CommCan Sales on “Edibles” described as chocolate bars and gummies

by beth on October 16, 2018

Recently, I came across information that prompted me to ask questions. In the end, I still feel that I’m left with more questions than clear answers. I welcome Town Officials and CommCan to clarify the situation. But with no response to some of my questions, I’m sharing what I know and the questions I still have.

It appears that CommCan may be violating a condition of its Special Permit. It also appears that there is a gap in oversight of that condition.

The condition I’m referring to is #6:

Edible products shall take the appearance of nondescript, medicinal forms as allowable by applicable state laws and shall not resemble the appearance of candy-like products

This fall, the medical marijauana dispensary CommCan held its ribbon cutting ceremony in Southborough. (You can read about that in Southborough Wicked Local.)

Planning to run a post about the ribbon cutting, I checked out the dispensary’s website for publicity photos. I was surprised to discover posts marketing the sales of “chocolate bars” and “gummies”. (Click on thumbnails below for example Facebook posts and a recent menu cropped from the website.)

I was surprised since I thought that candy versions of edibles were disallowed at the dispensary.

In March 2016, I wrote that the ZBA’s special permit required edibles to be in nondescript medical form. If the situation changed, I wanted to update readers. I followed up with CommCan and the Town to try to understand – did I misunderstand something, or did I miss something that happened later? 

Do the gummies and bars have a non-candy-like “appearance”? Was the condition determined unenforcable? Is there some other factor I’m not considering?

I didn’t get clear answers. Instead, I found that no one was taking responsibility for enforcing the condition. 

Back in 2016, parents upset about the dispensary opening within 1,000 feet of a school (and closer to some neighborhoods) detailed some of their worries to the ZBA. One was about the edible forms of marijauna that could look like candy. There was talk about children accidentally getting ahold of edibles or nefarious customers selling or giving “candy” to unsuspecting children.

ZBA member Paul Drepanos heard the concerns and suggested a condition that the edibles not look like treats. The board appeared to have the impression that candy wouldn’t be allowed under state law. But there were still concerns about how decadent brownies might look (e.g., with caramel drizzles).

The promise that packaging would be nondescript wasn’t enough for Drepanos. He was responding to worries about how the product would look once packages were opened. Board members agreed to include the nondescript condition as part of the permit. 

CommCan hasn’t posted images of the edibles. So I thought, maybe it does meet the criteria – and its unattractive appearance is why there aren’t pictures.

When I raised the question to CommCan’s CEO Marc Rosenfeld, he responded:

since edible products are food it is not possible to make food not look like food.

He went on to state that edibles are important. (At past hearings, arguments were made that some of the people who need marijuana need/want to eat it instead of smoking it, and that it needs to be tempting given issues with appetite and nausea.) He assured that edibles packaging meets “strict” state requirements:

(opaque packaging, nothing resembling commercially available products, no cartoon-like imagery, etc…)

I did point out that the condition was about unwrapped candy and included a link go the video of the discussion*. Rosenfeld responded that he hadn’t watched the video. (Note, he was in attendance to witness to the conversation that night.) But he didn’t clearly answer my other questions.

That included – was the condition deemed unenforcable “by applicable state laws”. If so had the ZBA or another Town Official been informed of that decision? I haven’t gotten any answers on that from CommCan or the Town officials I reached out to.

I was also unable to determine who is responsible for ensuring that CommCan complies with the permit or what the process is for that.

When I followed up with the Building Commissioner Mark Robidoux, he said that entering the premises to inspect their edibles wouldn’t be in his authority. He presumed that the Southborough Police Department would be responsible under condition 1:

Subject to review and approval by the Police Chief of the proposed safety plan, with regularly scheduled updates with the Police Department thereafter

When I followed up with Police Chief Kenneth Paulhus, he responded that the dispensary was compliant with state regulations. He verified that the packaging was nondescript as required by the state. But he said that it wasn’t the SPD’s place to enforce ZBA conditions.

On Friday, I again emailed the ZBA Chair and Town Administrator, plus the Chair of the Board of Selectmen. I informed them of that discrepancy as well as my other still unanswered questions. I haven’t heard back. (Although, TA Mark Purple did respond to my first inquiry to provide the decision and host agreement.)*

I’m hoping these issues will be addressed at a future public meeting.

*Here is the ZBA’s decision, the March 24, 2016 hearing Minutes, the final wording approved by board via SAM video, and the preceding discussion between members, leading up to that decision. That decision was hinged on CommCan reaching a Host Agreement with the Town. Here is the final version. By my amateur reading the Host Agreement doesn’t reaffirm special permit condition, but it also doesn’t seem to undermine it.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Southviller October 16, 2018 at 10:21 PM

Their social media profiles both clearly show posted images of gummies and cookies throughout.

