Theory Wellness, one of the first dispensaries in Massachusetts, aims to raise cannabis industry standards with quality products and social equity initiatives.
This dispensary arrived early to the cannabis game on the East Coast when it opened in 2015 as a medical dispensary. Theory Wellness has since expanded to offer recreational cannabis in two out of three of its Massachusetts-based retail locations.
Brandon Pollock, CEO and co-founder of Theory Wellness, said the goal of the dispensary is to bring the healing power of cannabis to people outside of California.
“I was working for a company, Harborside Health Center, in California… just being there seeing young people, old people, [a] variety of just different backgrounds coming in for pain relief, anxiety relief, sleep issues, and then more serious health issues as well — was a really eye-opening experience,” said Pollock. “It was very inspiring. [So] I said, “all right let’s bring that back to Massachusetts because the same types of people are out here with the same sort of health issues.””
From there Pollock and Nick Friedman, co-founder and CFO, created Theory Wellness to bring high-quality cannabis standards to new places where it could help more people — both in the dispensary and the community.
A Whole New Market
Pollock and Friedman took their enthusiasm for cannabis and created a vision to transform the medical and recreational cannabis industry in Massachusetts. But it was not without its challenges as Theory Wellness opened in a state with little to no medical dispensaries.
“Massachusetts has taken a very thoughtful and structured approach, especially in the medical program to the entire licensing process. So we have hundreds of pages of regulations we had to learn,” said Pollock. “We were required at that point in time to be vertically integrated. So we need to find and build out a cultivation facility as well as a dispensary.”
This was by no means a cheap endeavor. Theory Wellness spent roughly a year finding investors who could get the dispensary on its feet. But once it launched, success was not far behind.
Theory Wellness cultivates their medicinal flower in small-batches and hand trims it. As such, it has earned a name for itself alongside its 100% organically-grown recreational cannabis. The dispensary grows its flower on the first licensed recreational outdoor cultivation farm on the East Coast.
Aside from its high-quality standards, Theory Wellness also places a lot of importance on education.
“In Massachusetts, [with it] being such a new market, it’s really important to have that knowledge instilled in your staff so that they can help explain to the customers [the purpose of different products],” said Pollock. “A lot of them have never been to a dispensary in their life. That’s really what we pride ourselves on as a sort of welcoming, educational customer environment.”
Breaking the Stigma and Creating Jobs
When the company first opened in Massachusetts, they faced stigma from community members who thought cannabis patients were drug users.
However, within just five years, their fear has turned into widespread support for cannabis.
“Folks were comparing us to methadone clinics in a very negative way,” said Pollock. “That’s changed, where now I think in the U.S. 80%, maybe 90%, of people in the country support medical cannabis more than any other issue when polled.”
Support for recreational cannabis is also on the rise as more states look to legalize, according to PEW Research. A major reason why it is gaining support is because statewide economies stand to gain millions of dollars in tax revenue each year from their legal markets.
“We’ve been generating tremendous tax revenue for our towns, and employing hundreds of people. The tone has become much more welcoming,” said Pollock. “Which is great to see in a very short amount of time.”
Treating Customers Right
Pollock attributes Theory Wellness’ success to the company’s emphasis on customer service.
“We wanted to create the cannabis company that we as consumers would want to spend our hard-earned dollars at,” said Pollock. “[The company] wants to make sure that we’re providing the best, quality products at a reasonable price to people in those friendly environments. We certainly try to invest in our team, invest in our facilities and genuinely just do the right thing.”
Theory Wellness is one of the largest privately-owned cannabis companies on the East Coast, according to Pollock. They prides itself on prioritizing consumer care rather than making a quick buck.
“You’ve seen a lot of consolidation in the market. A lot of companies are trading on stock exchanges and things like that,” said Pollock. “We’re really fortunate to keep things private and not be pressured by trying to just make the most money possible, which can certainly lead to some shortcuts.”
Theory Wellness also tries to help those outside of the dispensary. They so do by putting their money back into the community through their Social Equity Program.
Paying Forward its Success
In 2019, Theory Wellness launched its Social Equity Program.
The program was created to support business owners from communities that are disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.
The dispensary sponsors a social equity business and supports them through financial and technical assistance, as well as expertise. Theory Wellness has given roughly $250,000 to fund the construction of that business and help the owners generate additional funding.
But, what distinguishes the program most is the company’s commitment to seeing each project through.
Theory Wellness is not just funding the beginning stages of business ventures. It is also helping to build strong businesses with no strings attached.
“We’re not taking ownership or control in the company,” said Pollock. “We’ve assisted them with fundraising [and] helping them to create their investor presentation. We’ve even been on calls with prospective investment vendors trying to help show them how to raise money in cannabis.”
After receiving roughly a dozen applications for the Social Equity Program, Theory Wellness chose to sponsor Legal Greens — a recreational dispensary in Brockton, Massachusetts.
“We wanted to just focus on a single business at a time, and actually make sure that we can provide resources that are sufficient to help them get up and running,” said Pollock. “We’re going to be opening another project, and selecting another business […] to help. We’re taking a sort of a one [at a] time, focused approach on this because that’s really where we feel we can make the most impact.”
Health-Focused Cannabis Technology
Aside from its social equity initiative, Theory Wellness also takes a unique approach to healthy living in an attempt to abide by its do good and help people mantra.
For example, the company added cannabis-infused seltzers to its inventory in order to revolutionize cannabis and displace alcohol.
“[The] alcohol industry is incredibly well accepted in society, which I find strange because it’s so bad for you,” said Pollock. “So we really want to leverage new cannabis technology to make society a healthier place.”
The Hi5 seltzer is a fast-acting, zero-calorie drink composed of 5 mg of THC. The locally-grown cannabis in the drink can take effect in under five minutes.
“[It’s] a new vision of the future where someone can be relaxing at a bar or at the beach or with family and having a sip of a cannabis beverage instead of an alcoholic one,” said Pollock.
Hi5 is just one way Theory Wellness is trying to push the cannabis industry forward, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now more than ever, it’s important for customers to have safe access to cannabis that they’re using to treat medical symptoms or general stress, anxiety, and sleep problems,” said Pollock.
Theory Wellness continues to grow thoughtfully, and keeps an eye on its commitment to quality products that enhance consumer care. The dispensary is also looking at expanding into New Jersey.
“[We want] to grow our business and just keep doing our thing — growing cannabis and treating customers the way that we want to be treated,” said Pollock.
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