Maine Cannabis Exchange’s recreational store in South Portland is located at 27 Ocean St. Maine Cannabis Exchange

Recreational cannabis sales in Maine reached record heights last month, and dispensaries in South Portland are part of the trend.

Theory Wellness on Maine Mall Road and Maine Cannabis Exchange on Ocean Street report brisk sales over the summer, thanks in part to tourism.

“It’s been a great summer for us in all three of our locations,” said Brandon Pollock, CEO of Theory Wellness, which also has stores in Bangor and Waterville.

Pollock Contributed/ Jenny Fuore

Maine Cannabis Exchange has seen “linear growth,” said CEO Peter Ingram.

“We hope to keep that momentum going,” Ingram said.

A third recreational marijuana retailer in the city, HighNorth by Wellness Connection on Western Avenue, did not return requests to comment for this article.

Sales figures have consistently increased since the recreational market opened in October of 2020, but a big boom came in the dog days of summer when statewide sales jumped from $6.5 million in June to $9.4 million in July, according to the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy. In August, recreational cannabis sales in Maine totaled $10.2 million, the first time the state has eclipsed the $10 million mark.

“I believe tourism definitely put a bump in our sales,” said Ingram, who’s hoping year-round visitors to the area also become customers. “Maine has a lot to offer … hopefully some skiers come through this winter.”

Pollock said his stores also saw a lot of tourist traffic.

An increase in the products available also helps sales, Ingram said.

Ingram Contributed / Maine Cannabis Exchange

Flower, which is often smoked through pipes or rolled into joints, made up 76% of Maine’s recreational cannabis sales when the market opened. That number dropped to 59% this summer. Edibles and concentrates are gaining popularity as flower alternatives, he said.

Someone may be used to smoking joints, Pollock said, “but when they take a look in the store for the second or third time they may see a chocolate bar and say, ‘Alright, let me give that a try.'”

Both CEO’s said South Portland has been a leader in the state when it comes to recreational cannabis.

“South Portland as a city has been super progressive,” said Pollock. “They were one of the first cities in Maine to put zoning and a process in place to license dispensaries.”

Initially, South Portland set a 300-foot buffer between cannabis establishments, according to the South Portland Planning & Development Department.

“It didn’t take long for the city to realize that there were going to be way too many cannabis operations with that small of a buffer,” said Ingram. “I went back to the city, and they decided to increase that buffer to further limit stores.”

Ingram believes that without the buffer increase, it was possible for South Portland to become “a weed town” with dispensaries on every corner.

Pollock noted that the increased customer traffic brought about by Theory Wellness has benefited its neighbors in the Maine Mall Road shopping plaza.

Maine Cannabis Exchange’s neighbors’ earlier concerns about potential traffic snarls and security issues proved to be unfounded, Ingram said.

“These things haven’t been an issue. We’ve tried really hard to be good neighbors,” he said.

There have been few complaints about the businesses, according to City Manager Scott Morelli, Code Enforcement Officer Barbara Skelton and Assistant City Manager Joshua Reny, and nothing that hasn’t already been addressed.

Both stores have tight security as required by the state, checking IDs before customers even walk through the doors, but Ingram and Pollock said they expect restrictions will lessen in the future.

“So much of the regulation and fear comes from the top,” said Ingram, noting that the federal government still considers cannabis to be a Schedule I Drug. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin and LSD.

“I think we’ll eventually see security surrounding cannabis sales become more reasonable. It will probably be like a liquor store,” Ingram said.

“You’ll still have to check someone’s ID once,” Pollock said, “but not necessarily at the door, then at the check-in counter and then again at the point of sale.”

With the market in full swing, both companies hope to expand their operations in the near future. Maine Cannabis Exchange is looking to set up two satellite stores, Ingram said.  Pollock would like to open a shop in the Old Port.

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