WAREHAM – As an already established medical marijuana dispensary on Main Street, Verilife became the first recreational use shop on the South Shore in December of 2018.
That was more than a year ago and while it is no longer the only retail marijuana dispensary on the South Shore, Verilife is still the only retail dispensary in Wareham. Two more shops are expected in coming months here in Wareham, and sites are now open in Bridgewater and New Bedford.
Given traveling distances, the Bridgewater and New Bedford dispensaries may not be competing for business that would otherwise go to Wareham, but the local market for retail marijuana may now be warming up.
“We welcome other dispensaries coming into the market,” said Shelley Stormo, the East Coast district manager for Verilife, which is a division of New York-based Pharmacannis. Pharmacannis is licensed in New York also, as well as Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and, of course, Massachusetts, to sell marijuana for medical use and in states that allow it, recreational use as well. So far, the recreational use is OK’d only in two of those states – Illinois and Massachusetts.
While much of the West – Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii – allow retail marijuana use, and Colorado, Michigan, Maine, Vermont and the District of Columbia are also on the list of places where it is legal to buy weed, there are still vast swaths of the country where that is not the case.
“We are about moving the industry forward,” said Stormo, on a busy Friday morning at the Main Street dispensary, which serves both medical and retail customers from a restored antique home. As a member of the marijuana industry lobbying group, the Commonwealth Dispensary Association, Stormo said that Verilife recognizes the introduction of both medical and recreational-use marijuana is still new to many communities and still stirs controversy. “We are not what people think. A lot of our customers are older people who are dealing with pain and medical issues, we have, in fact, a number of customers that came to us first for adult-use and are now medical-use clients.”
With her past career working in addiction recovery, Stormo said she sees marijuana as a “bridge for people to get off of more harmful drugs. It takes the brain a year to recover from addiction and marijuana provides a way to get there. I feel like in many ways, what I am doing now is helping more people out of addiction than when I was working in addiction recovery.”
Stormo said that Verilife welcomes the growth of the industry. “We may be competitors, but in this industry, we know that in many ways, we are working together,” she said.
Plus, with 800 to 1,300 customers per day in the summer months and 600 to 850 a day in the winter – just for retail – Verilife knows that it has a strong clientele base.
“We have great product, a large selection, great people working here, and we pride ourselves on providing that,” said Stormo.
With the initial hubbub around the retail end of the business opening, Stormo was concerned about medical patients getting into and out of the store – only medical patients are allowed in the tiny parking lot behind the store and retail customers need to park along Main Street or on Merchants Way, so the store offers delivery for medical customers.
“We want people to know that if they are not up for coming out to the store, there is an option, we can come to you,” she said. “That is always an option.”
There were problems with parking at the store – given the 112 Main St. location next door to the hospital – as soon as retail use was licensed there in December of 2018. First renting the off-season Water Wizz parking lot on Cranberry Highway and busing customers in, Verilife later wound up renting the Tremont Nail Factory parking lot and busing people in from there. That was a lot closer, but it was more complex logistically than the current system, which “is essentially street or town lot parking,” noted Stormo. “It has gotten easier to navigate the parking issue, significantly, since when we first started.”
Besse Park – which has a small parking lot and sits across the street from Verilife – is forbidden to Verilife-customer parking, and Verilife staff watch the lot “constantly,” said Stormo. But the need for police details on Main Street and near the dispensary “has cut down considerably since we first opened. We are in constant communication with the (Wareham) Police Department and they let us know what is needed, so we adjust accordingly – adding or subtracting details. But there is more of a flow to the business now.”
That being said, Stormo would “love more parking” and so Verilife has been on the hunt for a new location in Wareham. “We’ve been working with the town for over a year now on that front, but there is not much available that fits our needs right now. We are still looking.”
But the restaurants on Main Street, the picture-perfect view of the Wareham River and young families fishing in Besse Park “makes this a really wonderful place to work. It is a perfect picture of a New England town, and we get to see it every day. And this building is beautiful. This is a really nice place to be.”