Pot at the farm stand? Mass. growers would like to sell direct to consumers

State Rep. Daniel Donahue, D-Worcester
State Rep. Daniel Donahue, D-Worcester

Picking up produce at the local farm stand may soon look different in Massachusetts if the state’s cannabis farmers are granted their request to sell their product directly to consumers, just like farmers now can sell zucchini, tomatoes or blueberries.

It would be a different farm-to-table experience in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts legislators are looking only at direct sales of marijuana seeds, but outdoor growers are pushing for more direct sales.

“When the state talks sustainability, it cannot leave out the farmers,” said Matthew Gregg, an outdoor cannabis grower with a farm in the Lynn area and the program director at Sun Grown Cannabis Alliance, a cooperative of farms and farmers that promote sun- and soil-grown product in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts, he said, needs to keep cannabis home-grown.

Goldie Piff, of A.V. Rose Farm in Rochester on the South Coast, owns a legacy farm that once grew cranberries and since has diversified with the dip in market prices. However, despite qualifying as a social equity and economic empowerment small-business owner, she has not entered the cannabis market.

"There are so many regulations, so much red tape," said Piff, that she feels she has been shut out of the industry. Speaking remotely to the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy Tuesday, she urged lawmakers to “fight for the famers of Massachusetts. Farmers deserve the right to grow, manufacture and serve customers ourselves, without a middleman,” she said.

Despite farms and farmers being included in the state’s cannabis laws, many feel forgotten, Piff said. The state makes concessions to other groups, has approved home delivery of product from retail sellers for both medical and recreational marijuana, and is considering curbside pickup at retail establishments. Farmers, she said, should be allowed to sell directly to customers.

Goldie Piff and her daughter Ominique Garner, are farmers in Rochester who feel shut out of the cannabis business despite qualifying for the economic and social equity programs
Goldie Piff and her daughter Ominique Garner, are farmers in Rochester who feel shut out of the cannabis business despite qualifying for the economic and social equity programs

The push to allow farmers direct-to-consumer sales, technically not filed yet as a bill, was just one of the issues contemplated by the Joint Committee Tuesday at a short hearing interrupted by technical glitches and a false fire alarm that caused the evacuation of the Statehouse for a few minutes.

Also on the agenda was a measure that would allow the sale of marijuana seeds in Massachusetts, the product farmers would be able to market directly to consumers, as well as the creation of an oversight mechanism that would ensure the state’s Cannabis Control Commission operate according to policy.

Seen as a prophylactic measure, Rep. Daniel Donahue, D-Worcester, said the measure would ensure that the regulatory body follows state protocols. The oversight duties would fall to the state’s inspector general.

According to the proposal, the internal audit unit would monitor the quality, efficiency and integrity of the Cannabis Control Commission, as it pertains to host community agreements, investigation and audit policies and procedures, its organizational structure and management functions. It would also look to prevention, detection and correction of fraud, waste and abuse of public money.

In 2022, legislators passed an omnibus bill addressing certain issues raised in a report released by the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association. That report indicated a disconnect between the licensing fees and impact fees charged by communities hosting retail marijuana establishments and the use of those funds, sometimes totaling millions of dollars.

Those changes, overseen by the Joint Committee chaired by Donahue, was a “large-scale reform” that addressed issues of equity and created new templates in host community agreements and licensing issues.

“We made it clear that municipalities cannot take advantage,” Donahue said.

The new bill Donahue filed would ensure that the business of cannabis be accessible, equitable and transparent.

Will Luzier, the director of compliance at Tudestr, an organization that eases entry into the cannabis industry, spoke at the hearing in support of allowing the sale of cannabis seeds in Massachusetts. He said the federal government classifies cannabis seeds as hemp and does not prohibit their sale.

“Cannabis seeds are not considered cannabis,” Luzier said, explaining that the seeds themselves do not contain enough active ingredient to be classified as a schedule one substance and under DEA jurisdiction.

“Hemp comes under the regulation of the Massachusetts Division of Agricultural Resources,” Luzier said. Allowing the sale of seeds would enhance the competitiveness of the state’s farmers.

In questioning Luzier, Donahue asked if there is a market for seeds in the state and was answered with a resounding "yes."

“People buy grow kits all the time,” Luzier said, adding that when he purchased seeds through Canada, they arrived concealed in a pen from a California grower.

“There is a national market and a market in Massachusetts,” Luzier said.

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Pot bills may OK direct sales of seeds at farm stands & CCC oversight