Number of marijuana outlets grows in Upper Valley


Valley News Correspondent

Published: 01-21-2023 12:28 PM

WINDSOR — In recent weeks, three more Upper Valley cannabis dispensaries have opened their doors, bringing the region’s total to five.

Two of the new shops are in Windsor: Just prior to the new year, on Dec. 21, Depot Shop on Depot Street opened its doors; on Jan. 1, in Artisans Park across from Harpoon, Nick Castro opened Stone Leaf Cannabis. Meanwhile, in Randolph, Jon Erdman opened the doors to Polestar Cannabis on Pleasant Street on Jan. 6.

These three add to the previously opened shops in Woodstock and White River Junction. The shops’ owners have taken different paths to becoming part of the state’s nascent industry.

Stepping into Polestar Cannabis, located behind Wee Bird Bagels, at 24 Pleasant St. in Randolph, the pungent fragrance of marijuana meets the nostrils. A tranquil ambiance also greets customers, fitting for its location next to a yoga studio.

Erdman, a 57-year-old Williston, Vt., resident who founded Polestar, began ruminating over opening his own cannabis retail space roughly a year and a half ago, he said in a recent interview.

“I’ve been a cannabis enthusiast for a long time, and I’m very passionate about growing,” he said. “I started making tincture, which I really enjoy doing, and that’s when I really started getting serious about the idea of trying to get a license.”

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Prior to opening Polestar, Erdman worked 14 years for Spare Time Entertainment, an amusement center in Colchester, Vt. He comes to the cannabis industry after recovering from cancer. He thinks his recuperation was aided by cannabis. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that some elements found in cannabis such as THC can help alleviate symptoms of cancer and cancer treatment, but it has not been shown to treat cancer.)

“This, for well over a year now, has been a dream in progress,” Erdman said. “My passion runs deep from a medicinal perspective.”

Ultimately, he would like to be able to donate some of his shop’s proceeds to cancer research,

“especially cannabis cancer research,” he said.

To make his dream a reality, Erdman began networking with other Vermonters entering the cannabis industry last spring. He speaks enthusiastically and in admiration of those with whom he’s formed partnerships, including Emma Rose, of Rosie’s Confections in Winooski, Vt.

Inside Polestar, a large neon “R” hangs on the wall with a depiction of a rose making up part of the letter.

“She is soon to be delivering THC-infused bonbons and peanut butter cups,” he said.

To source cannabis flowers, one of the indoor growers Erdman works with is Pinnacle Valley Farms owned and operated by Jeremiah Sperry, of Randolph. The other is Satori, from Middlebury, Vt.

“There’s still a lot of guys still coming on, so we will definitely expand the indoor collection,” Erdman said.

Polestar carries five varieties grown outdoors from Northern Craft Distributors in Hyde Park, Vt., as well as a selection of pre-rolled joints and vape cartridges as well. Eventually, the brightly lit coolers behind the counter will be stocked with CBD- and THC-infused seltzers.

Erdman, ultimately, would like to explore making his own extractions to sell.

“We have additional spaces in this building, so when I first looked at it I was very much thinking that I would definitely get into manufacturing,” he said.

Further south, in Windsor, Nick Castro, a 41-year-old Strafford resident, is taking his own approach to the cannabis industry. His spacious storefront is equipped with display cases featuring beautiful hardwood and complete with a brightly colored mural that incorporates “characters,” including praying mantises and pigs, who live on the farm where all of Castro’s products are grown.

A self-described “legacy guy,” Castro worked in the biopharmaceutical industry before opening Stone Leaf, which he said gives him an edge on some of his knowledge when it comes to his new business venture.

“All of our cannabis here right now is grown on our own farm here in Marshfield, Vt., and we are 100% sustainable, we are 100% solar powered at all our facilities,” he said in an interview on Tuesday, adding that they don’t use pesticides or herbicides on the farm. “Some of these genetics we have here I created over the past two decades so a lot of this isn’t available anywhere else.”

The flowers have names such as Creature of the Deep, GMO (garlic, mushrooms and onions) and Pink Tangerine.

Through the farm-grown cannabis, Castro said he aims to teach people about “the benefits of growing using natural farming particles, living soil and organic-based amendments.”

In addition to selling products grown on his farm, Castro and his team also recently finished constructing an extraction laboratory and full kitchen in the back of the shop in Windsor.

Castro excitedly summarized the chemical-free extraction procedure, as he moved through the lab, to make rosin or an extract to be used in edibles, which he hopes to have available for purchase by early February.

Castro said he strives to help consumers find the products that suit them best. Many customers are looking for something that will help them sleep or ease their nerves.

“Say you’re the consumer and you decided you want to purchase something; we encourage people to take free notepads to go ahead and write down what they purchased and their experience, so when they come back in, we can go ahead and work with them to try and find what it is they’re really looking for,” he said.

The customers range in age and origin. Tourists, drawn in part by Harpoon, stop by, as do locals from both Vermont and New Hampshire. While some customers are young, others are not.

“I mean, it’s the older population (that) seems to be here almost waiting, which is not what you would have expected,” Castro said. “It’s really great.”

Laura Koes can be reached at