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Emerald River Opening Recreational Marijuana Store

By Nathan Tsukroff

LEWISTON – Emerald River Maine has broken ground for construction of an adult-use recreational cannabis retail store at 1240 Lisbon Street in Lewiston.

The planned 2,700 square foot store will be built on the site of one the firsts McDonald’s in Maine, which opened about 50 years ago. The McDonald’s moved down the street more than 10 years ago, with the lot remaining vacant until the purchase by Emerald River Maine in 2020.

Emerald River signed with general contractors Gendron & Gendron of Lewiston in mid-July of this year to begin construction of the planned $1 million store.

An artist’s rendering of the new recreational marijuana store that Emerald River Maine is building on Lisbon Street in Lewiston, with hopes of opening in December. Recreational sales of marijuana have only recently been approved in Maine. (Image courtesy of Emerald River)

As an adult-use cannabis store, a medical marijuana card will not be required to purchase cannabis, as long as the purchaser is 21 years of age or older.

While possession of marijuana is still illegal under federal law, medical cannabis was legalized in Maine in 1999 for patients suffering from serious health conditions.

Voters passed the Maine Medical Marijuana Act in 2009, which expanded the state’s existing program and decriminalized possession of up 2.5 ounces of cannabis.

In November, 2016, voters approved An Act to Legalize Marijuana, allowing adults 21 and older to possess, consume, and cultivate marijuana for personal use. The legislature made a number of changes and compromises to the law over the subsequent years, with the current law allowing recreational users to grow up to three marijuana plants at home.

The revised law, LD 1719, established rules for sales of recreational marijuana and gave Mainers priority for commercial licenses. Originally, only Mainers were going to be allowed to open stores, but lawsuits by out-of-state companies have caused Maine to set aside that requirement.

Emerald River of Maine President Matt Taggert has lived in Maine for six years with his wife and their elementary school-age son.

Emerald River Maine President Matthew Taggart in front of the lot on Lisbon Street in Lewiston where he plans to open a 2700 square foot recreational marijuana store as early as December. (Tsukroff photo)

He said he chose to locate the new store in Lewiston because the area is “undergoing a massive redevelopment” as the second largest city in Maine. The city leaders along with the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, “are fighting for the city. I love that vibe,” he said. Lewiston has a population of about 36,000, and paired with twin city Auburn at 23,000, the area approaches the population of Portland, Maine’s largest city at about 66,000 residents.

Taggart said that once Lewiston Land Use Planner James Buzzell “saw our brand identity, what we’re doing, and our business plan, I can’t even begin to express to you how welcoming they were to the business and what we’re trying to achieve.”

Located near the Lewiston exit for interstate highway 95, this will be the flagship store for Emerald River Maine, Taggart said, and he is planning for the store to be “very welcoming, very respectful . . .  a very nice shining beacon of ‘Hello, welcome to the city’.”

“So when somebody pulls in here, it’s going to be obvious this is not your everyday experience,” Taggart said. “We definitely want to a part of redevelopment in the city.”

An aerial view shows the lot at 1240 Lisbon Street, Lewiston, that was the site of a McDonald’s store from the 1960’s to 2009. The lot remained empty until Emerald River Maine purchased it last year to build a 2700 square foot recreational marijuana store. (Photo from Emerald River website)

Emerald River’s website talks about “a wandering river that begs for our attention,” and says, “We feel the peace and comfort that the gurgling movements bring to us. This is our adventure, as much as it is nature’s. It’s the wellness, and the strength of community in our neighbors which we wish to lift up. We see your beauty and we want to enhance that beauty. Our journey begins now.”

Taggart said all products that will be sold in the store will be grown, produced, and packaged in Maine.

He hopes to open the store in December, and eventually expects to have 12 to 14 employees, either directly in the store or working remotely.

Taggart is an equal partner in the business with Morriss Partee, and Matthew Moriarty. All three received  Maine Office of Marijuana Policy Individual Identification Cards in the first quarter of 2020, after a background review.

Taggart is also the COO/Product Engineer and Partner in EverythingCU.com, where he has designed several online products for the credit union industry. Partee comes from a marketing background, and he and Moriarty will be supporting Taggart as the face of Emerald River Maine, Taggart said.

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