The Commonwealth Cannabis Company says it is on track for an expansion that will add at least 50 jobs, triple production and make it the largest family-operated and locally owned cannabis company in New England.
Owners say that increased medical marijuana sales during the coronavirus pandemic are the reason those expansion plans are still possible, despite losing about $2 million in roughly two months as the recreational marijuana market in Massachusetts was shut down.
CommCan, which is headquartered in Millis, is expanding on the second floor of its cultivation and production facility in Medway. That expansion will triple the output at the 60,000-square-foot facility, the company said.
For Ellen Rosenfeld, who owns CommCan with her brothers Marc and Jon, the expansion is positive news in what has turned out to be an extremely difficult year, she said.
“We are committed to this business and to our community, so we kept going with the expansion even though the adult-use program was shut down in mid-March. Increased sales through the medical program allowed us to pay our sub-contractors and keep on schedule,” Rosenfeld said.
Massachusetts was the only state with recreational marijuana to halt adult-use business as cases of the virus spread earlier this year. With recreational stores shuttered, the state Cannabis Control Commission saw a big increase in registrations of medical marijuana patients.
Those increased medical marijuana sales are what allowed CommCan to keep on schedule and pay sub-contractors, Rosenfeld said.
At its monthly meeting in June, the Cannabis Control Commission reported that the state’s medical marijuana program had 79,252 certified, active patients in the month of May. That’s up from 72,502 certified, active patients in April and 63,720 in March. During the pandemic, new medical patients were able to apply for a card through telehealth methods.
CommCan opened its dispensary in Millis last year, selling both recreational and medical marijuana. At its facility in Southborough, CommCan is medical only.
Rosenfeld said Southborough, which has been open since 2017, has an established base of medical patients. Though, sales did drop from about $100,000 per week down to about $60,000 last year when a ban on the sale of vape products in the state began in September. Sales stayed around $60,000 a week when 2020 began, Rosenfeld said.
But then, sales ticked up in March. At that time, as the seriousness of coronavirus started to set in, people started to stock up on products, trying to prepare for potential quarantine time at home. Some also anticipated that there would be retail shutdowns.
So, at the beginning of March, Southborough sales went up to $70,000 a week, and then to $90,000 a week, where sales remain now, Rosenfeld said.
In Millis, medical sales started at around $15,000 or $20,000 a week. But then in March, the Millis dispensary saw sales trend up just like in Southborough. Medical sales jumped up to $60,000 a week and then higher, Rosenfeld said. Then in May, sales reached $146,000 a week.
Between the two medical dispensaries, CommCan was bringing in $250,000 a week, allowing the company to continue its expansion.
“I didn’t count on it,” Rosenfeld said. “I figured $50,000 a week.”
Rosenfeld noted that the town of Medway allowed construction to continue during the pandemic. Not all towns and cities permitted construction during the pandemic.
“It’s been truly amazing considering that many other marijuana companies furloughed their employees and reduced their hours of operation. We have managed to grow our business and continue this expansion right through the pandemic,” Rosenfeld said.
CommCan was one of the recreational marijuana businesses to sue Gov. Charlie Baker over the coronavirus pandemic shutdown of adult-use sales. A judge ruled that Baker was acting constitutionally in shutting down the adult-use market, but opined that there were safe ways for recreational businesses to operate amid the pandemic.
Recreational stores had to close on March 24 and remained closed for two months. Now in Phase 2 of the state’s four-phase reopening plan, a limited number of customers can shop inside retail stores.
Since recreational stores reopened last month, the medical sales have continued, Rosenfeld said. The medical program is not subject to taxes as adult-use marijuana is, which means many of those new medical patients will likely not return to the adult-use market.
“Anybody who has a medical facility is a winner in this at the end,” Rosenfeld said.
With its expansion, CommCan said at least 50 new jobs will be created. The company already employs more than 90 people.
CommCan plans to request its occupancy permit in July and expects workers will be able to start planting new seeds by August in the expanded facility, the company said.
During the pandemic, CommCan has tried to be innovative. The company says it was the first dispensary to tape “X” marks on the floor to help customers keep a physical distance from one another. The company has also been using an FM transmitter to call customers for their purchase, also helping to keep people at a distance amid the pandemic.