WELLS, Maine — Whether you’re looking for cannabis flower or something more refined, such as tinctures, edibles or vape cartridges, for medicinal purposes, a newly opened shop here has you covered.
Curaleaf, which operates three other medical marijuana dispensaries and one recreational marijuana shop in Maine, opened its fifth location in the state Friday, July 23, at 913 Post Road in Wells. It’s the only marijuana shop in town.
One of Curaleaf’s newer products is a THC-infused beverage enhancer called “Squeeze.” It comes in four different flavors, which people can add to seltzer water, tea or another beverage of their choosing, store manager Scott Reed said.
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While a digestible cannabis product may typically take 45 minutes to take full effect, the Squeeze product can take effect in 15 minutes or less, Reed said. The product costs $17 per unit full-price, he said.
Reed said the Curaleaf team is building on its decade of experience operating in Auburn and Ellsworth as it expands into southern Maine and opens shop less than 1.5 miles from the beach.
Given the number of tourists who stop in Wells — whether to stick around or head farther north — the shop is seeing a significant number of out-of-state patients, which works just fine since Maine’s reciprocity program allows shops to accept medical marijuana cards from just about every other state that has legalized the substance, Reed said.
Medical sign-off needed
Those who wish to purchase products from Curaleaf in Wells need to have a doctor’s certification. Some people will get that from their primary care provider or a telemedicine doctor, and the shop can provide a list of physicians with whom the shop has worked in the past, Reed said.
Customers also need to bring cash or use the ATM on site. Cannabis is still illegal under federal law, after all.
Even so, Reed said he has watched attitudes about marijuana shift markedly over the past decade.
“Looking back to 10 years ago or even five or six years ago, I think the whole outlook and the stigma has done a 180,” he said. “We used to spend a significant amount of our time just educating local municipalities, the legislators in Augusta, physicians. It’s definitely becoming more and more accepted.”
Support for the legalization of marijuana has grown dramatically among Americans in recent years. In response to a poll conducted in April, just 8% of respondents said marijuana use by adults should be illegal across the board, according to the Pew Research Center. A majority of respondents, 60%, said marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use alike, and another 31% voiced support for medical marijuana alone.
In 1999, Maine voters legalized medical marijuana through a ballot initiative. In 2016, Maine voters legalized recreational marijuana through a ballot initiative, though the state’s recreational market didn’t launch until October 2020, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, which supports cannabis legalization.
Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy oversees the regulation of medical and recreational marijuana in the state. But each municipality decides for itself whether to opt into the programs.
Complying with local rules
At the local level, Curaleaf needed approval from the Wells Planning Board before it could open shop in town, according to town code. The board voted unanimously in February that the Curaleaf application to convert the former Olympia Sports store into a medical marijuana dispensary complied with local rules, according to meeting minutes.
Wells stipulates that a marijuana dispensary cannot be within 1,000 feet of any preexisting public or private school or licensed child care center; visual depictions of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia are not permitted on signage; and dispensaries are allowed do business with the public only between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., according to town code.
Reed said the local permitting process in Wells went smoothly, with the help of letters of recommendation from two Maine municipalities where the company has proven itself.
“One thing the town of Wells seemed to be very happy with was we do have a track record of doing business in Maine for the past 10 years and being good corporate citizens and helping out in our communities,” he said.
Full-time work, collaboration
The shop in Wells has 15 full-time employees and two or three part-timers, Reed said.
Statewide, Curaleaf has more than 100 employees, with more hires expected in the next 12 months, according to the company. Nationwide, Curaleaf has more than 5,000 team members in its 108 dispensaries, 22 cultivation sites and 30 processing sites across 23 states.
Although there are potential competitors in nearby towns, Reed said cannabis businesses in the area have taken an approach that is friendly and even collaborative at times.
“I know there’s several storefronts in York County, but it’s such a new industry in a small state,” he said. “We’re all in this together helping create the industry. We’re on the phone almost daily sharing best practices, helping each other out.”
Reed said the Curaleaf store in Wells has also been received warmly by other businesses and groups in the community. Congdon’s Doughnuts, for example, contributed its sweet treats for opening weekend swag bags for the first 100 customers, he said. The bags were gone within six or seven hours, he added.
Curaleaf Maine also donated $5,000 to VetFuel, a local veteran’s organization, to mark the store’s opening.
More information is available at curaleaf.com.