Published: 2/3/2021 2:48:47 PM
COLRAIN — Now that it has secured a host community agreement with the Selectboard, New England Craft Cultivators is on track to start planting marijuana this spring at an outdoor cultivation facility on West Leyden Road.
This most recent agreement marks the fourth the Selectboard has entered with marijuana companies in town. Two of the other three agreements are tied to the same 108 West Leyden Road property that New England Craft Cultivators intends to use.
Wes Ritchie, Ture Turnbull and Matt Allen, founders of New England Craft Cultivators (NECC), held a community outreach meeting on Jan. 26 during which they outlined their plans to run a marijuana cultivation and product manufacturing facility with up to 100,000 square feet of canopy. The Selectboard then scheduled a special meeting for Friday, Jan. 29, where its members unanimously approved the host community agreement, potentially helping the company meet a state Cannabis Control Commission licensing deadline.
Town Administrator Kevin Fox said a vote was not anticipated in the first half of last week, and the special meeting was scheduled “to accommodate NECC once it was determined Tuesday that the agreement as drafted and subsequently amended was amenable to all parties as well as town counsel.” The agreement calls for the town to receive 3 percent of gross sales as the community impact fee.
Ritchie and Allen said they are grateful for the Selectboard’s cooperation.
“I’ve never seen a board move like this, it’s really encouraging. So thank you,” Ritchie said Friday. “It means a lot.”
During their community outreach meeting, Ritchie, Turnbull and Allen said New England Craft Cultivators is committed to partnering exclusively with locally owned small cultivators, small manufacturers and small businesses to bring “the highest quality, locally and sustainably grown craft cannabis products to the market.”
“By featuring small cannabis producers in our stores, we support family-run establishments while driving the development of a craft cannabis market in Massachusetts that will help local businesses thrive,” Allen said.
New England Craft Cultivators will be partnering with Dennis DePaolo of Twisted Family Farms. The 108 West Leyden Road site will grow cannabis to sell at New England Craft Cultivators’ dispensaries and other retail locations. Ritchie previously said the company is focused on two retail locations that have been approved to operate in Dracut and Pepperell. Construction in Dracut started on Jan. 14.
“We’re excited about growing cannabis in a community with a long tradition of family farming,” Allen said. “Dennis DePaolo’s extensive experience in cannabis cultivation and business development will be an asset to NECC as we seek to expand operations in Massachusetts.”
DePaolo was a founder of Berkshire Roots, a recreational and medical cannabis dispensary in Pittsfield, in 2014. Speaking during the community outreach meeting, DePaolo said he no longer has any professional involvement with Berkshire Roots after selling his shares in the company and removing himself as chief operating officer.
With more than 200 indoor cultivators in the state but only about 20 outdoor cultivators, Allen said this venture is in a unique position to show that outdoor marijuana cultivation can be more sustainable and energy efficient. Indoor cultivation uses more electricity due to the use of grow lights to stimulate the flowering process. Typically, the natural change in daylight causes marijuana grown outdoors to naturally flower once a year, in the fall.
New England Craft Cultivators will be developing a Tier 11 cultivation facility which, in accordance with state Cannabis Control Commission guidelines, allows for up to 100,000 square feet, or approximately 2 acres, of canopy. Cannabis will be harvested and cured on site before being transported to stores for packaging or shipped wholesale to other producers.
Allen said the site will adhere to local and state regulations, and go beyond “to be a good neighbor.” Being a cultivation site with likely fewer than 10 employees, and not a retail location, traffic and noise impact is expected to be negligible. Addressing security measures, Allen said the area will be surrounded by 10-foot fencing and monitored 24/7. The storage area for containing marijuana products will be securely locked and protected from entry, except for the actual time required to remove or replace marijuana.
“The truth is there is not really much of a chance of diversion from our cultivation sites in the first place because most of the cannabis being grown is not suited for consumption yet,” Allen explained. “Nonetheless, we have very serious security measures in place.”
In the instance that marijuana is stolen, New England Craft Cultivators’ security personnel will report the crime immediately to the Colrain Police Department. In addition to aiding police officers in their investigation, the security supervisor will then assess whether additional safeguards are necessary.
More information on New England Craft Cultivators and its partners, including the presentation from the Jan. 26 community outreach meeting, can be found at necraftcultivators.com/public-notice.
Zack DeLuca can be reached at email@example.com or 413-930-4579