By Beth Waterfall

Truro farmer Dave DeWitt was born to grow. For the last 32 years he has been an organic farmer on the Outer Cape, putting his plant science education from College of the Redwoods Humboldt State University in California to good use producing plants, trees and vegetables on his farm at Dave’s Greens. Now, DeWitt and a team of Cape farmers in Truro and Wellfleet have plans to secure one of the Commonwealth’s first Craft Marijuana Cooperative licenses.

A Craft Marijuana Cooperative, as explained by the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), is “a type of Marijuana Cultivator which may cultivate, obtain, manufacture, process, package and brand marijuana and marijuana products to deliver marijuana to Marijuana Establishments, but not to consumers.…” Coop members must be Massachusetts residents, and there are restrictions specific to the type of corporation, numbers of licenses and interest in other licensed marijuana businesses, and square footage, among others.

DeWitt’s High Dunes Craft Cooperative LLC is a diverse group of unified, organic farmers from the Outer Cape, including a small family farm, a Vietnam veteran and cancer survivor, a husband and wife duo, a former government contractor, and one “honorary cheerleader,” the late Tim McCarthy of Provincetown, who is widely regarded in the Massachusetts cannabis community as the father of the Massachusetts Craft Cooperative program.

“Without Tim, Massachusetts wouldn’t have a coop license right now,” DeWitt explains. “It was through his connection to our local regulators, Sarah Peake and Julian Cyr, and Tim’s own dedication to building a good and inclusive industry, that the CCC figured out a way to get farmers into the industry.”

DeWitt adds that Tim was boisterous about how Massachusetts also needed to make space for women, LGBT and veterans in the regulated cannabis industry. “He didn’t want them to be overlooked; he wanted a diverse industry.”

When Tim passed unexpectedly in October 2018, DeWitt and the team had no choice but to wait for the universe to bring a new partner that could fill Tim’s shoes. The universe brought him Craig Milan, and things were back on track.

With a strengthened team and business model, the five members of the High Dune Craft Cooperative began their Craft Marijuana Cooperative application process for both Truro and Wellfleet. Despite being neighboring towns, the High Dune team saw firsthand how differently municipal governments can operate on a similar issue.

“There are stark differences between Wellfleet and Truro because Wellfleet never adopted cannabis bylaws, which makes things easier for applicants,” DeWitt explained. “But in Truro, we’ve been working with the town for more than two years and there is significant NIMBY-ism, and lots of arguing and negotiations with locals about where cannabis can be grown.”

Indoor cultivation is of no interest to DeWitt, who practices regenerative agriculture. “Indoor industrial spaces force indoor nonorganic agriculture,” he said. “By growing outdoors, we can grow our plants in the sun and soil as nature intended.”

DeWitt explains that Truro bylaws were so strict that the barriers for High Dune or any co-op would be insurmountable, forcing cultivation indoors, impeding local farmers from participating in the regulated cannabis industry, and possibly leading to litigation. Determined to keep his and his partners’ farms and cannabis dreams alive on their land, DeWitt and his team helped Truro come to a compromise regarding cannabis cultivation on residential land at a special town meeting last November.

Now, as a result of DeWitt’s team’s efforts, licensed Craft Marijuana Cooperatives may grow on a minimum 1.5 acres of residential land in Truro. Canopy square footage must start small, at 30,000 square feet, and if proven successful, the coop may expand up to 70,000 square foot canopy. To go bigger in future years, a special town meeting is required.

“When needed, we’ll do a petitioned article and have a town meeting where Truro will vote to allow an additional 30,000 square foot of canopy,” said DeWitt. “That will bring us to a total 100,000 square feet which is the limit for coops in the rest of Massachusetts.”

DeWitt and his team are now waiting for an approve Host Community Agreement (HCA) from Truro so that High Dunes Craft Cooperative can complete and  submit its application to the Cannabis Control Commission. They already have insurance, banking, and security in place, and will begin building out their cannabis farms once a provisionary license is obtained.

“We would love to have the provisionary license in hand this fall so we can start growing in spring 2020,” hopes DeWitt.