Massachusetts cannabis companies answer to the state’s Cannabis Control Commission but, like Hebrew National Hot Dogs, 253 Farmacy “answers to a higher authority.”
The vertically integrated company’s products are Kosher certified cannabis, so 253 Farmacy answers to the rabbi who inspects their ingredients and processes to ensure they are of the highest quality. For example, to be Kosher certified, the company can’t use ethanol derived from grapes.
“We have surprise inspections once or twice a year to make sure we’re using quality ingredients and proper separation,” 253 Farmacy CEO Seth Rutherford said. “We’re really more of a craft company. Our passion is for the plant, not the dollar.”
When it comes to quality, 253 Farmacy adheres to strict standards that go beyond Kosher certification. For example, an eighth of an ounce can contain no more than six buds and a quarter of an ounce must have less than 20 buds.
“We’re in a market of giants, so we’re all about putting out a quality product and being a destination for people,” Rutherford said.
The company’s products include flower, edibles, and vape products with cannabis-derived terpenes. Their biggest hits include their Bahama Mama flower, caramels, and chocolate bars, which are made with 100% Kosher dairy, Callebaut’s finest Belgian chocolate, and distillate oil.
“In bringing this plant to market, we see our role as twofold: as farmer and as pharmacist (in the unlicensed, figurative sort of way),” 253 Farmacy says on its website. “We are here to cultivate a magnificent plant and to help our community use it wisely (and with joy!).”
In addition to its Kosher-certified, high-quality products, 253 Farmacy’s other core values are respecting the environment and engaging with the local community. The company purchases wind energy to support its grow, composts its waste, and uses locally sourced ingredients as much as possible.
Rutherford, who also is owner and CEO of Waterworks of Nantucket Inc., serves on several boards in the community, including the airport commission and the chamber of commerce.
Rutherford and partner Chris Gallant got started in the legal cannabis business in 2016 when they helped their friend Adam Learner establish Maine Jane LLC, a cannabis business in Gorham, Maine.
“We got really excited and had good results,” Rutherford said. “That’s right when Massachusetts started the legalization process.”
It’s also when Rutherford and Gallant got serious about opening their own vertically integrated cannabis business in Massachusetts. They found the 33,000-square-foot building the business is currently located in, pulled a building permit, and hired an attorney to help with getting a license.
“We pulled a team together and built the place out in nine months,” Rutherford said. “We have a town that was very welcoming and likes our group of local people.”
253 Farmacy, named for its address on Millers Falls Road in Montague, Mass., opened its store in September 2019 but didn’t get its cultivation license until 2020, and started selling its own products in June of that year. In hindsight, Rutherford said he would have started manufacturing edibles when they opened cultivation.
“If we had opened it sooner, we probably would have gotten a better foothold,” Rutherford said. “But any mistakes we made are because passion got in our way. We also spent too much money on packaging because we were so passionate about it, but we’ve been able to whittle the cost down.”
The pandemic created another major hurdle when Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker decided cannabis wasn’t an essential industry and ordered adult-use retailers to shut down for two months. (Medical marijuana businesses were permitted to continue operating.)
“COVID almost put us out of business,” Rutherford said. “We didn’t go the medical route, so we were closed for two months. They also wouldn’t let us process anything, so everything was on pause.”
253 Farmacy has learned from every setback and triumph and will thus take a cautious approach to growth. While it would like to add more stores and cultivation facilities, Rutherford is committed to the high standards the company has come to represent.
“The last thing I want to do is grow and leave quality behind,” he said. “We don’t have the money these MSOs do, so we’re being very cautious. We feel if we can get a good product and people come to see us, maybe we don’t have to expand.”