Exhibitors fill the main floor Sunday at the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine’s three-day trade show at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Keith Edwards

AUGUSTA — While the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine’s trade show was focused on medical marijuana, some, though not all, caregivers at the eighth annual event said they hope to expand their operations also to sell marijuana to adults for recreational use when the state finally sets the rules.

Most said their focus will remain on providing marijuana to their patients who need it, but said also selling marijuana retail to adults for recreational use could help ensure the financial stability of their operation and make it easier for people with medical needs who could be helped by marijuana but who haven’t taken the steps needed to be certified as a medical marijuana user.

“I think what you’ll see is many will look to add adult use into their medical” marijuana operations, said Catherine Lewis, president of the board of directors of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, a trade association for caregivers and patients and owner of Homegrown Healthcare of Maine, a caregiver store in Winthrop, and Homegrown the Offering, a small caregiver store in Hallowell. “Myself, I feel like I have to expand to adult use. The adult use market will afford us the opportunity to serve patients; but we do need to make sure, when adult use comes on, patients don’t lose any more access than they already have.”

Millinocket caregiver Angela McNamara and her husband Chet, who is in the process of becoming a caregiver, grow their own marijuana and also create their own edible products they sell through Roots 2 Remedies, with a focus on edible CBD products that are natural and mostly organic. She said while it’s not allowed now, they’d like also to be able to sell, at their storefront, edible products containing THC to adults, whether they have a medical card or not.

Chet McNamara said he thinks a lot of caregivers simply will keep doing what they’re doing even after retail sales of recreational marijuana are allowed in Maine, and just continue to grow for their own patients.

Caregiver Eric Gustin, owner of Newport-based GreenBear 420, a store that sells pipes and numerous other marijuana-related products, and GreenBear Green Care, a medical marijuana delivery service he operates from a motor home that also serves as his home, said he has no plans to expand into adult use recreational marijuana, in part because he’s “pretty happy with the number of people coming to the van” now and in part because he doesn’t want to deal with the additional requirements of burdensome record-keeping, which he said are expected to include a requirement to track every plant from seed until it goes to the customer and account for any trimmings or shrinkage in plants as they dry after they are harvested.

David Cunic, a physical therapist, business consultant and cannabis industry expert from New Jersey, speaks on Sunday to participants at the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine’s three-day trade show at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Keith Edwards

Speaker David Cunic, a physical therapist, business consultant and cannabis industry expert from New Jersey who said he has helped marijuana business owners secure millions of dollars for their businesses from investors, said Maine growers have a unique opportunity in attracting investment because Maine-grown cannabis is “top tier” in quality and because investors are more willing to give Mainers money because of their reputation as hard workers.

But he warned that growers will have to be prepared to spend some of their own money to attract investors and will need to take a professional approach, including being able to tell investors what their potential return on investment would be, explain what their goals are as a business, have a business plan, not pay themselves too high a salary, and sell themselves with a subjective story backed up by objective data. He said 60 percent of business owners in the cannabis industry are first-time business owners, so they might not know the basics of business. He said spending the money on a business advisor can help a business owner be successful, and find investors.

“It’s going to cost some money, if you’re serious about your business,” Cunic, in his “Cannabis Business 101” speech, said from the Augusta Civic Center stage to about 20 onlookers Sunday. “There are people right here at this conference who are willing to write a check, who are looking to invest in this business.”

Dan Thayer, president of Auburn-based Lifespring Microclimates, a business which offers indoor growing equipment that allows growing methods that are scientifically proved and environmentally sustainable, expects an initial rush into the recreational marijuana market, but he also expects roughly 30% of those businesses will fail as the market is established.

He said growing improvements that have started in the cannabis industry, such as vertical farming and the use of more-efficient LED lighting, are expanding into use in vegetable production. He said the new indoor growing methods use one-30th of the land area and one-10th of the water of traditional outdoor grow operations.

“We have to drive this industry to be more sustainable,” Thayer said. “I’m pleased to see Maine move to a more-regulated market. Quality control is important, no matter what the product is.”

Jennifer Whetzel, a marketing professional and founder of Ladyjane Branding, speaks on Sunday to participants at the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine’s three-day trade show at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Keith Edwards

Jennifer Whetzel, a marketing professional and founder of Ladyjane Branding, said it’s no secret that cannabis is poised to be the hottest market going, and well-branded businesses with a loyal customer base will be the ones that do well as the market opens up and expands, and that only the best will survive and thrive in the industry.

Lewis said the trade show is meant to help provide patients with information about medical marijuana and be a forum for caregivers and vendors to exchange information with each other.

She said the city-owned Augusta Civic Center has been an excellent site for the event and staff there have treated organizers well despite what, for some, is an industry that still might have a stigma attached to it because of the history of marijuana use being illegal under state law until Maine voters first legalized medical use and later recreational use by adults.

 


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