CannaVana received its first shipment on Tuesday, one of the last steps before it an opens its doors and start selling.
ROCKLAND — The first recreational marijuana dispensary slated to open on the South Shore received its first shipment of product on Tuesday, putting it just weeks away from opening its doors to customers.
CannaVana owner Mario Chiuccariello, of Winchester, said he expects he will get approval from the state Cannabis Control Commission to open his doors in two weeks, but the process could take a little longer. He’s sure that there will be a real demand for recreational marijuana among South Shore residents as he opens a shop with little competition.
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The closest recreational shops are in Brockton and Plymouth. Quincy has a medical marijuana dispensary, but marijuana stores of all stripes have been slow to come to the South Shore. One medical marijuana dispensary is working its way through the special permit in process in Hull, while another combination grow house, dispensary and lab is struggling to even enter into negotiations with the town after a contentious board of selectmen hearing.
Quincy, Rockland, Marshfield, Plymouth, Abington and Halifax are the only South Shore towns were recreational marijuana sales are allowed, but most towns have yet to give the go-ahead to potential shop owners.
CannaVana started as a bit of a gamble for Chiuccariello, who bought the building on Weymouth Street in 2017 after selling his house and his auto mechanic business. He planned to open a medical marijuana dispensary after having positive experiences with a salve for a torn meniscus (cartilage in the knee), he said. He got a letter of support from the town in 2017 for a medical marijuana dispensary and started renovating the Rockland store in 2018.
Plans changed in 2019 after Rockland voters approved recreational sales. He negotiated a community host agreement, which dictates 3 percent of his gross proceeds will go to the town for five years. Although he has purchased land in Franknlin County and secured permits for a grow facility and a lab to extract oils, it takes a lot more money than he has now to build the grow house infrastructure.
Not growing his own marijuana, a plan initially considered for the Weymouth Street property but rejected partially on the basis of limited parking, means he cannot open a medical marijuana dispensary. Medical marijuana dispensaries must be partially vertically integrated businesses, which means the dispensary must grow and process its own products. But the same rules don’t apply to recreational stores.
Chiuccariello said he spent a lot of time crafting the customer experience, for both those who already know what they want and for those who are unsure. Goblets holding marijuana buds, intended to be inspected and smelled, fill the center of the dispensary. Before the coronavirus, customers were supposed to handle the goblets. Now, they will have to rely on printed cards in front of the examples explaining the product.
The coronavirus has also meant the regulations around marijuana sales have been relaxed, including the option of curbside pickup. Because the parking lot has a limited number of spaces, he has hired someone to develop a reservation program for smartphones that will enable customers to order online and be notified when their order is ready and tell them which parking space to use.
Preparing to accept the first shipment of marijuana on Tuesday also meant he had hire and train employees to work behind the eight registers and in the back, preparing orders. In all, he will employ 27 people.
When he got the call telling him he was approved to receive his first shipment, emotions flooded him, he said.
His wife, Ilda Chiuccariello, said in the seven years they have been together, she has never seen him cry.
“He had tears in his eyes,” she said.
Reporter Wheeler Cowperthwaite can be reached at email@example.com