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Medical Pot Dispensary, Region’s First, Opens Doors in Gardner

November 24, 2018

By Peter Jasinski

pjasinski@sentinel andenterprise.com

GARDNER -- Brett Johnson heard about it through the grapevine.

Arriving promptly at 10 a.m., he was first customer through the doors during Friday’s soft opening medical cannabis dispensary Sanctuary Medicinals.

When Johnson walked it, he was greeted by a team of client counselors and the benign sort of Muzak often heard in hotel lobbies.

He hadn’t planned on being the first person to legally buy marijuana in Gardner, but he was thrilled to have the honor.

“It feels cool, man,” the Gardner resident exclaimed minutes after making his purchase. “My brother’s friend mentioned to me that they were opening on the 23rd. I realized that was just in a couple days and I knew I had to check it out.”

The grand opening is still about a week away, but Sanctuary Medicinals on Pearson Boulevard is officially open for business in Gardner. Currently operating as a medical marijuana dispensary, it plans to expand to recreational sales early next year.

It’s the company’s first location to open in Massachusetts and the first dispensary of any kind to open in the tri-city area of Gardner, Leominster and Fitchburg.

“There are proposed dispensaries that will be opening in maybe the next year or so, but we will be the first dispensary in this area for a 20-mile radius,” said Sanctuary Medicinals CEO Jason Sidman.

“I think our products speak for themselves. I think with everything Sanctuary does, we really try to raise the bar, but I do believe being first in the market is an important aspect in any business,” said Sidman.

The dispensary is expecting total customer traffic of about 50 people a day for medicinal sales and about 100 daily for recreational. Medical customers will be given priority when the business expands, and they will also have access to product counselors that can walk them through what purchase might best suit them.

“I want to be able to help people with whatever it is that they’re going through,” said Brett Boyer, one of Sanctuary’s counselors.

Customers can buy cannabis on its own or marijuana-infused products like edibles or cannabis in capsule form.

At the start of Sanctuary’s first day open, Boyer said he was curious to see what products people will gravitate toward.

“Some things will definitely be new to people,” he said. “Most people are used to the flower or the edibles. I personally think the capsules are going to be a huge game changer.”

Sanctuary already has received a provisional certificate of registration through the state’s Cannabis Control Commission to conduct recreational sales. They’ll still have to undergo a state inspection and get a special permit through city officials before that can start, but Sidman said he expects recreational sales could begin as early as January.

Though the recent openings of other adult-use dispensaries in Leicester and Northampton have seen mobs of people descending on each town in the last few days, Sidman said he expects Sanctuary’s expansion into recreational sales will be smoother.

“I don’t expect to see a 6-hour line when we open. (With the other dispensaries) there was obviously a lot of build up going into that situation. Certainly a lot of customers wanted to be the first in the state, but I do expect us to be busy,” he said.

As for the neighbors who may be worried not just about the influx of customers but the idea of having marijuana sales in general, Sanctuary Medicinals’ President James Alex is assuring people that there is little to worry about.

“There’s a certain stigma attached to it as we all know, but as time goes on, people are more educated. And a big part of what we do here is education,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re a safe, secure facility.”

The facility itself is its own standalone building that was a cell phone store and a small bank before that. It has lots of on-site parking and a large parking lot at a nearby strip mall just a short walk down the street. There’s a Friendly’s immediately next door, a KFC two doors down, and a Wendy’s just down the street in the opposite direction. It’s also located immediately off Route 2.

Johnson said the location is ideal for him. He likes that the dispensary is only a 10-minute walk from his house.

“I’ve had my card six months and I’ve had to go up to Lowell, over to Ayer, and down to Leicester,” he said. “This is so much more convenient and I’m happy that it’s here.”

Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53

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