Martha’s Vineyard dispensaries are running out of pot due to state regulations, prompting local people to file lawsuits

US news

VINEYARD HAVEN, Mass. (AP) – An 81-year-old Martha’s Vineyard woman came to the Island Time dispensary last week looking for a regular order of pot.

But owner Geoff Rose had to tell her the cupboard was empty – three weeks earlier he had been forced to temporarily close the shop after selling the last of his buds and gummies.

If nothing changes, the island’s only cannabis dispensary will have sold all remaining supplies by September at the latest, and Martha’s Vineyard will be completely out of marijuana, affecting more than 230 registered medical users and thousands of other recreational users.

Island Time Dispensary is one of the Martha’s Vineyard dispensaries that is experiencing a supply shortage. AP

The problem is the location.

Although Massachusetts voters voted to legalize marijuana more than seven years ago, the state Cannabis Control Commission has taken the position that transporting marijuana across the ocean – whether by boat or plane – poses a risk of violating federal law.

This is despite the counter-argument that there are routes to Martha’s Vineyard that remain entirely within the state’s territorial waters.

The conundrum prompted Rose to file a lawsuit last month against the commission, which now says it has made finding a solution to the island’s pot problem a top priority. Three of the five commissioners visited Martha’s Vineyard on Thursday to hear directly from affected residents.

Tension between conflicting state and federal laws spread across the country as states legalized marijuana. For example, California law specifically allows the transportation of cannabis to stores on Catalina Island, while Hawaii last year addressed difficulties in shipping medical marijuana between islands by changing the law to allow it.

Federal authorities are also changing their position. Last month, the Justice Department decided to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, although it is still not legal for recreational use.

For several years, sellers on Martha’s Vineyard and nearby Nantucket thought they had a solution. They grew and tested their own pot, eliminating the need to import any from overseas.

Tensions between conflicting state and federal laws have increased as lawmakers try to find solutions. AP

But Fine Fettle, a Connecticut-based company that was the only commercial grower on Martha’s Vineyard and also operates a second dispensary on the island, told Rose last year that it planned to stop growing marijuana on Martha’s Vineyard and would close its store when supplies ran out. ran out.

Benjamin Zachs, who heads Fine Fettle’s Massachusetts branch, said that when the company opened on Martha’s Vineyard, it knew it was illegal to transport marijuana in federal waterways.

“Honestly, when it started, we thought it was good for business,” Zachs said. “Busy market.”

But over time, marijuana became cheaper and offered more diverse options on the Massachusetts mainland, while the cost of hiring testers on the island increased, making it unprofitable to continue such a niche business, Zachs said. He added that many people bring their own supplies to the ferry.

Fine Fettle is the only commercial breeder on Martha’s Vineyard. AP

However, for island residents, taking the ferry to buy weed can be expensive and time-consuming. There is no clinic in Woods Hole, where the ferry arrives, so they either have to Uber there or bring a car, and vehicle spaces are in high demand in the summer. This leaves medical users like Sally Rizzo wondering how they will gain access to marijuana. She believes the drug helps alleviate her back problems and insomnia.

“The nice thing about buying a drug from a pharmacy is you can tell them specifically what you’re looking for, know the milligrams, the strength and what’s in the drug,” said Rizzo, who filed an affidavit in Rose’s lawsuit.

Rose, 77, has lived on Martha’s Vineyard for more than 20 years and opened her store, Island Time, three years ago. For now, five core staff remain on the payroll. The green pharmacy logo looks like a hippie version of the famous Starbucks emblem, with a relaxed woman smelling a flower beneath the words “Stop and Smell the Flower.” But these days, Rose is anything but relaxed.

Island Time dispensary owner Geoff Rose says he is keeping five core staff on the payroll for now. AP

“I am on the verge of quitting,” he said. “While I appreciate the committee’s efforts to resolve this issue, I truly felt the only way to get immediate relief was to file a lawsuit. I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines. I had to do something.”

Rose was joined in his lawsuit by the Green Lady dispensary in Nantucket, which still has its own supplies for now but is struggling with the same high costs of on-site testing.

In the lawsuit, Rose describes telling the commission in November that his company was facing an existential crisis because Fine Fettle would no longer grow pot. In March, he took a risk by buying weed on the continent and transporting it by ferry.

“I’m on the verge of going out of business,” said Rose, who left. AP

However, the Commission ordered Rose to stop selling the product he had sent, and his shipment was therefore administratively suspended. The commission finally released the marijuana a few weeks later, but told Rose it could no longer ship it. In her lawsuit, Rose complains about the commission’s “arbitrary, unreasonable and inconsistent policy regarding transportation through the state’s territorial waters.”

Island Time is represented by Vicente, a firm specializing in cannabis matters. She agreed to postpone issuing an emergency order against the commission until June 12, after the commission said it would begin settlement talks.

“We are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to reach a resolution, but if we do not, we will be prepared to present our arguments in court,” said Vicente attorney Adam Fine.

If a solution is not found, Martha’s Vineyard will soon run out of resources. AP

Until last week, the commission maintained that it would not comment on pending legal proceedings, other than to say that there was no special accommodation to transport marijuana from the mainland to the islands. But when commissioners went to Martha’s Vineyard, they assured residents that everyone was on the same page.

“Obviously, this is a top priority for us because we don’t want the industry to collapse on the islands,” said Commissioner Kimberly Roy.

She said no one could have predicted there would be such a problem in the supply chain, and she wanted to solve it.

“It’s a funny juxtaposition,” she said. “The entire industry is illegal at the federal level. But this is also evolving. We just try to stay responsive and agile.”

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