Theory Wellness is one of a handful of dispensaries in Maine that will be open for adult-use cannabis sales Oct. 9, and the company plans to apply lessons learned as an established operator in Massachusetts’ medical and adult-use markets to find success in the country’s newest recreational cannabis market.
The company is vertically integrated in Maine with cultivation and manufacturing operations in Waterville, in addition to its retail location in South Portland.
CEO Brandon Pollock said the last few months have been “a bit of a blur” as Theory Wellness worked to get its facilities up and running.
“We’ve been trying to hire, build out and get products ready as quickly as possible,” he said. “We weren’t given very much notice. We got our final licenses in early September, and with the expected open date in October, it gave us about a month to prepare. We’re still doing last-minute preparations, but we’re feeling good about it.”
With only a few stores opening on the first day of sales, and with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in mind, Theory Wellness is encouraging customers to make appointments to visit the dispensary, as well as pre-order products as much as possible in an effort to mitigate crowds.
“Having been through this in Massachusetts pre-COVID, we know there will be tremendous interest in visiting the stores, and we want to do our part to make sure we open responsibly and don’t have crowds,” Pollock said. “We’re going to have … appointments and limits in place on inventory to try to spread out the demand throughout the weekend and the first week.”
Theory Wellness will bring its COVID-19 protocols to Maine, which include ensuring that staff and customers wear face coverings, cleaning the store in between guests and after hours, providing hand sanitizer throughout the dispensary, and marking 6-foot intervals on the floor to promote social distancing.
Some aspects of the company’s operations in Maine will be different than those in Massachusetts, Pollock added, such as regulations that do not allow adult-use operators to supply products from the medical market.
“I think probably one of the main differences is that we are not able to bring finished medical product over from medical into adult-use, so it’s made it more difficult to get a full menu together for opening day,” he said. “We’re not going to be starting with as full of a menu as we’d like, but we’re lucky to have our facility licensed to produce, so we’ll get there.”
Another difference, Pollock added, is that Theory Wellness is launching straight into the adult-use market in Maine, whereas in Massachusetts, the company started in the medical program and added adult-use operations to its existing business.
“I think it’s a little more challenging because you have to fast-forward your whole business process,” he said. “With staffing, for example, if you were moving from medical to adult-use, you’d already have great employees at the company. [Here], you’re starting fresh with everybody all at once, which is more challenging.”
Some of the company’s staff in Massachusetts volunteered to relocate to Maine, Pollock said, so Theory Wellness will have some experienced employees to aid in the rollout.
Pollock expects the company’s biggest challenge to be supply, and he said it will likely take months, if not years, until supply is able to meet consumer demand in Maine.
“We’ll have a lot of pressure on inventory for the first bit of time, and that’s just how it goes with a new market,” he said.
Theory Wellness plans to lead with education, Pollock added. Although some customers may already have experience with cannabis, many others will be first-time consumers, and the company’s staff is trained to guide customers with products that will meet their specific needs.
“We look forward to serving a new customer base, and we hope everyone can be patient with us as we get our feet under us in the new market,” Pollock said. “But we look forward to seeing everyone Friday."