Pennsylvania-based Ethos Cannabis has opened its first adult-use dispensary as it continues expansion along the East Coast.
The company’s store in Fitchburg, Mass., opened Oct. 31, and is Ethos’ second retail location in the state, following the July opening of a medical dispensary in Watertown, which operates under the Natural Selections brand and will transition to adult-use sales by the end of the year.
The Fitchburg dispensary is co-located with the company’s cultivation facility, and by the beginning of December, the store will carry Ethos’ own products in addition to third-party brands.
Ethos CEO Teddy Scott said expanding along the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions is a priority for the company for several different reasons, including the areas’ geographic proximity to Ethos’ home base in Philadelphia.
“We have operations in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts right now,” Scott told Cannabis Dispensary. “We want to be able to effectively manage at a high execution. It helps from a geography [standpoint] to be relatively close. You can drive there.”
In addition, Ethos aims to operate in tightly regulated markets, and Scott said Massachusetts fits this description well.
“A lot of businesses don’t like regulations because they make it harder to operate effectively in a cost-effective manner,” he said. “We actually like that … [because] it requires you to be able to execute with a high degree of quality and efficiency. … With us focusing on execution, we want to be in places where our competitors are also being required by their regulators to focus on execution.”
“If you look at the markets on the East Coast right now, they are ramping up very quickly,” Scott said. “They are transitioning from medical to adult-use, or if they are adult-use, it’s very early in the lifecycle of it, so once again, execution is going to be very critical to stake out what you’re doing. Massachusetts fits into that.”
A Focus on Health and Wellness
Ethos has always been rooted in the health and wellness aspects of cannabis, Scott said, which has helped the company bridge the gap between its medical and adult-use operations. The company’s main focus, he said, is making cannabis patients and consumers feel better, whether they are accessing cannabis through a medical or broader adult-use program.
Ethos and the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University have established a partnership under Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis research program, and the entities launched their first patient-facing clinical studies this past spring.
This medical focus was another reason Ethos was drawn to Massachusetts’ market, Scott said.
“Medical fundamentals are really important for us,” he said. “The Boston area is one of if not the leading biology/life sciences areas in the entire world, so that fits with our background, our underpinnings as a company.”
Ethos focuses on education, Scott said, to ensure that a customer selects a product that meets their expectations.
“They’re going to consume the product and have an effect, and our goal is for that effect to match that expectation, and that should be the same whether it’s a medical or an adult-use consumer,” he said.
A Vertically Integrated Experience
Co-locating the company’s first adult-use dispensary alongside its cultivation facility offers unique opportunities to Ethos’ staff and customers, Scott said.
The retail staff is able to spend time working alongside cultivation employees, helping to harvest, trim or package product. This experience helps them become more familiar with the product, which informs their interactions with patients and consumers in the dispensary.
“By having the dispensary on-site at the production facility, it allows the dispensary staff to talk at a much higher level of information and knowledge about the product than a standalone dispensary,” Scott said.
The cultivation team is also able to more easily interact with the dispensary’s clientele.
“A lot of consumers really like to talk to the people that are growing the plants and understand the methodologies, the types of growing conditions [and] how phenotypes are selected,” Scott said. “A lot of times, a retail staff member might not have that experience or knowledge, but by having [the facilities] co-located, we can have some of the production staff there certain days or times of the week as an added [source of] knowledge for the consumers.”
Positioning the dispensary alongside the grow facility will also help Ethos select new genetics, he added. The company plans to make various cannabis varieties available on a small-batch basis and assess their popularity with customers to inform their selection process.
“There are a lot of opportunities that are unique for the consumer to get better product, unique product [and] special product in a better, differentiated experience than in a standalone dispensary,” Scott said.
A Trusted Source of Cannabis
Ethos plans to open two additional locations in Massachusetts, one adult-use and one medical-only. As it works to launch these new dispensaries, Scott said the company is taking a multi-pronged approach to community engagement.
The Ethos team establishes relationships with local community board members, city council and the mayor’s office, as well as state-level leadership and healthcare systems, when it moves into a new area.
The stores’ general managers are responsible for not only the operations within the dispensaries, Scott said, but also for these kinds of community engagement efforts.
“How else can you serve the community unless you know the community and you’re engaging with them?” he said.
Once Ethos achieves its shorter-term goal of launching its four dispensaries in Massachusetts’ market, Scott said it will strive to continue providing a differentiated experience for its patients and consumers long-term.
“[It] might be a medical consumer [or] … a rec consumer, but they want to feel better, they want to incorporate cannabis into their lives, and we’re that trusted source,” Scott said. “They have a desire, they have a goal, but in order to achieve that, they have to have the right product. So, our goal is to be the leader of providing that differentiated experience for that consumer."