By Edward D. Murphy Portland Press Herald, Maine
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Keri-Jon Wilson, one of the owners of "Pot & Pan", said she thinks her business will be well positioned once the state rolls out the final rules governing marijuana sales for recreational users.
Portland Press Herald, Maine
It's an obvious opening date for a medical marijuana store.
Fire on Fore, the first medical marijuana retail establishment in Portland's Old Port, will have an official grand opening Saturday -- 4/20 -- the unofficial holiday for celebrating all things pot.
The opening comes at a time when Mainers are waiting for the state to finish writing rules to govern the sale of recreational marijuana, approved by state voters in a referendum more than two years ago.
In the meantime, unregulated medical marijuana storefronts have popped up all over the state, with many entrepreneurs hoping to get a toehold in what they see as an expanding industry.
Fire on Fore's owner, Leo Paquette, is one of them. He said he hopes to convert from a strictly medical marijuana shop to one that also sells to recreational users once the state finishes drafting rules to regulate the retail trade of both recreational and medical marijuana, which he hopes is this fall.
Two medical marijuana retail operations in Lisbon -- Lisbon Cannibas and BBB Pharmaceutical Alternatives -- are also hosting official openings Saturday, and Pot & Pan Kitchen, a Portland-based company that supplies edible cannabis and hemp cannabidioil, or CBD, baked goods to medical marijuana caregivers, is hosting a private event for about 100 people in Portland.
"Lobster Baked" will feature CBD-infused baked goods and lobster rolls with THC, the psychoactive product in marijuana. CBD is not psychoactive, but proponents say it offers health benefits to users.
Other events include dance parties, including one at the Newcastle Publick House, and reggae concerts. The Highbrow medical marijuana shops in Waldoboro, Topsham and Manchester will be giving away 10 $100 gift cards at each store to customers with medical marijuana cards.
Keri-Jon Wilson, one of the owners of Pot & Pan, said she thinks her business will be well positioned once the state rolls out the final rules governing marijuana sales for recreational users.
"It's a little gray still with the recreational (use and sales) right now," she said, but her business has established good connections with medical marijuana caregivers. The state recently changed its rules to allow roughly 3,000 licensed caregivers to open retail shops for medical marijuana.
Wilson said the delay in finishing the rec rules might actually benefit local operators because it gives them more time to set up their businesses before out-of-state companies come in once the market is legal.
"I don't think time hurts anyone when it comes to positioning yourself," she said, and it has given her company -- now about 3-1/2-years-old -- time to deal with issues ranging from banking and credit card processing to insurance and workers' compensation coverage. Pot & Pan has three full-time workers and four part-timers, she said.
Thomas Mourmouras, the director of operations at Fire on Fore, said his store used the regulatory delay to get itself a space in the Old Port, the prime retail spot in Portland. He and Paquette, a licensed caregiver, checked out the city's zoning map for marijuana uses and moved quickly to lease out a space in the Old Port.
"We're honored to be the first operating marijuana store in the Old Port and we hope to be here for many years," Mourmouras said. The shop kicked off a soft opening last month.
For the time being, Fire on Fore can only sell marijuana to those who hold a valid medical marijuana card. But he said the store will welcome those over 21 without a card to look around.
The interior of Fire on Fore looks like a jewelry store, with glass cases showcasing packaged products and loose marijuana, in glass medicine jars.
"We appreciate the chance to be a lot of people's first interaction with a marijuana store. There are still stigmas attached to this industry, but we are determined to showcase the professionalism and quality that this industry has to offer," Mourmouras said.
"It is disappointing to turn away almost half the people that walk through our door, but they appreciate our time and understand that adult-use sales are coming soon."
Although there are many stories about the origins of 420 in cannabis culture, Time magazine officially credited the term to five students at San Rafael High School in California who met at 4:20 p.m. after classes to smoke dope. One of them went on to become a roadie for the Grateful Dead and the term became popularized.
Mourmouras and Paquette will also be attending Pot & Pan's "Lobster Baked" event Saturday, he said, which will offer a chance for a range of marijuana-related Maine businesses to network.
"The entire day is a means to being people together to support local Maine businesses," Mourmouras said.