachusetts Cannabis NewsSpotlight

NECANN: Northeast B2B Cannabis Conventions

terry roston

In 2015, medical cannabis was legal in Massachusetts but dispensaries had yet to open. Simultaneously, the push for adult-use legalization was losing its momentum. The regulatory standstill frustrated the founders of NECANN, who were long-time believers in the power of cannabis medicine. Their first event in 2015 was Founder and President Marc Shepard’s response to these unfavorable conditions. Many attendees had their first cannabis business experience at those early conventions. Shepard believes that in helping lead the event space, NECANN has helped increase the pace of the cannabis industry’s development.

“We thought that having an event that educated people on the medicinal potential of cannabis and the fact that recreational cannabis was a serious, lucrative, professional industry would help regain momentum,” Shepard said.

NECANN has expanded throughout the Northeast since its inaugural event in Massachusetts. Each event draws regionally relevant presenters and exhibitors, and both the speakers and advertorial efforts focus on stimulating growth in the local cannabis community. Speaker tracks represent the multi-faceted industry, covering cultivation, extraction, ancillary businesses, and more. Rather than stacking the speaker tracks with exhibitors, speakers bring unique niche expertise.

NECANN actively works to recruit relevant, knowledgeable speakers, which creates a dynamic roster of lectures and conversations that differ from the sometimes canned cannabis convention speaking circuit. The first keynote was an impromptu speech from legendary sportscaster Bob Lobel, who walked in as an attendee. Shepard approached Lobel to see if he would be interested in speaking, and he delivered a keynote to hundreds of attendees. More recently, in 2019, Niambe McIntosh delivered the keynote on how social justice must be a guiding principle in the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry.

The insightful programming draws attendees who are equally interested in the exhibition floor. In addition, NECANN has built advertising opportunities that help exhibitors convert booth visits to sales. There are presenting and programming sponsorship opportunities that can be tailored to individual advertisers. The team, who understands that legalization efforts are often community-led, also donates 10% of the exhibit floor’s booth space to local activists and community leaders. Businesses who showcase on a NECANN floor will have the chance to meet local industry leaders, learn about the regional market and make lasting business connections.

For attendees, the draw is the proximity to education, career opportunities, and entrepreneurial ventures. NECANN ticket prices remain two to 10x lower than their competitors despite robust attendance. The affordability allows small businesses to gain a foothold through networking and education, creating a more diverse local industry.

“Cannabis is going to be a billion-dollar industry in this state — more than enough to go around. Our goal is to help make sure a fair share of it stays with local businesses & communities,” said Shepard. “Advocacy for access to affordable medicine and education for patients remain standard fixtures in the programming for all of our events, and medical-focused non-profits make up the majority of our donated booths.”

Lastly, while most states that legalize cannabis begin to prioritize the adult-use shops and producers, NECANN knows that this regulatory swing left many patients behind without their trusted products, support, and familiar dispensaries. Therefore, both the speaker and advertising content are structured around keeping the patients in mind, which will hopefully carry over into the legalized state economies. The NECANN team will focus on this positive impact as they continue expanding into newly legalized medical and adult-use states.

Since its founding, NECANN has grown alongside many U.S. cannabis businesses while maintaining its foundations of building local businesses and preserving medical cannabis. To learn more about exhibiting or attending the upcoming NECANN events in the Northeast, visit NECANN.com.

Underground Dispensary
Author: Cara Wietstock

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