A Martha’s Vineyard marijuana dispensary worried about permanent closure is suing the state and calling for regulators to allow cannabis products be delivered across Vineyard Sound to the Island. 

Island Time, the Vineyard Haven dispensary owned by Geoff Rose, filed a lawsuit in Suffolk County Superior Court Tuesday alleging the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission’s ban on transporting marijuana from the mainland to the Island is arbitrary and puts an undue burden on Island-based dispensaries.

State officials have maintained that dispensaries on the Vineyard are required to sell marijuana that is grown on the Island because state and federal regulations disallow transportation of cannabis across the water and airspace between here and the mainland. 

Mr. Rose’s claim pushes back on that assertion, arguing Vineyard Sound still falls under the state’s jurisdiction and the state does allow other retailers to buy products from other growers to be sold. 

“For more than 11 years, my efforts have centered on providing safe and responsible cannabis to local residents and visitors alike,” he said in an interview with the Gazette. “I’m hoping that the court will mandate the commission take immediate action to allow us to transport the product from the mainland.” 

The lawsuit comes after Fine Fettle, the Island’s only commercial marijuana growing facility, announced it would close this year, cutting off the supply to Island Time and potentially all of the Vineyard. In March 2024, Mr. Rose ordered marijuana from a mainland supplier that brought it to the Vineyard aboard a vehicle loaded on a Steamship Authority ferry. 

He raised the idea with the commission beforehand and was told that the commission did not condone violations of federal law. According to Mr. Rose, he took that to mean he would not be penalized, given that all of the commission’s activities fall afoul of federal law. 

Later in March, the supplier, which is not named in the lawsuit, was given a warning from the Cannabis Control Commission and Mr. Rose was ordered by the commission to stop selling the products that had been delivered.

The lawsuit says the commission later lifted the sale prohibition and Island Time sold the products until they ran out of stock. Still, the commission did not approve of the delivery method and said the transportation of marijuana to the Island remained in violation of the law. 

Mr. Rose shut Island Time’s doors on May 15, telling customers he would be temporarily closed because of troubles securing products. 

Island Time, which filed the suit against the Cannabis Control Commission along with the Nantucket-based The Green Lady Dispensary, is calling for the court to grant an injunction against the commission in order to allow marijuana to be transported to the Vineyard. 

“[Island Time] is being starved to death by the Commission’s arbitrary, unreasonable and inconsistent policy against transporting marijuana and marijuana products over state territorial waters,” Mr. Rose wrote in an emergency motion Tuesday.

He estimated that if Island Time remained closed for longer than two weeks, employees might start seeking other jobs, making it difficult to reopen at a later time.

Mr. Rose originally opened what is now Fine Fettle's grow operation as a medical marijuana facility in 2020. Then called Patient Centric, Mr. Rose sold the operation to Fine Fettle in 2021 and opened Island Time later that year. 

Though Massachusetts legalized marijuana in 2012, it is still illegal at the federal level. The Steamship Authority is overseen by the U.S. Coast Guard, a federal agency that has said transportation of controlled substances is illegal.

The commission raised the Vineyard’s plight at a meeting earlier this month and has been exploring ways to make it easier to access marijuana on the Vineyard. The commission plans to hold a meeting on the Vineyard to explore the current supply chain issues. 

A commission spokesperson declined to comment on the pending lawsuit, but said the agency is aware of the issues facing the Islands and has worked to make special accomadations. 

“At this time, transportation of marijuana from the Commonwealth mainland to the island counties is not one of those accommodations,” the agency said in a statement. “To the extent permitted by law, the Commission has been discussing what may be possible in terms of extending additional accommodations to these licensees and will be scheduling a public meeting on Martha’s Vineyard within the next month to continue the conversation.”

Several other states do allow transportation across the ocean or aboard ferries.

At the May 9 commission meeting, members learned that New York allows marijuana on ferries and California has special regulations for Catalina Island.

With Fine Fettle’s planned closure and Island Time’s supply struggles, the Vineyard has about 230 medical marijuana patients that could have nowhere to legally obtain marijuana.

Sally Rizzo, a Tisbury resident, filed an affidavit with the court this week to support Mr. Rose’s lawsuit. 

“If I have no retail source of marijuana for my medical needs, my quality of life will suffer significantly,” she wrote. “I am unwilling — and should not be compelled — to risk purchasing untested marijuana from the illicit black market or purchasing marijuana from the Massachusetts mainland and transporting it to my home via the Steamship Authority to treat my documented medical condition.”