Choose Your Own Adventure at Massachusetts's Tree House Craft Cannabis

by Kelsy Chauvin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday March 10, 2022

Choose Your Own Adventure at Massachusetts's Tree House Craft Cannabis
  (Source:Getty Images)

Being "inclusive" is not usually the biggest goal for cannabis dispensaries. But for Tree House Craft Cannabis, it's key to the whole operation. Tree House is one of the rare LGBTQ-owned dispensaries anywhere in the United States, leading the way for Massachusetts consumers to feel welcome no matter how they identify or their level of cannabis experience.

For co-founders Wes Ritchie and Ture Turnbull, embracing diversity is part of their company's core message. Nearly 50% of all employees are LGBTQ-identified. They aim to share the benefits of cannabis widely and warmly, inviting customers to "choose their own adventure" in their brick-and-mortar and online stores. The notion may sound fantastical, but in reality, it's how Tree House prioritizes cannabis education for an array of curious customers — whether they're first-time weed browsers, seasoned users, or somewhere in between.

"We really are trying to provide a different shopping experience from the 'in-and-out' feel that some of the other dispensaries have centered their retail experience around," says Co-CEO Ritchie, noting that the Dracut, Mass., store is open now, with a second location coming to Pepperell this summer. "We want people to come in and feel relaxed, like they're not rushed to make decisions."

The Gayest Cannabis Shop

(Source: Getty Images composite)

Inclusivity is essential at every level of Tree House's business, explains Ritchie. "We pride ourselves on being informative, not intimidating, when it comes to marijuana," reads the website. To get there, the team pays close attention to its partners and suppliers, very intentionally collaborating with women-owned, minority-owned, and LGBTQ-owned companies. Tree House also is a proud member of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and has a majority of queer-identified budtenders and other employees.

"EDGE readers should know that we're the gayest spot in Dracut!," says Ritchie, encouraging "LGBTQ folks to spend their money at an LGBTQ-owned dispensary that shares their values."

Located in northeastern Massachusetts, near the New Hampshire border, the Dracut store opened just 4 months ago in 2021. Its modern-rustic style was custom-built with the help of a woman-owned construction company that worked with diverse teams, including LGBTQ electrical and painting subcontractors.

Inside the store, carefully curated inventory includes quality products from diverse cannabis vendors, although Co-CEO Turnbull admits that right now "there are not a ton of available LGBTQ-owned brands." More are rolling out, though, and already in stock are products from LGBTQ-owned companies like 1906, maker of THC and CBD edibles designed for targeted effects like brainpower, arousal, and relaxation.

Personal Cannabis Journey

The cannabis industry has exploded since the early days of medical and recreational legalization. It's led to dispensaries in legal-weed states putting quick profits ahead of their customers' positive experiences. At Tree House Craft Cannabis, Ritchie and Turnbull are on a different mission that invites customers to better understand the wide variety of weed strains, and how best to potentially enjoy them.

The store itself was designed to be accessible in every sense, and it's "open to everyone regardless of where they're at in their personal cannabis journey," says Turnbull. "As long as you're over 21 with a valid ID, we want you to come learn from our amazing budtenders and have a great no-pressure shopping experience with us."

In time, Tree House will expand to Pepperell and beyond. And while Ritchie and team are still learning how best to serve its customers, they are aiming to supply small-batch THC and CBD cannabis products, as well as locally grown/made flower, edibles, extracts, topicals, and more. Depending on how regulations evolve, the team envisions possible future retail environments as something closer to a farmer's-market experience, with different ways for customers to browse and interact with products.

There's also the question of seeing how cannabis consumers change over time. Naturally, the wide range of weed types and forms mean that even experienced shoppers can learn something new upon each Tree House visit. "If you're interested in dabbling in cannabis, we are a place where you'll feel comfortable," says Ritchie.

In other words, Tree House's inclusive thinking extends especially to newcomers. "If you're canna-curious, come on in and we can make some low-dose recommendations really for whatever effect you're going for," he says. "The best advice we have is that folks should feel free to go slow and learn about what's right for them."

Kelsy Chauvin is a writer, photographer and marketing consultant based in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in travel, feature journalism, art, theater, architecture, construction and LGBTQ interests. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @kelsycc.