Retail marijuana sales begin in Maine

Published on October 9, 2020 · Last updated January 10, 2022
It's day one in Vacationland, and Theory Wellness in South Portland is ready to greet its first customers at 10 a.m. Friday. (Dave Howard for Leafly)

Nearly four years after Maine voted to legalize cannabis for all adults, opening day has arrived. Retail marijuana sales began at 10 a.m. on the morning of Oct. 9.

A select few stores have been licensed to sell adult-use products on Oct. 9. Dozens of others are waiting for state officials to sign off on their licenses, and those stores should come online in the coming days and weeks.

The stores listed below have been licensed to open on Oct. 9. Calls to retailers on Oct. 8 indicated that two stores in South Portland—Theory Wellness and SeaWeed—will be open on Friday morning. Green Cures, in Auburn, will also be open for its first sales on Friday morning, as will Northland Botanicals in Stratton.

Check out Leafly Finder to discover all the dispensaries near you.

TownStore Address
AuburnGreen Cures550 Center St
BangorFirestorm Cultivation1172 Hammond St
DamariscottaCoastal Cannabis Co.53A Chapman St
NorthportSweet Relief1 Priest Road
South PortlandSeaWeed185 Running Hill Rd
South PortlandTheory Wellness198 Maine Mall Rd.
StrattonNorthland Botanicals152 Main St
WatervilleTheory Wellness20 Industrial St

Leafly’s correspondent on the scene in Maine

Leafly correspondent Dave Howard, who lives in Portland, Maine, is on the scene to record history in the making today. He filed these dispatches throughout the day from the first stores selling cannabis in South Portland. The vignettes are posted in reverse chronology, so Dave’s latest dispatch is up top.

Whooping it up and making history

One moment that typified the festive atmosphere on Maine’s opening day of cannabis sales: An elderly woman in a Philadelphia Eagles hat whooped after making her purchase. She was so giddy that she started to make her way toward the wrong exit, and a store employee had to redirect her.

Thomas Winstanley, marketing director at Theory Wellness in South Portland, said it reminded him of a memorable interaction early in his cannabis career.

“A little old lady came in and asked for Dank Sinatra,” he recalled. She had to be in her 80s, he said with a grin.  “We see a little bit of every type of person, and that’s what has me so optimistic about this industry. It’s a very widespread group of people we’re drawing from.”

Curious customers peer through the window of a cannabis store in South Portland, Maine, on opening day of adult-use marijuana sales, Oct. 9, 2020. (Dave Howard for Leafly)

Out-of-staters flock to Maine to experience opening day

The line at the first store on opening day covered the gamut in terms of ages, races, and genders. It also featured one somewhat surprising element: folks from out of state. 

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Given the state’s pent-up demand—Mainers waited nearly four years to go from ballot to store opening—they might have been expected to dominate the turnout. But the first person in line was a nearly arrived New Mexico native. Just behind him were Erin Carr and her boyfriend, Jackson Bickford, who had traveled from New Hampshire for the occasion—a three hour round trip. Carr said Maine’s opening day “is like a birthday,” and it’s a personal game-changer because New Hampshire’s medical program has been a nonstarter for her.

“Opening day is like a birthday”: Customer Erin Carr talks to a TV news crew outside Theory Wellness in South Portland, Maine. (Dave Howard for Leafly)

“I’m super psyched, man,” Bickford said. “Everything is going to start slow, but licenses are going to get out there eventually.” 

A little farther back in line, a Californian who identified herself only as Cynthia said she was glad that cannabis had become accessible to a larger part of the population. Coming from a place where prohibition is a distant memory, she was struck by the enthusiasm in the air. “I’m so used to being able to go to a dispensary,” she said. “I feel I get it, though. You don’t want to have to get it from outside sources. Here you can ask questions about what you’re putting into your body.”

Jason Chavez waits outside the Theory Wellness store in South Portland, Maine, on opening day. (Dave Howard for Leafly)

First customer in South Portland: Jason Chavez

Maybe it was one of the first overnight frosts of autumn for southern Maine, or it was just that the long wait for the state’s adult-use dispensaries to open left everyone feeling a little skeptical.

Whatever the reason, when Jason Chavez arrived at Theory Wellness in South Portland a little after 7 a.m., no one was in line yet. It was three hours still before the first store would open on the state’s opening day for adult-use marijuana. Chavez grabbed some fast food and saw that the other early arrivals were still sitting in their cars, so he decided to take the initiative and go stand by the front door. “I was like, if no one else is gonna do it, I’m gonna do it,” he says of his front-of-the-line status.

And with that, he made history.

