Portland prepares for 3 dozen marijuana businesses

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Although the scope of Portland’s retail marijuana market won’t be completely known until after a referendum vote next week, pot businesses got a positive hit last week when the City Council nixed its matrix system for awarding licenses.

The decision paved the way for all qualified businesses that applied prior to Aug. 31 to be licensed.

The city received 43 applications, although its attorneys weeded out applicants who had disqualifying factors, including criminal histories or prolonged histories of delinquent tax payments.

Scott Howard of SeaWeed Co. in front of the company’s not-yet-open shop on Marginal Way in Portland. He says the city may have awarded too many initial licenses for adult-use marijuana businesses. (Portland Phoenix/Cam Jones)

Councilors approved an amendment to forgive two years of late payments that otherwise would have been disqualifying factors: if the applicant was late during the coronavirus pandemic and has now caught up, or if at any point in the past five years they were late once as a result of human error.

According to City Hall spokesperson Jessica Grondin, 36 businesses progressed through the first round of business licensing – 16 more than the city had planned to license. The 20-license cap is now expected to be achieved as initial licensees disappear through attrition.

A question on the Nov. 3 ballot, however, would do away with the cap. It is the only one of several citizen initiatives not publicly opposed by Mayor Kate Snyder and a majority of the City Council.

One of the 36 first license recipients is Wellness Connection of Maine, the company that sued the city over the licensing matrix. Wellness claimed the matrix violated the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution by giving preferential treatment to local applicants or applicants who already had business licenses in the city. A federal judge temporarily enjoined the city from favoring local businesses, which ultimately led to the City Council’s decision to expand the playing field.

Around the state, recreational marijuana has been sold legally since Oct. 9. The first weekend the new law was in effect, marijuana generated almost $260,000 in total sales across the state. There were nearly 6,500 transactions and almost $29,000 in sales taxes collected.

One of the first stores to open in southern Maine was SeaWeed Co. in South Portland, which also has a storefront ready to open on Marginal Way in Portland. Scott Howard, a principal owner of SeaWeed, said sales in South Portland have been good, even though the store has only been open four days a week.

“Our staff has been doing an excellent job, and the people have been very receptive,” he said.

Howard said he didn’t approach Oct. 9 with any sales projections, and forecasting forward is difficult to do. He said the industry is still under restrictions including where to obtain products and how long they can be open.

As for the Portland market, Howard said he was excited “to put this whole process behind us” and be able to open the Marginal Way store.

He said he thinks the city may have issued too many licenses to start with, although at the very least it gives everyone a fair shot.

“I do believe it’s going to be interesting for a while,” he said.

Approved pot businesses in Portland

Here are the 36 applicants, and their addresses if available from the city, licensed to open retail adult-use marijuana businesses in Portland:

All Kind Bodega, no address provided; Atlantic Farms, 460 Warren Ave.; Balance, no address; Beach Boys Cannabis Co., 115 Middle St.; Black Bear Bud, no address; Caniba, 94 Portland St.; Coast 2 Coast Extracts Retail, 64 Washington Ave.; Coastal Roots, 953 Congress St.; Evergreen Cannabis, 178A Washington Ave.; Fire on Fore, 367 Fore St.; Grass Roots Marijuana Shop, 377 St. John St.; Green Alien Cannabis, 486 Congress St.

Growroom, 230 Warren Ave.; Hazy Hill Farm, 482 Congress St.; Higher Grounds, 45 Wharf St.; Jar Cannabis, 9 Exchange St.; Kind & Co., 684 Forest Ave.; Landrace Cannabis, 373 Forest Ave.; Local Leaf Retail One, 1397 Washington Ave.; Mantis Cannabis, no address; ME Plant Based Therapy, 605 Congress St.; Meowy Jane, 3 Market St.; Mystique Retail, 745 Forest Ave.; OMG Cannabis, 47 India St.

Origins, 327 St. John St.; Port City Relief, 1236 Congress St.; Portland Greenhouse, 1 Spring St.; Pot & Pan, 646 Forest Ave.; Royal Oil Sebago, 1140 Brighton Ave.; SeaWeed Co., 23 Marginal Way; Silver Therapeutics, 370 Fore St.; The Stage, 5 Spring St.; Sweet Dirt, 1207 Forest Ave.; The Higher Concept, 301 Forest Ave.; Upstate Retail 1, 610 Congress St.; Wellness Connection, 685 Congress St.