By Patricia Rosi
As the CEO of the county’s largest medical marijuana company east of the Rocky Mountains, I’ve heard it all from potential landlords when inquiring about rental space — you won’t pay your rent on time, your business isn’t legal, you’ll increase the crime rate in the neighborhood, you’ll attract the wrong type of clientele to Main Street. In my time at the Wellness Connection of Maine, I can prove all of those statements false. It used to frustrate me, but now if I hear any of the above-mentioned statements, I see it as an opportunity to begin a conversation. After five years in this industry, I believe most people have opinions about the medical cannabis industry based on misconceptions versus reality.
So here are the facts.
Legal marijuana is the fastest growing industry in the county and is to surpass the value of the organic food market of $33 billion. Further, a CBS poll conducted in 2014 revealed that 76-percent doctors in North America approve of it for treatment. These facts are all important because it defines a moment in U.S. history — marijuana is here to stay. And we believe, its time to get to know us.
The Wellness Connection of Maine has four retail locations in Maine — Brewer, Thomaston, Gardiner and Portland. We have administrative offices housed in Westbrook, a building we purchased in 2015. And our cultivation facility is in Auburn, where we just broke ground on expansion plans. In 2014, we renovated a historic train station in Gardiner for the relocation of our Hallowell facility — a 125-year old train station that sat vacant for ten years before us. In Portland, we are quietly located behind one of the state’s busiest restaurants, Local 188. You might not have even known that. There are four other legal medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine, spanning from Aroostook to York County. The dispensaries are stringently regulated with frequent inspections by the Department of Health and Human Services, we pay millions of dollars in taxes and most importantly, we collectively serve over 25,000 Mainers seeking relief from debilitating pain and suffering. We are proud of what we do.
But don’t take our word for it.
Our patients will tell you they appreciate the easy access of our downtown locations versus having to travel to an industrially zoned, out-of-the-way location. Our landlords will tell you we’ve never missed a payment and have made numerous upgrades to our properties. Our neighbors will tell you, they’re grateful the Wellness Connection sits beside them because we bring foot traffic between 60 to 300 clients, each day, to our dispensary locations. And the police will tell you crime rates haven’t gone up, calls to our locations for trouble are nonexistent, and to the contrary, our security cameras have aided police investigations into crimes that have happened at our neighbors’ businesses.
If Mainers continue to seek relief from medicinal cannabis at the rate we’ve seen since the first dispensary opened in 2011, this industry will continue to grow larger in Maine and the country, where 40 states now allow medicinal cannabis. In order to keep up with demand, existing dispensaries could seek relocation opportunities for larger spaces, perhaps in your community. So before you stick with what you “know” and say no to a dispensary operator looking to rent your commercial space — ask questions, visit our existing spaces, and get to know us first.
Patricia Rosi, MBA
Patricia Rosi is CEO of the Wellness Connection of Maine (WCM), the state’s largest group of medical marijuana dispensaries. Under her leadership, WCM’s staff has grown from five to more than 60 employees in four years, and serves over 10,000 certified patients a year. Originally from France, Rosi has lived in Maine for nearly two decades and resides with her husband and two daughters.