Cannabis on Cape Cod: A Fledgling Industry

For the moment, the Triple M medical cannabis facility in Mashpee, Massachusetts is the only cannabis dispensary on Cape Cod.

But that distinction is expected to change, as more companies look to establish both medicinal and recreational dispensaries on or near the Cape’s famous and lucrative shoreline.

A Very New England Dispensary

Compared with dispensaries in Colorado, California and other cannabis legal states, which attempt to create an experience for the consumer, the Triple M store is no-nonsense New England: very business-like and even Spartan in its appearance.

Patients are buzzed into the wood-framed building after displaying their medical cannabis cards. After a brief wait in a clean and comfortable but undecorated waiting room, where they can look at a menu of selections, they move into the equally bare-bones dispensary, chose their products, make their payment and depart.

Most transactions appear to take no more than a few minutes. And given the amount of customer traffic Triple M sees on a daily basis, this might be a good thing.

Renee Pannoni, general manager of Triple M’s Mashpee location, tells DOPE this particular facility serves 80 to 100 medical customers, on average, each day. At the same time, the facility turns away dozens of people who are looking for recreational cannabis.

“Huge demand for it,” she says, after telling a man at the door that they don’t sell adult-use. “And that’s just people that are coming, driving here. They are also calling; so that’s another couple of dozen too (every day), that [make that] call.”

Pannoni doesn’t consume cannabis but has been working in the industry for one-and-a-half years.

As a registered nurse “I saw the other side of things,” she says. “I saw a lot of people inquiring about medical and they were inquiring with their primary care (doctors). And they really weren’t getting the answers that they needed. And I knew that it was an up and coming field so I’m helping people, just in a different way.”

A Broad Demographic of Patients

Medical patients stop by Triple M to treat a variety of ailments with flower, edibles, tinctures and other cannabis products.

“I had back surgery a few-plus years ago, so I’d rather do (cannabis) than eat opiates,” laughs Jason, a 38-year-old school teacher who asked that only his first name be used.  He’s been consuming medical cannabis for about three years and came by to pick up an eighth of flower.

“I think three years ago, when I originally started this, there wasn’t really a lot of dispensaries at that time,” says 20-year-old Taylor. “Certainly none on the Cape and not a lot of research done into it.”

She uses cannabis flower at night and concentrates or vape pens “the rest of the time” to treat several mental health conditions.

“I’ve been prescribed Xanax and all that kind of stuff before,” she says while waiting to enter the dispensary, “but I just much prefer cannabis and natural ways of medicating than the ways that were offered to me.”

And Taylor says her family quite understands her using cannabis medicinally.

“My aunt is actually a medial patient as well and then my dad uses recreationally, which he has for years,” she notes, “so no one’s really had an issue with it.”

High Prices, High Demand

The biggest complaint among cannabis consumers in Massachusetts, for the most part, is the very high price of pot in the state.

“It’s one of those things too where I keep telling people practice patience, the pricing will come down eventually,” says Pannoni . “As more competition becomes available, everyone is going to have to start to lower their prices.”

Triple M’s Mashpee location opened in April of last year, and Jim Vaccaro, the company’s managing director, says he didn’t know what to expect.

“Truthfully I thought we were going to get people here who were going to scam the system,” he tells DOPE.

But that wasn’t the case.

“When we first opened up I literally had people hugging me, older people, saying thank you for opening, I don’t have to buy it on the street anymore,” he remembers.

Vaccaro says while the Mashpee store has a wide demographic of customers it also mirrors Cape Cod’s demographic, which skews older.

“And affluent too,” he adds. “The average purchase (in Mashpee) is $130.”

Frustration and Pent-up Expectations

While many New England states have legalized cannabis in some form, Vaccaro says there are a lot of pent-up expectations from both local and out-of-state consumers looking for both medical and recreational products.

“Looking at the license plates that are coming in here, asking if it’s adult use, there’s a lot of Connecticut and New York license plates,” he says. “There were six or seven turned away outside while I was waiting for you.”

Massachusetts only began selling recreational, adult-use cannabis this past November, and the state’s Cannabis Control Commission is approving new dispensaries across the Bay State. But there’s a lot of frustration about the current lack of dispensaries – which is forcing would-be consumers to drive hours and then wait hours more to make legal purchases.

As Renee Pannoni says, “It’s 2019; this should have happened many, many years ago. But it’s getting better, it’s getting better.”

Bruce Kennedy

Bruce is an award-winning communications professional and multi-media journalist who has years of experience in nearly all aspects of international and business news. He’s been covering the legal cannabis industry since 2010, and has written for a wide variety of U.S. and international news outlets.

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