WESTFIELD – Mark Dupuis, director and president of Heka, Inc. announced this week that the 42,000 square-foot cannabis cultivation, processing/manufacturing and dispensary facility at 98 Sgt. T.M. Dion Way has been completed, and he is ready to apply for a license from the Cannabis Control Commission.
Dupuis said Heka, Inc. represents a $24 million investment, $15 to $16 million spent directly on the facility itself and the rest on accruals. He is now waiting for a fire alarm permit, which he expected in a day or two, and an inspection for a certificate of occupancy from the City of Westfield which is necessary before applying for the license from the CCC.
Dupuis said he has a medical marijuana permit and will be given priority for the license, which he anticipates receiving in 90 days after inspection. Final operations are being overseen by an individual who helped open the second facility in the state in Brockton, he said.
Dupuis is pushing for a May 2021 opening. An amended Host Community Agreement was slated to come before the City Council on Feb. 18, which extends the deadline to apply for a final CCC license until Sept. 19, and a new Failure to Open deadline of Dec. 31, 2021. The current HCA with the city has a deadline of March 13, 2021.
The facility sits at the end of the road next to Westfield Barnes Airport, where there are 60 parking places for customers on the runway side of the building. Columns frame the doorway to the 6,000 square-foot dispensary, which Dupuis describes will be “a relaxing and surreal Epcot/Las Vegas quality experience based around the history of cannabis.”
The dispensary itself is impressive. Heka is the god of magic and medicine in ancient Egypt, where the first prescription for cannabis was written, according to Dupuis, although he said usage dates earlier to China. “The Journey of Cannabis” throughout the world is depicted in artwork by Scott Murphy in the Heka dispensary, and is Heka’s copyrighted brand. The artist is the son of Jack Murphy, director of retail operations for Heka, Inc.
The dispensary will offer medical and recreational use marijuana. Since initially applying for the medical marijuana license, the laws changed in 2017 to allow for recreational use in Massachusetts, and Dupuis changed the business plan from a not-for-profit to a for-profit. He said he expects sales of medical marijuana to be 20 percent of the business, and the medical product will be offered at a lower cost than adult use. A pre-order and curbside business is also planned for the site.
The cultivation facility is 20,000 square-foot, with 1,000 feet of hallway. There are clone rooms to start the 5000 clones in each room that will come from 120 mother plants, cared for in separate rooms, Dupuis said.
There are also 12 cultivation rooms with $1 million worth of two to three tiered stacks of stainless steel racks under LED lights. The cultivation rooms will be kept at 80 degrees and 50 percent humidity year round, and will use 10,000 gallons of filtered water per day through an automatic watering system. Air change in the cultivation rooms will occur every 60 seconds.
Dupuis said it takes three weeks to root a clone, and 11 weeks to grow the plant. He said the company will harvest one of the 12 rooms every week, which will get cleaned out every cycle. He said there will be 18,000 plants alive at all times in the facility.
Five-to six million dollars of cannabis processing will be undertaken in the processing rooms, and production and packaging of edibles in the kitchen area. Dupuis said processing equipment and extractor equipment, to make oils, gummies, lotions and salves, still need to be purchased. They plan to produce 60 different strains of marijuana, he said.
The technology room contains $500,000 worth of equipment that will operate 300 cameras 24/7 and alarms through the building. Dupuis said the Westfield Fire Department and Police Department asked him to install a By Directional Amplifier (BDA) radio antenna system throughout the building, something he said didn’t exist.
The top floor is for temperature control, HVAC and CO2 management, with 300 tons of air conditioning units using chilled water. Dupuis said he put a building inside the building, and the air conditioning will treat the air in the envelope between the cultivation facility and the roof. The entire ventilation system will be cleaned every 12 weeks between cycles, he said, adding that the whole facility is based on clean room technology.
Dupuis said he anticipates hiring up to 100 employees between cultivation, processing, the dispensary and accounts and management. He said it will take a year to ramp up to that number.
Last year, Heka, Inc. paid $1,600 to have Sgt. TM Dion Way paved. Previously, they installed a hookup to the city sewer lines. Dupuis said they also plan to have a police detail on Route 10-202 to direct traffic once they open.
The HCA amendment before the City Council is expected to be referred to a subcommittee before a vote is taken.