Woolwich selectmen have granted the town’s second local recreational marijuana retail license to the owner of Highly Cannaco, a marijuana store chain, just a few doors down from the town’s only other cannabis store.

The unanimous vote was taken Tuesday after no residents or selectmen offered comments during a hearing.

Highly Cannaco will eventually move into 59 Main St. in Woolwich. The building now holds Holistic Alternatives, a medical marijuana store on Route 1 in Woolwich.

Highly Cannaco owner Jan Martin said he bought the building Holistic Alternatives is in, but that business will remain in the building for three to four months before Martin moves his business into the space.

Highly Cannaco, a recreational marijuana retail chain, is looking to take over what is now Holistic Alternatives, a medical marijuana store on Route 1 in Woolwich. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

“We have up to a year to convert into recreational,” said Martin. “We’re acquiring the building and Holistic Alternatives is still a tenant in that property, but we have no intention of moving out the medical operation there any time soon. We have no intention of displacing the medical patients of Holistic Alternatives.”

Holistic Alternatives did not return requests for comment Wednesday about whether they plan to relocate.

Martin said much of the transition timeline will depend on how quickly he can find contractors and materials to complete updates to the building so it follows the state’s rules for recreational marijuana stores. This includes updated lighting and security, among other improvements.

With a local retail license in hand, Highly Cannaco will next need to secure an active license from the state before being allowed to sell recreational marijuana in Woolwich. The business is also in the process of establishing recreational retail stores in South Portland and Boothbay as well as a cultivation facility in Boothbay, according to the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy.

Highly Cannaco wouldn’t be the first medical marijuana seller in Woolwich to gain a recreational marijuana retail license, but wait to use it.

Woolwich selcectmen granted a local recreational marijuana retail license to Sayra Small, co-owner of Farley’s Cannabis Farm, Woolwich’s other medical marijuana store, earlier this year. Following the approval, Small said she didn’t know when the store would venture into selling recreational cannabis.

The business hadn’t yet received an active license from the state as of Wednesday, according to the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy.

Aside from being a few doors down from Farley’s Cannabis Farm, Highly Cannaco’s Woolwich location will be within two miles of three marijuana shops in Bath. Despite the proximity, Martin said he isn’t concerned about competition because he believes the market is large enough to support all vendors.

“We’re in South Portland and Auburn, which are much more competitive atmospheres,” said Martin. “In South Portland, we have eight competitors within a mile and a half in either direction on the same street. There’s room for everybody. A lot of the people I compete with, I buy their inventory and vice-versa. Everyone can get along and make a little money.”

Martin said he was drawn to Woolwich because it falls between the business’ other locations and the area sees a steady stream of traffic, both from tourism and daily commuters.

According to the Maine Department of Transportation traffic data, over 17,700 vehicles traveled through that stretch of Route 1 daily in 2019.

“Woolwich has been very open-minded and accepting of the industry,” said Martin. “I know it’s fairly new for municipalities, so there’s no perfect roadmap, but this has been one of my better experiences.”

Woolwich residents voted 136-51 to allow recreational marijuana retail stores in town last August. However, a maximum of three recreational retail shops can open on Route 1 between the Taste of Maine restaurant and the Sagadahoc Bridge that connects Woolwich and Bath.

After Mainers voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, the state required each municipality to draft and approve their own regulations for recreational marijuana use and business.

Neighboring Bath, Brunswick and Bowdoinham opted in, permitting any recreational cannabis businesses. In Topsham and Georgetown, recreational marijuana growing, manufacturing and testing are permitted, but retail stores aren’t allowed. Nearby West Bath, Phippsburg and Wiscasset haven’t given any recreational marijuana businesses the green light.

The Maine Office of Marijuana Policy has received 238 recreational marijuana retail applications from across the state. Of those, 53 have received an active license as of Wednesday, according to state data.

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