SALEM — Seagrass, the city's third recreational marijuana shop to be licensed under the state's extensive cannabis laws and first one downtown, officially opened Thursday. 

"This is a store and a location that's set up for a lot more foot traffic than others. We're trying to create as welcoming an environment as possible," said Chip Tuttle, CEO of Seagrass. "We want this to be Salem's flagship cannabis retail location."

The shop has two large areas for customers to gather: a main lobby where customers must present a state ID, and then the main sales floor itself. There's room for 13 registers, but only about half are set up to ensure safe distances under the COVID-19 pandemic. The space was also designed to handle customers with questions, like from tourists who happen to be walking by.

Along the back walls behind the registers is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air."

"The quote corresponds to our mission," Tuttle said. "It's really a commitment to sustainability in an industry that counterintuitively uses a lot of energy. It's all part of the Seagrass branding."

So far, Seagrass seems to be true to its word. Under its host agreement with the city, Seagrass will give a higher cut of its sales to the city in months of strong revenues. The company also agreed to donate $110,000 annually to Salem organizations — including $50,000 to Salem Sound Coastwatch.

The products for sale are heavily sourced from microgrowers and smaller operations across the state. 

"We've committed to the community. We've committed to sustainability. We've committed to that smaller entrepreneurial vendor," said Don Wyse, chief operating officer of Seagrass. 

Public use?

Where there's access, opponents have argued that there will be trouble. The debate years ago over where to allow pot shops focused on whether to allow businesses downtown. Some argued that a downtown retailer would correlate with a spike in public consumption. 

But so far, police have found that to not be the case since ATG on Grove Street started selling recreationally in late 2018 and I.N.S.A. opened on Highland Avenue about a year ago.

"Like anything else, any establishment or business that comes in that has the potential to bring in some illicit activity like public consumption, it's on our radar — and it's no more than that," said Salem police acting Chief Dennis King. "I have no negative crime statistics that tell me that we're going to have any more issues at this place than the lack of issues we've had at I.N.S.A. and ATG."

King said he understood that "this is in a different location, in that it's more close to foot traffic in the downtown."

"That does in fact present the opportunity and potential for additional calls for service," King said. "But I have confidence that the security measures they've taken, the planning they've taken through the meetings we've had with them, that they've done everything to create a state-of-the-art cool, functional establishment."

Those thoughts were echoed by Mayor Kim Driscoll.

"It's in a denser location, so we're going to have to recognize that," Driscoll said. "But generally, the police department has been involved from the beginning, ensuring safety protocols are in place for all our locations."

'Weed Did It'

On Wednesday, Seagrass employees busily moved all over the building to get ready. One carried a shipment of debit card terminals that had just arrived. Another set up display boxes that would soon hold product. An inventory specialist popped out at one point to give an update on one weed delivery taking place later in the day.

Easy to miss amidst the activity, a small chalkboard leaned against the first register with a simple three-word phrase that has proven popular for the business on social media: "Weed Did it!"

"The day we signed the lease... 2 1/2 years since the day we signed the lease, probably 3 1/2 since looking for the prime spot... it has been a journey," Wyse said.

"It's great to be here," continued Tuttle. "We feel really good about the team and the work they've done to get to this stage. At this point, we're looking forward to throwing the doors open, and we hope the public responds."


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