Construction is complete, crops are being grown, and the new medical marijuana dispensary in Georgetown is ready to open.
The residents may not know, but Georgetown is a little greener these days, at least across the Rowley Line in that old envelope factory.
Healthy Pharms is preparing to open its medical marijuana dispensary at 401 East Main St., complete with a cannabis cultivation facility. The store is scheduled to open at the beginning of May.
“It took us about six months to go through the planning documents and then we could start building. We broke ground last February, ”said Nathaniel, Executive Director and co-owner of Healthy Pharms Averill.
Access is strictly restricted. Patients must present their medical marijuana card at the door to enter the building and then register at a counter on the other side of the door.
“There is a registration form and a patient manual too,” Averill said as he went through the registration process. “There are teaching materials to be given [patients] the opportunity to discuss how best to treat their disease. “
And then it goes on to a waiting area. Patients can sit down and wait for a consultation or watch the display of samples of both herbal and edible products. This pharmacy part of the building ??? where are patients allowed to be? has an upscale yet relaxing atmosphere.
From the seed to the sale
The rest of the facility is for staff only, and that is where the products are made and grown. And the growing part is what took a while.
“The state requires us to start sowing so that the first batch will take a little longer than the others,” said Averill. “When you start with seeds there is a lot of genetic variability. Even if you buy all of the same strain from the same supplier, there is only natural variability and you will get different phenotypes.
“So we had to choose those that grow well under our conditions, have the best genetic profile, produce the best yields, or are disease-resistant,” said Averill. “So it takes about five months before the first harvest gets going. After that, we can produce a little faster.”
As in all agriculture, growing cannabis is a complicated science. Behind the softly lit, relaxing patient area lies a maze of sterile white laboratories and cultivation rooms covered in seas of green foliage.
At Healthy Pharms, Plants ?? what are female plants? grow in different rooms depending on the stage of development. Younger plants need a different type of lighting and a different light cycle than more mature plants.
In the younger stages of the plant, workers do something called lollipoping, which involves removing the lower leaves of a plant to increase airflow near the base of the plant, which is good when the plant is in bloom.
Later, different types of lights are used and alternated to give the plant the best flowering possible.
“Their bloom is triggered by the shortness of daylight,” said Averill. “When autumn comes, they know they need to get seeds in the ground. So let’s shorten the light cycle here and they start producing flowers. Of course we don’t have any males here, so do they? They don’t put their energy into seeds, they just put their energy into producing more flowers. “
And the flower is the product.
After they’re done growing, the plants are picked and hung up to dry for a few weeks. Then they are trimmed and taken to a special room to harden.
“This is great for our first batch,” said Averill as he looked around the drying room. “We have really very healthy plants. You start out with a lot of different strains and they have all these different sub-phenotypes, so you try to pick the best ones to go on with.”
A future in your free time?
A lot has happened to cannabis since Healthy Pharms first decided to open a store in Georgetown. Last November, Massachusetts voters approved a poll to legalize the recreational use and cultivation of cannabis. Legal sales are slated to begin next year.
This could open a whole new door for Healthy Pharms, but Averill said there are no firm plans to expand his facility for it? still.
“There will be some regulations for recreational pharmacies, but we don’t know what it is yet, so it was a confusing thing for us,” said Averill.
For example, it is not known whether recreational marijuana can be grown or sold in the same building as medical marijuana.
“We just don’t know what the rules are yet,” Averill shrugged. “So it’s a bit of a mystery to us.”
Selectmen’s board of directors has been considering a possible moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses, but the city’s hosting agreement with Healthy Pharms allows the company to pursue and allow recreational licensing when recreational sales are legalized ?? what was it?? and the Healthy Pharms facility has an entire warehouse of dead space that could be converted into recreational cannabis cultivation.
But while the details are still pending on Beacon Hill, Averill said he has no definitive plans.
“If we had to have another cultivation facility and another spending facility, it would be very difficult for us,” Averill said. “But [even] if we are allowed to stay in the same facility, there are many hurdles to overcome. We’d have to start a new business and I’m not sure how the two of them would work together and there would be different regulators. So there is a lot to find out. “