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Swampscott to get first pot startup

SWAMPSCOTT — The town has its first recreational marijuana proposal, and it’s from two of its own residents. 

Tom Bogacz, 36, and Justin Eppley, 33, are the owners and CEOs of Terpene Journey, LLC, a recreational marijuana start-up. The Swampscott couple of 11 years, who have lived in town since 2014, recently secured a lease agreement for the old eye care center at 430 Paradise Road, next to Domino’s and a few steps away from Gourmet Garden.

“Given the history of voters here positively reacting to marjuana, it just felt like the right time,” said Bogacz. “Seeing such strong, positive support at Town Meeting was a huge push for us.” 

In 2016, 53.4 percent of Swampscott residents voted in support of Question 4 on the state ballot, legalizing recreational marijuana sales to adults, according to Eppley. At Town Meeting this past May, residents voted to adopt a 3 percent local excise tax on retail cannabis sales, on top of the revenue the town will already receive as part of the statewide cannabis law.

While the numbers illustrate residential support for the sale of recreational pot, this is the first proposed shop for the town. In their proposal, obtained by The Item, Bogacz and Eppley stated Swampscott is the ideal partner for anyone looking to open a small business and they hope Terpene Journey, LLC can become “yet another example of the town’s level-headed approach to economic development.”

The start-up was recently certified by the Cannabis Control Commission as an official Social Equity business, meaning they will be provided with professional training, technical assistance and mentoring.

“We are incredibly grateful the state has made such a meaningful investment in our business and we hope Swampscott shares the state’s goals of creating a more equitable cannabis industry that isn’t dominated by large companies funded from Nevada, Colorado, or Canada,” Eppley said.

Bogacz and Eppley have more than 25 years experience in operating and advising retail stores, with deep expertise in technology, operations, data science and compliance. Their security director, Patricia Haley, has 25 years of law enforcement experience, and previously held jobs as a police chief and a special agent in the FBI. She is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. 

Chief Counsel and Business Strategist James McMahon is an attorney and cannabis business consultant who has been working in the Massachusetts cannabis industry since the earliest days of medical marijuana legalization.

The company also has experience in proposing a recreational shop, having done so with Salem last year and receiving positive feedback from the city about their proposal, said Bogacz. They went through the city’s process but the chosen site didn’t sit well with neighbors, according to an article from Patch.

“So our proposal in Salem is now closed but it was a really good learning experience for us,” Bogacz said.

The company’s new proposal states that the company will not be growing cannabis in town. Instead, it will source products from local craft cultivators and product manufacturers, and Bogacz and Eppley’s application is only for recreational, not medical marijuana.

Terpene Journey, LLC employees will also receive one paid day off each quarter to volunteer at a charity of their choice.

Next steps for the proposal include executing a host community agreement with the town and hosting a community outreach meeting, as required by state law. Parking, security and safety are the top three things the company anticipates residents having questions about, said Bogacz, and the team is looking forward to hearing from neighbors.

“The more we understand what people’s fears are will give us an opportunity to have level-headed conversations and use that feedback to make this proposal stronger,” Bogacz said.

Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said the town has very little information on the potential pot shop, but there are local and state standards in place that will ensure officials have ample time to review and discuss potential issues that would arise with a cannabis business in the community.

“Rest assured that Swampscott will exercise all due care as we evaluate this potential new venture,” Fitzgerald said. “We also are in a good position to learn lessons from a few North Shore communities that have permitted recreational shops recently. It is also important to keep in mind that it is estimated that the local and state review will take, at minimum, 9 to 12 months.”


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