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2 beth October 17, 2018 at 9:46 AM

I looked again – and one that I didn’t find on Facebook in previous looks and searches I now can see. It shows “gummies” that look like big jello squares to me. I don’t see any cookies (or bars). Can you provide the links?

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3 beth October 17, 2018 at 10:03 AM

I just looked again. The gummy that I found a picture for was from August 17th before the store opened. So, I can’t verify that it is what is sold in the Southborough location.

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4 handwringing_and_hysteria October 17, 2018 at 7:58 AM

Beth:

Please stop the handwringing & hysteria!

Really!

One cannot even ENTER the store without first proving one possesses a valid medical prescription for the use of marijuana!

So, please tell the public how the kiddies are going to get their hot little hands on so-called edibles? You are TROLLING – the very thing you have recently accused others of doing.

Before you put something like this online, have you determined the web site you’re looking at is specifically for the store in Southborough – and not a generic CommCan web site?

I’m guessing you’re upset because you don’t possess a prescription and therefor cannot enter the CommCan store to obtain its products in order to calm yourself.

PLEASE – stop the hysteria and sensationalism!

There surely are more pressing issues with this town – this in NOT one of them.

Move on.

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5 Concerned Voter October 17, 2018 at 9:55 AM

This issue is important to many, although not you apparently. Beth has the right to ask these legitimate business and permitting questions. It isn’t “hysteria and sensationalism” — these are legitimate and key follow up questions. As for enforcement, that should clearly be transparent and a matter of public record. Photos taken and forms filed on the Town’s website for the public to inspect.

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6 beth October 17, 2018 at 10:00 AM

You are jumping to conclusions about my emotions. I’m not hysterical. The candy form isn’t – it was the issue of concern to some parents who voiced concerns to the ZBA. My concern is government transparency.

My opinion is – if the government makes a promise to residents by creating a condition to address residents’ concerns – then it should either enforce it or notify residents of the change and why it happened. And if there is a regulation gap, where the Town creates conditions that no one has authority to oversee – that should be addressed. (Either don’t make conditions like that or figure out who can enforce them.)

But, I didn’t jump to conclusions about was happening. I tried to find out if there was another possibility but couldn’t get the answer. Sitting on the information because I couldn’t find the answers felt wrong.

So, I put it out there. Now, if the residents who this issue was of concern to want to follow up, they can. And if no one does, they won’t.

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7 more_handwringing_and_hysteria October 17, 2018 at 8:07 AM

I checked the CommCan web site and there are NO PHOTOS of edibles – only text. Oh wait – children can read, so they’ll be tempted to force their way into the store for some THC gummies…

Your ‘article’ mentions a Facebook page. How does this Facebook page tie to the Southborough CommCan store? It probably doesn’t. So, you’re creating an issue where
one does not exist.

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8 beth October 17, 2018 at 10:07 AM

If you took the time to pay attention to the details in the story (like the Facebook posts I shared) you’ll see that they were specifically marketing the Southborough location and that I already addressed the other things you raised. I think you’re the one who needs to take a beat and stop jumping to conclusions.

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9 Concerned Voter October 17, 2018 at 9:46 AM

All good questions Beth. The best way to get answers is probably to get on the next Board of Selectmen agenda and spearhead that discussion. You have assembled good information. Clearly there are gaps here. Thanks for staying on top of this important issue, for the sake of both parents and school age children.

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10 Former Resident October 17, 2018 at 10:22 AM

I will not ever try to claim to know everything about this topic, nor specifically about the Southborough location and their business practices (given that I now don’t live in town, but grew up there). That being said, I have watched along through this site and been given the hard facts and figures about it, so kudos to you, Beth. But, this post specifically, I am disappointed about.

While this information is relevant and timely in town, it’s also an opinion piece and one full of emotion and feelings, as you’ve noted. I have continually watched this site for years, given that I still am even though I’m not a resident, and this isn’t the type of story that should appear on this site…especially from the author and resident that runs it. Again, this is a “hot topic” if you will, all over the country, but I would hope that this website continues to provide the facts, not the opinions nor the feelings. That should hold true to any stories coming out of the town.

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11 North Sider October 17, 2018 at 1:14 PM

With all due respect, Beth owns and operates this site so she can post what she pleases with any emotion (or lack there of) that she wants.

That said, I agree with whomever pointed out the fact that kids can’t even enter a dispensary. Unlike liquor stores, which they can enter.

