Medical cannabis convenience store opens in Maine

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After voters approved adult-use cannabis legalization in 2016, Maine lawmakers haven’t let outgoing Gov. Paul LePage’s veto power stand in the way of the will of the People. Back in May, state legislators overrode LePage’s veto of a bill legalizing adult-use retail sales. And in July, they overrode the governor’s veto of a medical marijuana program expansion. With many of the restrictions placed on caregivers and dispensaries lifted by the new bill, Maine’s medical cannabis industry has more freedom to operate—and innovate. And one Portland, Maine caregiver is already taking advantage of the new rules, using an old walk-in cooler to convert a convenience store into the state’s first combination gas station and medical cannabis dispensary.

Maine MMJ Patients Can Now Gas Up and Grass Up at Atlantic Farms Gas N’ Grass

At 10 a.m. on Thursday, the old Getty Mart on Warren Avenue in Portland was no longer just a gas station and convenience store. Under Maine’s new medical marijuana law, which introduced major changes to the state’s 19-year-old medical cannabis program, it had become the Atlantic Farms Gas N’ Grass, a one-stop gas station, convenience store and medical cannabis dispensary. Under the program’s new regulations, caregivers can open up more medical dispensaries and hire more employees to staff them. But cities and towns also have the authority to restrict industry operations. Dispensary owners must obtain municipal approval before they can legally operate, for example.

Additionally, Maine caps its medical dispensary licenses. Before the expansion went into effect, the program granted just eight such licenses. The new rules will grant six additional licenses. Beyond state licensing, dispensary businesses must also obtain local permits. Jackson McLeod, a caregiver and member of the four-person partnership that created Gas N’ Grass, managed to snag a city permit for his convenience store/dispensary business before Portland passed a moratorium on any new retail operations in October.

Medical Cannabis Convenience Store Uses New Rules to Source Top-Shelf Products

Portland’s new Gas N’ Grass will offer a full suite of medical cannabis products ranging from flower to edibles and concentrates. Customers will need a government-issued ID and their medical cannabis card to purchase those items. But anyone will be able to buy hemp-based CBD products. According to the Press Herald, which visited the Gas N’ Grass, flower sells for $5 to $15 per gram and concentrates $20 to $40 per gram. Co-owner Jackson McLeod says the selection will be the best available. Maine’s new medical cannabis rules allow caregivers to purchase products directly from other caregivers. And that will offer medical marijuana patients who stop at the Gas N’ Grass more choices. “We offer a rotating menu of the best cannabis products from the best caregivers in Maine,” McLeod said.

McLeod was a lettuce farmer before pivoting to the medical cannabis industry. So he likes to think of his business model as a farmers market for medical cannabis. Unlike a farmers market, however, customers won’t be able to sample any goods on site. Like many other states, Maine’s medical cannabis regulations strictly prohibit on-site consumption.

Admittedly, combining a gas station convenience store with a medical dispensary seems to seriously discount concerns about drug-impaired driving. But with consumption forbidden, there’s no reason to think combining two retail services will lead to more intoxicated drivers. Furthermore, as retailers of alcohol and tobacco, convenience stores are already prepared to verify customers’ identification. Many already employ the security measures needed to handle large amounts of cash and adult-use substances.

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