What would a cannabis store look like in Boothbay Harbor?

Posted:  Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - 11:00am

What if someone decides to develop a retail marijuana shop in Boothbay Harbor? A vote in November could make it possible. 

This is the first article of a two-part series. The Boothbay Register spoke with five companies from across the U.S., about the business and safety aspects a company needs to consider when opening a storefront. Part two will focus on community and education, concluding with what a storefront might look like.

The first company, MedMen, is based in Los Angeles, California and manages ten cannabis facilities in California, New York and Nevada— four retail shops in California and four in New York. The second is a multi-award-winning retail and medicinal cannabis company based in Fort Collins, Colorado called Infinite Wellness Center (IWC8). The third company is a principal and interior design company called Highroad Studio based in Phoenix, Arizona. Megan Stone — founder and sole proprietor — boasts a résumé of projects in 13 states and many awards. The fourth company is the Wellness Connection of Maine, a medicinal dispensary based in Portland, with branches in Bath, Gardiner and Brewer.

The fifth company is the medical marijuana caregiver storefront in Boothbay,  Pharmer’s Market. Owner Jan Martin and consultant Darrell Gudroe opened it July 1. It sells products with cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive substance that targets pain receptors made from hemp. The medical marijuana can only be purchased by patients who have a medical marijuana card, and only after an initial intake appointment with Martin.

When asked what the biggest considerations are when opening a cannabis retail store — community, security, market prices, codes and restrictions, etc.— Daniel Yi, Director of Communications at MedMen replied, “All of the above, but it all boils down to regulations.”

Stone said the local brand, and Max Poling, marketing manager for IWC8, cites location, zoning and compliance paired with the need to have convenient access, parking and security “is a difficult balancing act.” 

“Although cannabis retail may seem very lucrative, there are many unique challenges that cannabis businesses face that require exceptional business acumen to weather,” said Stone. “The regulatory land space and the competitive environment tend to dictate a majority of the decisions a dispensary owner is able to make.”

“Focus on quality, education and normalizing the experience,” said Poling. “We are all ambassadors living through the end of cannabis prohibition … Establishing high quality customer relations, catering to first timers with care and lack of judgement, and elevating the in-store experience to promote a feeling of safety and control will pay back …” 

“This applies whether you are opening a dispensary in downtown Los Angeles or in a small, tourist town in Maine,” Yi said. “Obviously, we are not a ‘head shop.’ Those who are not familiar with how much the legal cannabis industry has evolved in recent years may still hold to the stereotype, but it is quickly disappearing.”

MedMen’s operations are organized from the cultivation level all the way to the retail level. Yi said that, at at every point in the process, the company strives for professional best practices like any business.

“Our cultivation team is led by a veteran of the farming industry, our chief marketing officer comes from the entertainment industry,” said Yi. “We are treating cannabis like high tech agriculture, manufacturing and top-notch retail.”

According to Yi, one of the biggest misconceptions about the legal sale of cannabis is that it is a product. “Yes, it is a controlled substance and should be highly regulated, but it is a product and it only has values we ascribe to it. Generally speaking, I think the public is realizing that a well-regulated, legalized marijuana operation is an asset. Legal marijuana businesses create jobs, tax revenue and are safer for consumers and the public.”

However, Gudroe said the biggest problem for cannabis storefronts will be banking.

“Even in a medical marijuana caregiver business you have to find an establishment that will provide banking for you and they’re very few and far in between,” said Gudroe. “Trying to find somebody just to do banking and insurance right now for recreational storefronts is — they don’t exist. There isn’t one.”

Patricia Rosi, CEO for Wellness Connection of Maine, said that despite the misnomer that cannabis shops will bring safety issues, working with local law enforcement has found just the opposite.

“Typically, having one of our dispensaries move into a town helps increase safety and security because we primarily lease the police to do patrol,” said Rosi. “We’ve elected to go into buildings that used to be vacant for a while, so we bring back life and light and security.”

Stone said many of the studies from states that have already legalized recreational cannabis have shown, a presence of retail cannabis in communities has led to lower crime rates, fewer drug overdoses, and lower rates of teen cannabis use.

“There are always bad actors in any industry, and the early days before adult use legislation saw many of these from the lack of an established compliance law and governing body,” Poling said.

“It is important to understand that dispensaries are law-abiding businesses, and therefore they must card every person who enters to ensure they are of age,” said Stone. “Legal dispensaries deserve credit for limiting teen access to cannabis.”

When considering the stereotypes of cannabis retail, Stone claims that her shop designs do not echo the interests of teenagers primarily because teenagers are not the market she, her clients, or the cannabis industry want to attract.

Gudroe, in his capacity as a board member for the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, has reviewed and helped draft Boothbay’s proposed ordinances for recreational cannabis.

“… The town decided not to restrict people using shared spaces to grow, but I believe the state is going to,” said Gudroe. “They’re trying to make it so that only 12 plants can be grown on any one parcel of land which would totally ruin business, having rental spaces for people. It’s something that I find unenforceable.”

Part two of this series will appear in the Aug. 24 Boothbay Register.