State OKs Cannabis To Be Transported To Islands (But No, Nantucket Wasn't Running Out Of Marijuana)

JohnCarl McGrady •

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The grow operation at the ACK Natural dispensary. Photo by Brian Sager

Massachusetts regulators issued a ruling late last week that will allow marijuana to be shipped across state waters for the first time. Despite inaccurate headlines suggesting Nantucket was running out of marijuana and the decision would help address the alleged shortage, it's unlikely the order will significantly affect the island’s two cannabis dispensaries.

“It’s a great win, it’s definitely wonderful when things change for the better,” Nicole Campbell, COO of island dispensary The Green Lady, said. But she admitted that at least through the summer, she probably won’t take advantage of the rule change. “We are set, we have enough product, we have enough supply,” she said.

While Martha’s Vineyard was indeed in danger of running out of marijuana, with the only remaining dispensary there planning to close in September, Nantucket never faced the same problem, as local dispensaries grow their own product. The other Nantucket dispensary, ACK Natural, told the Current that the new order, issued by the Cannabis Control Commission, will change next to nothing about their business.

Until Thursday, the Commission barred the transportation of cannabis across state waters, wary of federal laws against marijuana. While it is legal to ship cannabis across the ocean, if a boat were to slip into federal waters, it would be in violation of the national law against marijuana, a risk the Commission has steered clear of. But under mounting pressure and a lawsuit from island dispensaries which alleged the regulation arbitrarily restricts their business as opposed to dispensaries on the mainland, the Commission changed its stance.

Still, even if Nantucket dispensaries wanted to take advantage of the new rules, it would be difficult. The path to the island through state waters is long and circuitous, requiring ships to pass far out of the way of their normal routes. Ships might be wary of taking such a long path just to satisfy marijuana dispensaries.

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Graphic via Kirkland An / Boston Globe

But The Green Lady does believe that the new rule will help in at least one respect. The Green Lady was the lone Nantucket party to the lawsuit, seeking relief from the state’s regulations. While Campbell would be happy to bring new product from the mainland, her main concern is shipping samples of her plants grown on the island to mainland labs to have them tested. Performing the tests is time-consuming and expensive, and Campbell would prefer to outsource them if possible. Until now, that wasn’t an option.

“We want to be able to do testing off-island and eventually we want to send product to our second store in Newton,” Campbell said. “But it is absolutely more challenging for Nantucket.”

Campbell plans to start exploring her options in the fall, once the busy summer season has come to a close.

Regardless, even without the rule change, Nantucket was not likely to run out of marijuana any time soon. The new regulation may open some new opportunities for local dispensaries, but it will mostly be felt on Martha’s Vineyard.

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Part of The Green Lady Dispensary team.
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The ACK Natural dispensary. Photo by Brian Sager
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