On Friday, for the first time ever, Mainers will be able to buy legal recreational marijuana. They’ll be able to leave their medical card at home, forgo the black market dealer who works out of the local coffee shop and buy taxed, tested and tracked cannabis from one of seven state-authorized stores for the sole purpose of getting high.
It is a privilege four years in the making, something legally possible in only nine other states.
Each of these first-wave shops has its own niche. Northland Botanicals in Stratton is gunning for the small-town vibe, run by a fellow who owns the general store next door. Firestorm Cultivation in Bangor embraces legal weed as a celebration of personal freedom. Seaweed Co. exudes an adventurous hipster appeal despite being a stone’s throw from The Maine Mall.
The House of Ganja in Newry is targeting the Sunday River ski crowd. Its logo? A smoking cartoon dog, in ski goggles and a hat.
But some things are going to be the same, no matter what. State law requires all customers and employees to wear face masks. Shop capacity limits will mean long waits and lines that stretch outdoors, so plan accordingly. Some retailers plan to hand out product menus and price lists to those in line to help pass the time and speed things up.
Customers will have to show a driver’s license or government-issued ID to verify they are at least 21 years old.
State law allows each customer to buy up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower, enough dried bud to roll about 140 joints. Many first-wave retailers, however, plan to limit opening day customers to just one-eighth of an ounce, or enough for about seven joints. They hope that will stretch out their supply, although many still expect to sell out quickly.
The amount of marijuana concentrates available to be vaped or dabbed will be limited, too, but a shorter harvest-to-consumer turnaround time means businesses with in-house extraction labs can probably restock fast. Only one store, Theory Wellness in South Portland, has a chance of stocking opening day edibles, but owners say it is a long shot.
Under state law, customers can purchase no more than 5 grams of concentrates at one time. The amount of THC, the part of marijuana that makes a user feel high, allowed in a medical edible is unlimited, but recreational edibles aren’t allowed to have more than 100 milligrams per candy bar, container or bag. No single serving, however, can have more than 10 mg.
The serving size limits are meant to help consumers “go slow” with edibles, whose psychedelic effects can take three hours to kick in.
All adult-use cannabis must undergo testing by an independent, state-licensed lab to establish product potency and safety. Over the coming year, Maine will require additional tests that check for heavy metals, residual solvents and pesticides. That sets adult-use marijuana apart from its medical cousin. In Maine, testing is not required for medical marijuana.
The method of payment will vary. Some shops will only accept debit cards, some are cash-only, while others have cashless ATMs to facilitate on-site purchases meant to take the place of credit cards. Retailers urge customers to call ahead to check on payment options so no one goes home empty-handed after making a long drive and waiting in long lines to shop.
Customers can’t consume the marijuana they buy at the shop or in any other public place, including parks, beaches and sidewalks. Most hotels prohibit the use of marijuana on the property, even in private guest rooms, although a handful permit smoking on balconies. Possession alone is forbidden on the ferries and mail boats that service the islands.
It is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, which can create a dreamy state of mind and make it hard to make quick decisions and judge distances and speed. Unlike with alcohol, there is no standard drug test that can definitively prove THC impairment, but Maine has trained police to detect the presence of drugs other than alcohol in impaired drivers.
If convicted, first-time offenders will lose their driver’s license for 150 days and have to pay a $500 fine.
And remember, while Maine law now allows recreational use and sales, marijuana remains illegal under federal law.