It does not get much more independent than an island-based legal cannabis company, where 100% of the cultivating, processing, and even lab testing must occur in-house. The Green Lady Dispensary on Nantucket pioneered this approach when it became the first cannabis company in Massachusetts to operate on an island in the Atlantic Ocean.
“It’s weird being on an island,” said CFO Nicole Campbell. “We started construction on the building in 2018 on the island and it wasn’t something that anybody had done before.”
The Green Lady Dispensary became the 23rd adult use retail store to open in the state in August, 2019. The company is a family-owned business run by Campbell, her husband Rupert, and their two daughters Cleantha and Corbet.
Real estate on the island is scarce, but the family was eventually able to acquire an old dentist’s office that had conjoined apartments for its former employees. After that, they had to contend with the logistical challenge of getting all of the cultivation and manufacturing equipment their business needed to the island. This was often done through multiple shipping companies.
“It was the first time all of these individuals had done such a project and my contractor liked to joke that it was his first and his last. It was really tough. Most of the trucking companies do not come directly onto the island.”
Nantucket, which is located about 30 miles south of the Massachusetts’ southern shore, is a popular vacation destination, especially during summer months.
“There’s about approximately fifteen thousand people that live on the island, all year round,” said Campbell. “In the summer the population swells. Last year we had an all-time record of 80,000 people on the island for the month of July.”
The biggest challenge for island-based cannabis operators is that despite being legal under state law, transport over the ocean falls under federal law. This means, cannabis and cannabis products cannot legally be transported off the island, so all state-mandated lab testing must be done in house.
“We came up with methods for doing microbial testing, mycotoxin testing, cannabinoid testing, and heavy metal testing,” said Campbell, who noted that her company had to acquire its own equipment to perform liquid chromatography tests. “It’s very time-consuming, but obviously, it’s worthwhile because that’s part of legalization.”
Being on an island also means a retailer has to work harder to maintain a variety of products, since they cannot purchase anything wholesale from the mainland.
“We want a really robust menu. That’s one of our goals,” said Campbell, who explained that through their manufacturing arm, the company has focused on producing a variety of concentrates and edibles, including baked goods.
The company also dedicates time to test and develop separate flower strains.
“We can’t buy anything from the mainland and bring it over,” said Campbell.
In the short term, the company is waiting for the imminent start to Nantucket’s season. But beyond that, the company is eyeing an expansion onto the mainland, just west of Boston.
“We’re opening a second store in Newton,” said Campbell.
The Green Lady Dispensary, which was the first adult use dispensary to open on any of Massachusetts’ islands, is currently Nantucket’s sole source of legal cannabis. ACK Natural previously operated as a medical dispensary, but last fall the state’s Cannabis Control Commission shuttered the business over concerns with its testing.
There are currently three other cannabis companies operating on Martha’s Vineyard.