Bottom line is that parents/adults need to be as responsible with their cannabis products as they do with their other legal substances such as alcohol.

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12 Jessica Devine October 23, 2018 at 10:38 AM

Just a point of clarification about this statement from Former Resident:

“…I would hope that this website continues to provide the facts, not the opinions nor the feelings. That should hold true to any stories coming out of the town.”

MySouthborough.com is not a town blog and this story is not “coming out of the town” (if by that phrasing, Former Resident meant it was news coming from the entity of the Town of Southborough). This is Beth’s own blog and she can run it how she likes. There is no official town blog — though it would be nice if there was one, someday!

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13 Concerned Voter October 17, 2018 at 11:57 AM

Sorry “Former Resident,” but I could not disagree more. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Beth’s piece — it is a public service and public awareness article. (Plus it’s her blog!) You grossly mischaracterize the article. You call it “opinion” and “full of emotion.”

These are dismissive terms meant to somehow reduce the importance of the content. The piece is absolutely not full of emotion nor opinion. Since when is asking legitimate business questions about permitting and enforcement equate to “emotion?”

While I do not always agree with Beth, I mostly do and very much so when it comes to raising public awareness. She provides a valuable service to the town in terms of public awareness, especially on matters that may lack transparency. Do you have a problem with raising legitimate permitting and enforcement matters and having an article that is a public awareness alert? Beth and this blog, and namely this article, does all of that and more. This is invaluable to the public and the taxpayers who foot the bill.

Beth, just a suggestion but do try to get this topic on the BOS agenda. These are all matters of legitimate importance to the public at large and the taxpayers of this town. You have assembled very good information, and the outcome should be a reporting to the public that has (of course, nothing to do with you personally as this is a public matter) everything to do with good, healthy, full discussion and functioning and transparent local government. Thank you for your service to this town.

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14 arborist October 17, 2018 at 4:16 PM

Give Beth some respect, she does this site for nothing , and without her hard work I for one wouldn’t know what is going on in town

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15 beth October 17, 2018 at 6:48 PM

Thanks. (Not technically nothing – but close.)

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16 Louise Barron October 17, 2018 at 10:58 PM

Thanks Beth for the info. “Handwringing” blogger, pipe down. Have you had a kid hooked on drugs. Many start with pot. I know many of them. This is not hysteria. It is the environment we live in. Ever more careful, and watchful of what trouble our kids are getting into. It’s a scary time. It’s also our new reality.

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17 Lily October 26, 2018 at 1:29 PM

I don’t know much about ComCan, But I know cbd and cannabinol, is down right expensive. A chocolate bar for $30.00. I think a gummy would also be prohibitely

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18 Lily October 27, 2018 at 2:16 PM

I also read gummies are very expensive.just the sheer cost of Medical Marijuana, should scare kids away. Me, too.

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19 SB Resident October 29, 2018 at 11:21 AM

You’re missing the point. The worry over edibles looking like candy is from kids mistaking edibles already in the home as candy. Nosey kid finds hidden candy or Jell-O and thinks daddy has hidden it because it’s candy.

There are millions of ways to package the product, there is no reason that making it look like candy needs to be one of them. If medicinal marijuana is really about medicine, it should be a pill like every other medicine.

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20 MuchAdoAboutNothing October 30, 2018 at 3:56 PM

No.

The point is that Beth has issue with some Facebook web page that depicted gummies, etc. and felt is was in violation of some agreement CommCan made with the town before they were allowed to set up their business.

The point was about photographs available on the internet – not whether people would have these THC edibles in their homes. That’s strictly THEIR business.

As for THC edibles looking like candy, ask yourself how you would want them to look if you were interested in buying and consuming them. Would it be enjoyable to you if such products were designed to look like something inedible – solely in order to be unappealing to children? This is beyond foolish!

Of course a manufacturer is going to create a product to have visual appeal. The product is marketed and sold exclusively to adults – with valid prescriptions.

Since she (Beth) couldn’t get answers that were satisfactory to her from civilian town officials and the local police, she decided to turn the issue over to the ‘general public’. That ‘general public’ had, for the most part, gotten over the whole CommCan issue.

Thanks to the article, like pouring gasoline on the embers of a dying fire, the extremists have emerged form the woodwork (again!).

As noted above – hysteria and handwringing.

There’s no need for it.

The CommCan store is open. I have yet to witness children milling about its entrance.

WHAT ABOUT PARK CENTRAL?

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21 North Sider November 5, 2018 at 12:51 PM

Yes, what about Park Central? I’m far more worried about the kids walking on Flagg to get to school, who will be endangered by the potential additional hundreds of cars.

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