A couple of hours later, when the doors opened at 10 sharp, Chavez became the first person ever to buy legal marijuana in Maine. A native of New Mexico, he moved to Portland two months ago, partly lured by the budding cannabis industry.

For his early-rising ways, he was rewarded by a round of applause and cheers from the Theory Wellness staff, and he raised his arms in victory as he sidled up to a register.

Jason Chavez enters to make the first recreational cannabis purchase at Theory Wellness in South Portland, Maine. (Dave Howard for Leafly)

In Stratton: First customers are all smiles at Northland Botanicals

Northland Botanicals in Stratton made its first sale a couple minutes past 10 a.m. this morning.

‘Good to be legitimate’

For Eli Hilton, opening day felt both totally new and familiar. The Maine native had lived the past four years in Massachusetts, where he could access legal recreational marijuana anytime he wanted. But this experience of buying in Maine was a novelty. He was aggrieved to move back home recently and find that even though adult-use had been passed by voters in 2016, he was unable to buy it.

“You’ve got a chance here for a fresh start, and you can do with the taxes what you could have done with alcohol. You’ve got a chance to do it right.” – Eli Hilton, customer

“It’s frustrating because you have to go back to a clandestine kind of situation,” he said while waiting in line to make his first legal purchase in Maine. “It’s good to be able to go to a storefront, and it’s legitimate. It’s a return to form for me.”

Hilton, who lives in Portland, says he’s hopeful that Maine can serve as an example to the other four New England states that have yet to fully legalize—and the rest of America, for that matter. He would like to see the tax revenues from marijuana sales rolled into education, infrastructure, and other local causes.

“Why not have it work for the state?” he said. “You’ve got a chance here for a fresh start, and you can do with the taxes what you could have done with alcohol. You’ve got a chance to do it right.”

As for his shopping excursion? “There was a little less than I anticipated, but I think that’s to be expected because it’s opening day. But the price points were relatively low for what I got.”

Social distancing was the rule for customers waiting to make their first legal purchase in Maine. (Dave Howard for Leafly)

Customers excited to make history in South Portland

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Mainers are getting their first opportunity to legally buy marijuana for adult recreational use, but a supply shortage is a potential buzzkill.

Retailers blame the pandemic and a limited number of licensed manufacturers for reducing the variety of products available on Friday, the opening day. Licenses were issued only a month ago.

That didn’t dampen Matt Bourgeois’ enthusiasm for hitting two newly opening cannabis shops in South Portland, Theory Wellness and SeaWeed.

“It’s the history that I’m excited about,” said Bourgeois, 40, of Hampton, New Hampshire, who wasn’t worried about limited products. “I’d like to take part in the historic moment. It’s important to me.”

“A huge step” for Theory Wellness

Theory Wellness, at 198 Maine Mall Road in South Portland, is scheduled to be the first of a handful of stores to unlock their doors across the state, with the inaugural sale expected Friday morning at 10 a.m.

Expect a simple product menu, as supplies are limited in these early days. Don’t forget to bring cash and your mask.

Like everyone else in Maine, the store is working with a tight supply chain. Expect a straightforward menu of edibles, flower, and other products, says Thomas Winstanley, the director of marketing.

Customers should expect socially distanced lines and purchase limits. That’s because Maine regulators issued retail and cultivation permits at the same time, which didn’t give growers enough time to meet the expected demand. Theory Wellness bought supplies from some of the medical marijuana businesses in Maine.

Opening in the time of COVID: Theory Wellness has safety shields and distancing markers—and plenty of merch for sale. (Dave Howard for Leafly)

“Because it’s a new market, it’s hard to get product right now,” Winstanley says. “For that reason we truly are taking it day by day.”

Still, for the New England-based company—Theory Wellness got its start in nearby Massachusetts—it’s an exciting time. “This is a huge step for us,” Winstanley says, “and we’re really feeling it.”

Meet your Maine cannabis retailers

Here are a few glimpses into the operations behind the scenes in the stores licensed to open on Friday.

Stratton: Northland Botanicals showing off its strains

Northland Botanicals already has a variety of cannabis flower strains to choose from. If you’re intrigued by Salmon River OG, Leafly has the world’s largest cannabis strain database and review catalog.

Auburn: Green Cures got the product it needs to open

Late Thursday we got word that Green Cures would indeed be open for adult-use sales “bright and early” on Friday morning in Auburn.

South Portland: Theory Wellness working to normalize it

South Portland: SeaWeed hosting a grand opening weekend

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Dave Howard
Dave Howard
Dave Howard is a national magazine editor and award-winning author. His most recent book is Chasing Phil: The Adventures of Two Undercover Agents With the World's Most Charming Con Man.
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