State Rep. Brian Ashe reads a citation to Dazed Cannabis co-founders Chris Vianello and Rich Rainone. Co-founder Keshawn Warner was not present. State Sen. Ryan Fattman stands in the background.
Reminder Publishing photos by Sarah Heinonen

MONSON — The cannabis industry has come to Monson with the opening of the first dispensary in town, Dazed Cannabis.

At the March 1 grand opening, Dazed co-founder Rick Rainone said the business opened at the 399 Boston Rd. W. location because, “We heard Monson was looking for an established business.”

Rainone founded Dazed with Keshawn Warner and Chris Vianello in 2021, with the first dispensary in Holyoke. Two years later, the trio opened a Dazed dispensary at Union Square Park in Manhattan, New York.

A provision in the law legalizing recreational cannabis requires that state to “encourage the full participation … of entrepreneurs from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement.” Dazed Publicist Jessica Penzari said Warner has previously been a “victim of the war on drugs.”

Dazed offers a full array of products, from edibles and pre-rolls to vapes and concentrates. Several tables were set up around the dispensary with vendors, including The Pass, Rove and Impressed, offering samples of products sold there.

In an homage to the building’s former use as the strip club, the Magic Lantern, a stage and dancer pole remain in the center of the shop. It took about $750,000 and nearly a year to renovate the building to fit the dispensary’s needs, although Rainone said the grand opening was “two years in the making.”

State Rep. Brian Ashe (D-Longmeadow), joined by Cherie Spinks from state Rep. Angelo Puppolo’s (D-Springfield) office, presented a citation from the state House of Representatives recognizing the business’s opening. State Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) presented a similar citation from the state Senate. State Sen. Adam Gomez (D-Springfield), Senate chair of the Joint Cannabis Control Committee, congratulated the business owners and said, “This company cares about the residents.”

Monson Town Administrator Jennifer Wolowicz, who made the “ceremonial first purchase,” agreed, “Everyone connected to Dazed have been wonderful and are looking to be a part of our community.” As evidence, she pointed to a $500 donation from the company to the Monson Arts Council, accepted by President Alan Morin.

Wolowicz and Select Board member Peter Warren, who also attended the grand opening, both said there had been no pushback from residents on a dispensary opening in town. “The location is helpful, not in a residential neighborhood,” Wolowicz said. She added, “Bringing different industries to town is important. At the end of the day, Monson is open for business.”

According to Holyoke Mayor Joshua A. Garcia, that business is profitable for municipalities. Garcia said that the five dispensaries in the city in 2021, generated $277,000 in excise taxes. By 2023, it had increased to $640,000.

Asked about whether the cannabis dispensary market has become oversaturated, Rainone said, “We don’t really pay attention to things that are out of our control.” Instead, he said the business stands on its own because of what it does differently, including the friendliness and helpfulness of the dispensary’s 15 employees. “We think our staff, the vibe, our environment are what makes a difference.”

With the Monson dispensary off the ground, Rainone said he, Warner and Vianello are seeking out a new location in the Worcester area.

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