Kris Noyes looked around the courtyard of South Portland’s SeaWeed Co. on Tuesday, where food trucks, live music and vendors created a small festival-like celebration for 4/20, the cannabis industry’s biggest holiday, and marveled at what she called a “monumental time in history.”

If only the hippies of the ’60s could be here now,” Noyes said. 

April 20 has been a day to celebrate smoking marijuana for decades, but Tuesday marked the first time Mainers could celebrate with a fully realized, legal adult-use cannabis market.

Marijuana was legalized at the polls in 2016, but legislative rewrites, gubernatorial vetoes, a change in state administration and the coronavirus pandemic delayed the process by more than four years. The market officially opened for business in October.

Recreational retail stores across the state celebrated 4/20 with specials, giveaways, raffles, food trucks, live music and more.

At retailer Sweet Dirt in Portland, shoppers were lined up before the doors even opened.

Dear Dairy Ice Cream offered up free scoops of ice cream infused with cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Noyes, who has celebrated the holiday in the past, said Tuesday’s fanfare was an indication of just how much things are changing.

“I think this is a turning point in history,” she said. “There’s a social awakening happening with people celebrating health and wellness with something that has been vilified (for years). It’s exciting to be part of this shift as it happens.”

At Sweet Dirt in Portland on Tuesday, Glenn Dalrymple scoops CBD-infused ice cream for Clarissa Novak, an employee at at the adult-use cannabis dispensary. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Jenna Webb said she was actually drawn in by the appearance of her favorite food truck, The Muthah Truckah, rather than the cannabis or 4/20 holiday, which she said she hasn’t celebrated since college.

It’s “kind of crazy” how much the stigma has changed in the past 10 years, Webb said, going from “hush-hush, knock on your friend’s dorm room door” to something that can be celebrated openly.

She said the legal industry opens up a market not only for growers and store owners, but also for others with related interests, including local artists.

Maine’s medical cannabis market, launched in 1999, has celebrated 4/20 for years.

According to Keri-Jon Wilson, co-owner of Portland medical edibles manufacturer Pot + Pan, “stoner Christmas” is one of the busiest days of the year, second only, perhaps, to actual Christmas. 

Now, with the adult-use market finally open, four years after legalization, Mainers were ready and waiting to celebrate 4/20 in style.

How exactly April 20 first became known as “Weed Day” is still hazy, but the day has been a focal point in marijuana culture for decades. 

Some speculate that the number is based on a police radio code for marijuana use, but there’s no indication that it is or ever was. 

Others surmise that it’s a nod to Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” since it includes the lyric “Everybody must get stoned” and 12 multiplied by 35 is 420. 

However, the most widely accepted theory is that 4/20 became a thing as early as 1971, when a group of California high school students began meeting up at 4:20 p.m. every day to smoke.

The pseudo-holiday existed in relative obscurity until nearly 20 years later, when a mysterious flyer promoting “420” started circulating at Grateful Dead shows, according to an article in High Times. 

By 1995, the Cannabis Action Network organized its first 4/20 Ball, which starts and ends at 4:20, and in 1997 the High Times brought the holiday into the digital age by launching website 420.com. Its popularity has only grown. 

Eric Gordon, director of extraction for SeaWeed Co. in South Portland, talks with a customer at the adult-use cannabis store on Tuesday, the first 4/20 holiday in Maine with legal adult-use cannabis. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“4/20 is an official holiday among our community and an unofficial holiday in the state,” said Mo Ibrahem, owner of Firestorm Cultivation in Bangor, one of a handful of cannabis retailers to snag a license in the state’s first round of approvals for the adult-use market. 

Firestorm celebrated with $2 joints (1 gram each) for every customer that walked in, usually a $16 value, while supplies lasted.

Other specials included storewide sales and free apparel, grinders and glass pipes after a certain sales threshold. 

“We’re really excited to give back to the community,” Ibrahem said. “We’re grateful to be a part of it.” 

At Coastal Cannabis in Damariscotta, owner David Page decorated the store with balloons, crepe paper, a few 4/20 signs and a few leaf cutouts. 

Page said the holiday, definitely a “big day in the cannabis world,” seemed a little more like a young person’s day, but he was happy to jump on board.

The store had specials and raffles, and if the number of phone calls was any indication, they were “expecting a good day,” he said. “We’re going to have a little fun with it.”

In their matching jackets and sunglasses decked out in marijuana leaves, Sue and Lee, two cannabis-loving social media influencers known on Instagram as the “420 Old Fat Lesbians,” are also having fun with the holiday.

The women, who declined to provide their last names, started their Instagram account just a few years ago to help break the stigmas surrounding cannabis use, age, weight and sexuality. They have amassed a following of more than 169,000 people around the world, reaching audiences with their “just be yourself” motto.

Sue, who is of the mindset that “every day is 4/20,” said she’s glad to see an older generation starting to embrace cannabis more and has seen significantly more acceptance of the plant since moving to Maine.

The pair are taking a two-day, statewide tour of Maine’s recreational and medical offerings, trying to educate their followers and promote Maine cannabis.

Two women from the Bangor area who are known for their Instagram account “420 Fat Old Lesbians” get information about spinning a prize wheel at SeaWeed Co. in South Portland on Tuesday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

According to the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy’s licensing dashboard, there are 25 active recreational cannabis licensees in the state, with another 232 awaiting decisions in various stages of the approval process.

The adult-use market has brought in sales of roughly $13 million since launch, earning the state about $1.3 million in sales tax revenue.  

Though picking up steam, adult-use sales struggled early on, due in part to limited product availability and high prices. Cost has started to come down as more businesses, cultivators and manufacturers come online, but prices remain significantly higher for adult-use products than in the less-regulated medical cannabis market.

The high prices, temporarily lowered by Tuesday’s holiday specials, are a big part of why Robbie O’Laughlin made the trip out to SeaWeed on Tuesday.

O’Laughlin said he has friends with medical cannabis cards and is aware of the difference in prices between the two markets. Recreational users should take the opportunity to buy on 4/20 “if you can get a deal,” he said.

This wasn’t O’Laughlin’s first 4/20 celebration, but he said the unabashed nature of this year’s event was a nice change of pace.

“It’s nice to be able to go out and do things for it openly, and not just go over to a buddy’s house and hang out in the basement,” he said.


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