FITCHBURG – The last LEGO bricks rolled off the assembly line at this factory in 2006.
The building on Crawford Street was one of the last LEGO operations in the U.S., and Labor Day weekend saw a new tenant, Atlantic Medicinal Partners, open its first seed-to-sale medical and recreational cannabis center.
This is the result of a three-year journey of permitting and inspections for Atlantic Medicinal Partners co-founders Stephen Perkins, his brother Jeffrey, and Frank Cieri, who all live on the North Shore. They first decided to get into the legalized marijuana business in December 2017. As soon as AMP received word last Tuesday that the facility had passed the final state inspection, the hustle was on to open in time for the holiday.
“It’s three and a half years since we decided to jump into the cannabis business. This business moves slow and then wham! We got the email saying we could open in three days’ time,” said CEO Stephen Perkins last week. “We were not going to pass up the Labor Day weekend business.
“When you jump into the cannabis business, you really jump in,” the Fitchburg State alumnus said with a laugh. Coincidentally, he graduated the year the LEGO factory closed.
Located just off Route 2, AMP Fitchburg is a seed-to-sale business, which means the entire process from growing, to curing, to manufacturing products, and then selling, is all done on site.
“People really are making a local purchase and supporting a local business,” Perkins said.
Perkins was speaking from within “the vault,” where the large range of recreational and medicinal stock is stored. Not only valuable, cannabis products are highly regulated by the state.
“This is the most secure room in the building,” he said. “But we have bylaws for every part of the building. We have 100 security cameras at work.”
Perkins acknowledged that the building’s history adds a cool factor.
“This was one of the last LEGO factories in the U.S. and we have a bucket of the last bricks ever produced here,” he said. “They are autographed by the team who made them.”
The LEGO artifacts can’t be displayed, though. “We can’t have it out,” Perkins said. “This is an adult 21-plus facility and we can’t risk sending the wrong message. There are strict rules about marketing to minors.”
The decision to open the location in Fitchburg was about more than finding the right building.
“You need a municipality to be welcoming,” Perkins said. “The mayor has been very welcoming; he knew what it was all about. There are already dispensaries here. This area once had so much industry: the mills, the plastics. Now it has a new industry.”
The Fitchburg location will serve as a central production hub for AMP, which has two more dispensaries already under construction, one in Salem and another in Brockton. With all production done in Fitchburg, local employment opportunities will expand, especially for its pot professionals.
“Fitchburg had the first medicinal marijuana facility in the state, which means some people have several years of experience in the legal pot business. “Right now we employ 20 people, but that will ramp up soon to 40 to 50 in the three departments,” Perkins estimated.
The wide array of products, from smokables to edibles to CBD oil, is for purchase only, with no consumption allowed on premises, said Perkins. “We do not have a public consumption license.”
Nor can people see the back-of-house operations.
“This is all highly regulated,” Perkins reminded. “We can’t risk contamination with people going in there. Our workers work in scrubs and shoes that are only used here.”
Still, Perkins expects the store to be quite the attraction.
“I am not over-hyping it at all when I say this really is a beautiful retail facility,” he said. “This could be a dispensary on Newbury Street. Even the bathrooms are beautiful.”