While everyday challenges are commonplace for businesses in the federally illegal cannabis industry, The Green Lady Dispensary has perhaps had to clear more than its fair share of hurdles in its roughly 18 months of existence, although the vertically integrated company has found a way to thrive in the tourist destination of Nantucket, Mass.
“It was quite a year,” owner Nicole Campbell tells Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary, referencing not only the COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted so many businesses, but also Massachusetts’ vape quarantine.
The Green Lady launched into the state’s adult-use cannabis market August 2019, and could be open by appointment only during those first few months. The company’s retail store celebrated a soft opening at the end of the tourist season, and a month later, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker instituted a four-month ban on vape sales statewide in response to the outbreak of vaping-related lung illness that shook the nation that summer.
Still reeling from that setback, The Green Lady then had to shut down for nearly two months at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, when adult-use cannabis businesses were not declared essential during Massachusetts’ coronavirus-related shutdowns.
“It was a really rough time,” Campbell says. “Even when we got to finally open back up, which I think was May 25, … June was still soft because people didn’t know what to do with themselves with COVID. They didn’t know, ‘Should I go somewhere? Should I stay home? What should I do?’”
Although business started to pick up in July and August, The Green Lady was still sorting through the vape ban. It took the company roughly six months longer than the state’s other cannabis retailers to get vape cartridges back on its shelves, Campbell says, due to its location on the island.
Finding the Silver Lining
Despite all of these challenges, Campbell says there is a lot to be happy about as The Green Lady heads into 2021 and its second full tourist season.
“One thing I have to say is I’m so proud of all of our retail workers and how hard they work,” she says. “They are so diligent.”
The company installed plastic barriers at the counters in its dispensary to help separate retail staff from customers during the ongoing pandemic, and lines have been drawn on the ground to promote social distancing. The staff wears masks and gloves, and cleans and sanitizes high-touch surfaces in the dispensary regularly.
Massachusetts has allowed cannabis retailers to offer curbside pickup during the pandemic, and Campbell says many of The Green Lady’s customers took advantage of curbside services last summer.
Its location in a tourist destination allows The Green Lady to be many visitors’ first experience with legal cannabis, Campbell adds, which is a responsibility that the company doesn’t take lightly.
“All of our budtenders in our retail store really take it seriously that they are the first opportunity for so many people to purchase cannabis legally,” she says. “People come from all these states, … and I think that’s one of the best parts of this job, is just getting to meet all different kinds of people.”
“Nobody leaves Nantucket without a T-shirt that says ‘Nantucket.' Now, they can buy T-shirts that say ‘The Green Lady Nantucket.’"
- Nicole Campbell, owner, The Green Lady Dispensary
Customer education is an important component of The Green Lady’s business, Campbell says, and the company is currently creating videos to educate its customers on vertical integration and The Green Lady’s craft approach to cannabis.
“We craft cultivate all of our own cannabis here, right on site,” she says. “We hand-trim everything. We have a very close-knit group of people, so the retail [staff] will go over into the trim room and talk to them about what kind of flower they want to put on the floor. Do they want to have some indica? Do they want to have some lower THC or CBD [products]? It’s just very intimate and hand-crafted.”
The Green Lady has an on-site kitchen where it handmakes its edible products, which include fresh-baked brownies and chocolate chip cookies.
“It’s really special to be able to get these fresh-baked, handmade products,” Campbell says. “I’ve eaten a lot of edibles in other states, and they’re trying to manufacture products that go wholesale to many different stores, so they don’t have that right-out-of-the-oven taste.”
Edibles were very popular at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she adds, speculating that perhaps customers wanted to smoke less due to the respiratory concerns associated with the coronavirus.
Better Days Ahead
The Green Lady currently holds cultivation, product manufacturing and retail licenses in Massachusetts’ adult-use market, and is working to add medical licenses to its portfolio to better serve the state’s patient base.
The state allows patients enrolled in the medical cannabis program to use telemedicine for their appointments, which Campbell says is increasing patient access, especially on Nantucket.
Massachusetts also recently passed new regulations that allow cannabis businesses to sell merchandise.
“Nobody leaves Nantucket without a T-shirt that says ‘Nantucket,’” Campbell says. “Now, they can buy T-shirts that say ‘The Green Lady Nantucket.’ We’re very excited about being able to sell hats and T-shirts. They have very specific rules. … You can promote your company, but you can’t promote cannabis or cannabis use.”
Looking ahead, Campbell hopes Nanucket will have more of a traditional tourist season this summer as the pandemic hopefully gets under control in the coming months.
“I really hope that this summer can be more of a normal summer for Nantucket, not just for us, but for all the companies on the island that are struggling or are having a hard time,” she says. “It’s hard on restaurants. It’s hard on shops. … I’m really hoping it’ll be a normal summer, and if it is, we can participate in that and have more events ourselves. I’m just hoping that things can go back to normal on the island and people can come back out here and enjoy themselves the way they usually plan their vacation or their trip.”
In the longer-term, Campbell is also keeping her eye on policy reform efforts at the federal level, especially since President Joe Biden has taken office and the Democrats have taken control of Congress.
“I’m hoping that this next year, or over the next four years, that some positive cannabis legislation goes through,” she says. “I think this is the best scenario going forward for some positive regulation changes to be enacted. I’m really hopeful about that, but I don’t know if they’re going to do it right away. I think they’ve got their hands full at the moment, but they could put some positive bills through and some of those bills could be positive for The Green Lady. Maybe one day, we can ship cannabis on or off the island.”