A week after opening a recreational pharmacy in Wareham, Brockton’s In Good Health saw no drop in sales.
BROCKTON – As In Good Health continues to sell medical marijuana on Brockton’s West Side, a recreational weed shop has opened about 50 miles south in Wareham.
While Brockton Pharmacy plans to expand its business in the near future, they are waiting for a moratorium in town on recreational sales to end.
But a week after Verilife opened in Wareham, Brockton’s closest recreational facility, business owner David Noble said his Brockton sales were unaffected.
“The opening of the Wareham pharmacy had no impact on sales of In Good Health,” Noble told The Enterprise.
But he said he’s still looking forward to the time he can expand as a recreational pharmacy – which is getting closer and closer to reality.
About two weeks ago, Brockton City Council’s five-person regulations committee completed its work on passing two regulations related to the implementation of state-legalized recreational marijuana businesses.
The proposed city ordinances are now before the entire city council to pass, reject, or amend a series of three readings that are expected to be completed by the end of next month when a moratorium on state-legalized marijuana companies expires on 1/31.
“Good Health looks forward to serving recreational customers once the City of Brockton lifts its moratorium on recreational sales and the state Cannabis Control Commission grants a license,” said Noble.
The town’s medical marijuana permit holders, the yet-to-be-opened Commonwealth Alternative Care site in Brockton, and In Good Health, which has been open since 2015, could be the first to open for recreational sales.
Commonwealth Alternative Care officials at a recent meeting said their pharmacy and retail store in Brockton will open in about seven months, while Noble told The Enterprise earlier this year that it would take three or four months to add recreational sales once die City The council has ended the regulation process and ended the moratorium.
A similar dynamic that emerged during prohibition in 1920 – doctors could prescribe alcohol such as whiskey and brandy to patients for medicinal purposes – is playing out with the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Most of the states that now allow recreational marijuana – including Massachusetts – had first legalized medical marijuana. Doctors can now prescribe medical marijuana cards that give patients access to products in pharmacies, which are essentially marijuana dispensaries. And as with post-ban prescriptions, medical marijuana sales have been declining in other states where recreational marijuana sales have been legal for more than a year.
Unlike the medical alcohol market of the 1920s, however, marijuana advocates believe that access to cheaper, stronger marijuana products – along with a growing scientific community supporting its medicinal value – could help keep the medical marijuana market going well into the future to stay afloat.
“I believe the (recreational) market will grow the medical market,” said Angela Brown, co-founder and president of T. Bear Inc.
The Wareham-based marijuana products maker recently obtained a provisional license to buy marijuana from licensed growers, make marijuana products – such as concentrates and candies – and sell them to retailers.
The company is renovating an 8,000-square-foot facility on Cranberry Highway with the goal of opening this spring. Brown’s optimism about the future of the medical market is based on a number of indicators, including the increasing number of dispensaries – selling medical marijuana – that have opened since recreational marijuana was approved in 2016.
New rules also allow medical and recreational marijuana to be sold from the same building – from different outlets – which Brown believes will expand access to both branches of the marijuana industry.
“There won’t be this location restriction,” she added. “There will be a whole ecosystem.”
So far, the number of medical marijuana patients buying drugs in Massachusetts continues to grow. In November, 36,837 patients bought medical marijuana, more than double the 17,241 patients counted in November 2016, when recreational marijuana was approved by voters, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health data.
The uptrend could certainly change in the future considering retail sales first started in November. But even then, some patients may remain in the medical market for other reasons, including potency. The state limits the dosage that can be used in recreational marijuana products, which medicinal products cannot. Medical treatment may still be useful for patients with certain medical conditions or those who prefer a higher dose.
Economically, some can stick with medical marijuana, which does not tax products. The leisure market, on the other hand, is taxed at 20 percent.
“There is certainly an incentive not to pay taxes, which make up 20 percent of the price of the goods. That will be the main factor in keeping the medical market going, ”said Jim Borghesani, a marijuana advocate and spokesman for the Massachusetts Recreational Marijuana Legalization Campaign.
However, patients may still want to assess their individual needs before making a decision as the medical market also comes with a cost.
New patients applying for a health insurance card require a qualifying condition and approximately $ 200 to see a doctor who will approve the health insurance card. The cost to renew this card is $ 50 per year.
To make savings in the medical market, new patients would have to spend $ 1,000 on medical marijuana products in the first year. Twenty percent of $ 1,000 is equivalent to the $ 200 spent in the doctor’s office. Each year thereafter, medical patient savings would begin after the first $ 250 is spent.
How exactly this math will affect consumer behavior in the future is difficult to predict. The CCC, which took authority over the medical market in December, declined to comment on the story.
“There are some tangible benefits to the medical market, and I think you will see an increase in the number of people getting the card because they need it and can use it,” said Brown.
Company reporter Marc Larocque contributed to this report. Cody Shepard can be reached at email@example.com. Eli Sherman is an investigative and in-depth reporter for Wicked Local and GateHouse Media. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.