February 18, 2019
CENTRAL MASS IN BRIEF

Caroline’s Cannabis bucks the big marijuana industry trend

Caroline Frankel avoided paying $120,000 in attorney fees by reaching herself the legality behind applying for a recreational marijuana license.
Photo | Courtesy
Caroline Frankel's store will also sell cannabis-themed decor.

The first small business cannabis store in Massachusetts has been awarded a final license from the state Cannabis Control Commission.

With the license in hand, Caroline's Cannabis in Uxbridge now hopes to open in the beginning of March.

Owner Caroline Frankel bills her company as a grassroots organization free of big business money. The company is the first woman-owned small business and the first general applicant to be awarded a final license.

The self-described 20-year cannabis enthusiast is just one of eight women owners of cannabis firms in the state, according to CCC.

The company will purchase products from local third-party suppliers to sell at the 640 Douglas St. store.

"It's a totally passion-driven project for me," Frankel said. "I've been working on this for about six years on a full-time basis."

That effort includes a business degree from Johnson & Wales University in Providence and the now defunct Northeastern Institute of Cannabis.

The 10-employee store will be the first to sell cannabis in the Blackstone Valley.

Despite the small-scale model, Frankel wants to eventually offer a diverse selection of strains and products thanks to strong relationships with operators in the medical cannabis market.

When cannabis became legalized and regulated in Western states such as Colorado and Washington, the Central Massachusetts native began a cannabis-themed decor outlet selling items made with reclaimed wood and salvaged cannabis stock.

She would attend trade shows and the annual Harvest Cup in Worcester to position herself as a future retailer.

"I made a business around spreading the kind word of cannabis," she said.

It was only a matter of time until Massachusetts would legalize, she said. When voters did so in 2016, she was ready.

Frankel applied for a license on June 1, the first day the application period opened.

Rather than look to investors for the incredibly high startup costs, she ponied up all of the cash herself. Doing so, she bypassed large law firms and filed her own paperwork and applications.

She was quoted $120,000 from a law firm to handle her applications and the lengthy state and local permitting process.

Instead, she studied up and accomplished all of the legal work for less than $10,000.

The majority of the companies in the state's adult-use marijuana industry so far are large multi-billion dollar companies backed by wealthy investors and businessmen, including Acreage Holdings, which is hoping to open adult-use dispensaries in Worcester, Shrewsbury and Leominster.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner sit on the board of directors at that company. It is currently valued at $2.3 billion, based on the level its stock is trading at on the Canadian Securities Exchange.

Rather than put her business in the hands of businessmen and investors, Frankel anticipates remaining the face of the company. That includes working in the store full time.

"You're going to literally walk into Caroline's Cannabis and see Caroline," she said.

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