By Gintautas Dumcius MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Audrey Park and Lucas Wiggins met at a teaching program in Texas, but they wanted to smoke marijuana freely in a state where it's legal so the moved to Massachusetts. She likes to bake, while he enjoys cultivating. Park says, "We're cannabis enthusiasts but also quasi-entrepreneurs."
A marijuana microbusiness called Hothouse Holyoke, started by a two former teachers who moved to Massachusetts from Texas, is among the first class of an "accelerator" program seeking to boost cannabis-focused companies.
Sira Naturals, the company behind several Massachusetts marijuana dispensaries, launched a 12-week accelerator program that provides small-scale businesses with access to lab technology, workspaces and cannabis oil for product development.
The Milford-based company has three medical marijuana dispensaries in Cambridge, Somerville and Needham.
The company received 400 applications and chose three: Hothouse Holyoke; a woman-owned business producing cannabis-infused edibles and pet snacks on Cape Cod called Healing Tree Edibles; and veteran-owned 612 Studios, which is developing a line of cannabis-tinged personal health and wellness products.
MassLive reported on the launch of the accelerator program in May.
"We saw the MassLive article on the Sira accelerator program and we were in the process of starting a microbusiness in Holyoke," says Audrey Park, Hothouse Holyoke co-founder.
They're looking to make organic ingredients and gluten-free marijuana products.
"We started with this product in our home kitchen," Lucas Wiggins, her partner, says. "They're going to help us finishing the development, packaging, distribution, getting it into the stores."
They've have applied to for cultivation and product manufacturing licenses from the Cannabis Control Commission, the agency tasked with overseeing the state's new marijuana industry.
A micro-business, under the commission's regulations, is a marijuana establishment co-located with a cultivator or product manufacturer or both. The micro-business, if also a product manufacturer, is limited to buying no more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana a year from other marijuana establishments.
This means a colocated Marijuana Establishment that can be either a Tier 1 Marijuana Cultivator or Product Manufacturer or both, in compliance with the operating procedures for each license.
A Microbusiness that is a Marijuana Product Manufacturer may purchase no more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana per year from other Marijuana Establishments.
According to Michael Dundas, president and CEO of Sira Naturals, making cannabis-infused products is not as simple as adding cannabis oil to cookies. "It turns out it's more complicated than that," he says, pointing to regulatory requirements that involve food processing and sanitation practices while scaling up.
"They were essentially brand new to regulated cannabis but what really stood out to me from these guys is they had a very specific focused plan, a very detailed business plan they laid out for us," Dundas said of Hothouse Holyoke.
Park and Wiggins met at a teaching program in Texas, but they wanted to smoke marijuana freely in a state where it's legal. She likes to bake, while he enjoys cultivating.
During their summer vacation in 2016, the same year Massachusetts voters broadly legalized recreational marijuana, the pair landed in Quincy, a city south of Boston.
After marijuana legalization passed and the state structure for regulatory oversight got underway, they headed to Holyoke, where marijuana businesses have been welcomed by Mayor Alex Morse.
"We're cannabis enthusiasts but also quasi-entrepreneurs," Park says.
"When we went out to Holyoke and visited the town ourselves, we instantly fell in love," she adds. "It was gorgeous. We're not city people so we liked the lifestyle." Their first choice for a location didn't work out, they say, and they've now moved to 90 Sargeant Street. Wiggins says he's seeing many marijuana businesses rushing to bring their products to the new market, and the accelerator program will give Hothouse Holyoke a leg up. "We have an opportunity to really go through all the steps and get it on the shelves in months," he says. ___ (c)2018 MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass. Visit MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass. at www.masslive.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.