The owner of a Biddeford medical marijuana dispensary is under fire for referencing “Negroes and homosexuals” while speaking before a municipal board.

But Glenn Peterson, founder of Canuvo, said he was being sarcastic when addressing the Bridgton Planning Board last week in response to a resident who asked the board to ban adult-use marijuana storefronts because she believed they would attract the wrong kind of tourists to Bridgton.

“I think this lady is correct, that Negroes, homosexuals, they may also be attracted as well, as cannabis users …”  Peterson said before he was cut off by a member of the Planning Board, who called the remarks inappropriate. Then he said: “You’re right. I’m sorry. I was hoping that everyone would be treated as individuals and citizens and adults. That’s what we are talking about, is being adults.”

Peterson, who grows the marijuana he sells in Biddeford in a Bridgton facility, then took his seat, although he did not stay quiet for long. He chastised the board for using terms that reveal an anti-marijuana bias, like calling it pot instead of cannabis or recreational instead of adult-use. He reminded the board that Bridgton voted in favor of legalization in 2018, and urged it to allow adult-use stores in any district that permits retail.

At one point, a board member who was sparring with Peterson — Vice Chair Dee Miller, who continued to use the term recreational marijuana after Peterson voiced his objections — said, “I’m trying to contain myself, which is difficult,” and warned Peterson: “Don’t get up,” and, “Don’t say another word.” Peterson didn’t follow either of Miller’s suggestions. “I’m just getting tired of these excuses about cannabis,” he said, then later, “It is infuriating that you guys don’t know the law.” 

An abbreviated excerpt of Peterson’s remarks was posted on Instagram and Facebook, sparking an immediate online backlash, with the harshest criticism coming from medical marijuana caregivers accusing Peterson of using racism to shut out potential rivals, especially them, from the Maine cannabis market. Peterson objects to caregiver retail shops, saying many opened before they were legally allowed by state law and often sell unsafe, untested product.


Peterson is “trying to convince the board of Bridgton, Maine, to not allow caregiver stores and only allow his dispensary to operate in town,” said the person posting a clip of Peterson’s comment on Instagram on Wednesday. “His reason? Blacks and gays. What a (expletive) piece of (expletive). Not what our industry is about and certainly not what Maine is about. (Expletive) these guys, let them know Maine isn’t a place for hate and bigotry.”

Canuvo closed its Biddeford shop Wednesday. A sign on the door said, “Sorry for inconvenience. Closed today, Oct. 24.” It also temporarily disabled its Instagram and Facebook pages. Before it did, however, it posted this statement to Facebook:

“Glenn was attempting to call out what he interpreted as a bigoted comment about the cannabis industry with sarcasm,” the statement read. “We are deeply apologetic and embarrassed that he in turn sounded racist and homophobic when trying to rebut the previous comment made. Sarcasm should not have been used in this instance and serious issues like this should never be joked about.”

The woman who spoke before Peterson — whose comments prompted him to get up and speak — had asked the Planning Board to ban marijuana stores to protect the town’s charm. Susan Hatch said she wasn’t opposed to medical marijuana, and noted that Bridgton residents who need it can get their medicine in Raymond, but said inundating Bridgton with marijuana would normalize drug use and “start to destroy their life” and scare away the right kind of tourists.

“I think that’s a bad look,” Hatch said. “What kind of tourists do we want to draw? The type of tourism that Maine has been known for before this last strange vote (when Mainers legalized recreational marijuana in 2016) seemed to work. And that’s the way I would like to have it stay, zero.”

Peterson, who sometimes wears chaps and a custom-made leather vest, is a well-known figure in the Maine cannabis community, as well as at the State House in Augusta, where he gives expert testimony and lobbies state lawmakers. He founded Canuvo, one of eight state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine in 2011, and has expressed interest in getting an adult-use marijuana license.

He is vice president of the Maine Association of Dispensary Operators and sits on the National Cannabis Industry Association board.

Glenn Peterson, the owner of a Biddeford medical marijuana dispensary, said he was trying to be sarcastic and call out what he interpreted as a bigoted comment about the cannabis industry when he referenced “Negroes and homosexuals” in his response to comments made earlier in a Bridgton Planning Board workshop. A clip of his remarks, posted on Instagram and Facebook prompted an online backlash. (Courtesy of Jesse Costa/WBUR 2013)

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