As the Massachusetts marijuana industry continues to grow, state regulators hope one particular program will give aspiring entrepreneurs who live in the state an advantage to launch their own small businesses.
The microbusiness license — one of many issued by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission — is exactly how it sounds. It’s a micro-sized version of a larger marijuana business, designed specifically for Massachusetts residents.
And for many people who aren’t looking to form large companies or open retail stores, it’s the perfect fit.
“It’s a good size to bite off,” said Kimberly Gibson, the majority owner of Gibby’s Garden LLC in Uxbridge, which received its final license in May — the first microbusiness in the state to reach that stage. Gibson owns and operates the company with her husband, son, and brother.
“It’s a good fit for us, for a family business,” she said.
The microbusiness license allows for small-scale cultivation and/or manufacturing (companies can apply for a license that includes just one or both). The Gibby’s Garden license allows both.
There’s also a residency requirement: The majority of a microbusiness applicant’s executives have to have lived in Massachusetts for at least a year.
The license type provides a number of benefits, including a streamlined application process that lets the company apply for cultivation and manufacturing without submitting two separate applications. Microbusiness applicants also get half off the annual licensing fees — amounting to about $312 for outdoor cultivating, $625 for indoor cultivating, and $2,500 for manufacturing — making it more accessible to the average person, Gibson said.
“The microbusiness is a nice fit for someone who just had a heart for the industry,” she said.
Gibby’s Garden will grow its own marijuana flower and create a line of products to sell wholesale to retailers. They want to be a “microbud” — a term they coined — “like the microbrew of beers,” Gibson said.
Gibson’s son, Joe Gibson, is the head grower for the company and said the microbusiness license gives them the opportunity to focus on craft cultivation and branding for their products.
“We want to be in the niche market,” he said.
They’re not the only ones.
Two other aspiring microbusinesses have provisional licenses from the state commission, and several more have submitted their applications.
Audrey Park and Lucas Wiggins, who together make up Hothouse Holyoke Inc., want to make cannabis-infused, gluten-free edibles in an effort to make marijuana use more accessible for those with gluten allergies.
Their business, which is in the Sira Accelerator training and mentorship program, received its provisional license in January.
“We don’t have the capital to start a giant cultivation,” Wiggins said. “We knew from early on that we were going to have to be very limited. We were happy to see they carved out a little spot for the small people.”
Both former teachers, Park and Wiggins moved to Massachusetts from Texas in 2016. When they began sharing their gluten-free, chocolate-chip cookies with colleagues, they half-joked they should start a business.
They began reading up on microbusinesses, and Park realized it was a “chance for a smaller company to make it in this industry.”
“It’s just more of a feasible way for a smaller company to start out,” she said.
And that’s really what the Cannabis Control Commission had built the license for, said Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan.
Even in early discussions, Flanagan said, there had to be a license type that would bring local residents into the industry and give them a chance to launch something small.
“I said, ‘If we’re going to have the truly small business, then let’s make it a small business that is for people in Massachusetts, by people in Massachusetts,’ ” she said.
That’s why the residency requirement of the license, in particular, was important to Flanagan.
“I really think that when you’re trying to implement any kind of regulation . . . you have to really take into account the little guy, the people that are the backbone of their community,” she said. “. . . I feel strongly that it’s the guy from the hometown whose family’s from there — and they have friends and family, and their roots are there — [who is] really going to have a great impact on the area.”