“I can't actually smoke the strong pot that I make,” career stone mason Jon Piasecki admits. “It's too much for me.” But customers of a western Massachusetts' retail cannabis shop, Canna Provisions, will be able to take home some of Piasecki's more potent products, or any of the other strains this local craft grower has been brewing in his backyard for years.
Piasecki, 52, said he's been growing for a long time. Using his training in horticulture, and guided by an intimate passion for the cannabis plant, Piasecki has been breeding and cultivating strains for various ailments affecting himself, his friends, and his neighbors. He even breaks up his own rocks — “2,000 tons since 2010,” Piasecki told Weedmaps News — to source micronutrients for his grow media. “It provides a nice, wide spectrum — calcium, magnesium, mica, basalt — the plants really jump,” he explained.
In short, Piasecki knows how to grow cannabis really, really well in Massachusetts soil. And he's exactly the kind of local talent Canna Provisions is recruiting to offer customers products that aren't just unique and exclusive, but that have a story behind them. “They want to sell pot that this crazy man is making!” Piasecki said of Canna Provisions' co-owners and industry veterans Meg Sanders and Erik Williams.
Canna Provisions is set to open July 5, 2019, in Lee, Massachusetts. With the opening of their cannabis retail shop, Sanders and Williams see Massachusetts' emerging cannabis market as an opportunity to reimagine what it means to buy weed. And that starts not just with what the company puts on its shelves, but also with where, and especially who, those products come from.
Canna Provisions has reached out to people throughout the state — chocolatiers, bakers, and artisans of all stripes who are making incredible, thoughtful products Sanders and Williams love, but that aren't about cannabis. “These are successful, talented people who would likely never consider a move into the cannabis space on their own,” Williams told Weedmaps News.
But Canna Provisions is providing them with the experience and the resources to help bring them into the fast-growing marijuana industry. And that means the company's retailers will be able to offer customers cannabis-infused versions of local products they already enjoy and can't get anywhere else.
Canna Provisions is doing the same for local craft cultivators, many of who have been growing cannabis privately for years. “We're working with several small, local growers, all incredibly talented,” Williams said. “But that doesn't mean they know how to apply or do the paperwork.”
Piasecki, who holds two Ivy League degrees and is a registered landscape architect, described filling out the application for his 5,000 square foot outdoor grow as “daunting, the hardest thing I've ever had to do.” It took Piasecki two months to figure it out, and he says he couldn't have done it at all without the help of Canna Provisions.
Beyond the intensive application process itself, the cost of regulatory compliance keeps even experienced growers from considering an establishment of a business. Canna Provisions is working to help those farmers get over the hump. “We go in and give technical advice and other resources. And we pre-pay, we make a commitment to buy products,” Williams said. “That's just not done in the cannabis industry.”
One of those commitments is with the cannabis farmers cooperative FarmBug. Birthed out of the passage of Question 4 in 2016, when Massachusetts voters approved adult-use marijuana legalization, FarmBug advocates for producer-owned cooperatives in the Massachusetts cannabis industry. Sharing ownership of the co-op gives farmers and craft growers a fighting chance to enter the retail market.
As FarmBug founder Eric Schwartz explained, it can be tricky for cultivators to line up with retail companies as licenses come together. FarmBug's relationship with Canna Provisions helps both sides find a similar strategic path. “From a partnership standpoint, I like where Canna Provisions' head is at,” Schwartz told Weedmaps News. “They're bringing in brands and creating the right partnerships with companies in the cannabis space.” Schwartz thinks that's what Massachusetts' vertically integrated, industrial medical cannabis program was missing.
“FarmBug can't wait to explore those new business partnerships,” Schwartz said.
Creating an In-Store Experience
Building an adult-use recreational cannabis market in Massachusetts has always been a grassroots effort. And Canna Provisions said it wants to honor that with an in-store experience that respects the unique story behind each strain and product it sells. To follow through on that vision, all Canna Provisions sales floor staff, or “guides,” must complete three weeks of wide-ranging customer service training.
The goal “is to meet people where they come to us, whether first-time buyers or long-time consumers,” Sanders told Weedmaps News. The company says guides will provide a one-on-one or small-group experience for customers just starting to explore cannabis, customers “who really want to dig into terpene profiles, how the products are grown, infused, how they compare to other products,” Sanders said.
In preparation for its grand opening, Canna Provisions has invited some of its local business partners to deliver lectures to retail staff during their training.
One of those visits was from Piasecki, who said his talk delved into his deep love of cannabis, not just for its therapeutic, healing and mind-expanding effects, but also as an organism deeply embedded in human culture and history.
“Cannabis is a very alive, very organic, very human plant. That's what I spoke to the people at Canna Provisions about,” Piasecki said.
Feature image courtesy of Canna Provisions.