Portland, Maine is the Atlantis of America...with weed. Stretched across elegant peninsulas and islands with soaring cliffs, the steadfast beams of two lighthouses welcome the traveler.
Nine days aboard the catamaran sailboat had seen us nearly 700 miles from the Chesapeake Bay. One real estate broker turned into a happy captain, and two writers had transformed into crew. We bonded over an adventurous passage; dancing with dolphins off Cape May, navigating by radar through dense fog in New York City, then dodging thunderstorms up the Long Island Sound.
Fresh haddock, caught that afternoon using THC tincture on the clams (no kidding), was the dinner plan. A sumptuous, golden-orange afterglow of the long, summer sunset hovered above. Paradise.
Captain Randy made final preparations for the summer dock. This included a review of our stash. All that remained were some sad-looking roaches and a few crumbles of buds.
“No more joints, only use the one-hitter,” came the harsh order.
Voters in Maine passed a full legalization bill in 2016. But, due to some expert buffoonery by former Governor Paul LePage, regulated retail stores still aren’t open yet.
Back in Pennsylvania, Captain Randy is a registered medical marijuana patient. But, like most seriously ill residents in the Mid-Atlantic, he’s been forced into a corporate cannabis cattle cue.
An exclusive cartel of mega-conglomerate owners have bought up limited medical marijuana grow permits from New York to Maryland. They run their operations directly from the playbook of Big Pharma, including the price model. Captain Randy is used to paying $480/ounce for flower and nearly $100/gram for concentrates. No edibles can be sold, and just a handful of dispensaries serve the entire city of Philadelphia with its five million+ residents.
A few states are beginning to offer reciprocity. Maine was the forerunner, allowing card-carrying residents from other states to access the local network.
We stepped on land for the first time in a week, got a ride from the marina staff, and set off to complete our three major errands: propane, groceries, and cannabis.
Dan, the newspaper reporter, was the greenhorn. We warned him (too fast) about “land legs” — seasickness on terra firma after a long run at sea. He was already looking greenish at U-Haul. We should have done the food run next.
Instead, we got dropped off at a local caregiver’s office, located in a funky 1920s era office building that felt very film noir. After opening the door, we tumbled into a terpene utopia. Two dozen strains of perfectly cured buds lined antique, cherry wood shelves.
Curated hash oils and concentrates were lined up like fine jewelry. Lollipops, candies, bottles of topicals. This was craft cannabis at its finest. It put the expensive, fast-food-style corporate dispensaries of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to deep shame.
Having been starved for so long, we loaded up on the full menu: Chocolate bars, infused honey, concentrates, and a truly spectacular selection of flower. Captain Randy left the THC suppositories on the shelf.
The finest garden products were just over $200 per ounce. Randy was floored. His gratitude was effusive, and the staff were tickled by his reaction. Just after we each took a healthy dab of some sweet Tangie, the Captain was rushing out to fulfill item three on our shoreland quest: food.
People who live in Maine drive like Mad Max after three double lattes. The Trader Joe’s parking lot was the Thunderdome. Dodging a fleet of Subaru Foresters, we managed to chainsaw out a space.
Randy and Dan went to the wine section, and I went to the dried fruit.
My hands were on candied ginger when the pair suddenly appeared at my elbow. Dan was pale white, barely conscious, and leaning on his shoulder. Their two hand-baskets were spilling out gourmet chocolate bars onto the floor.
“We gotta get him outta here.”
I put my right arm around our crewman’s waist and took his left hand in mine.
“I need like step-by-step instructions,” was his rather cogent reply.
“Ok. No problem. Forward then left…”
We swam through the rain to the courtesy car, and I flopped Dan into the back seat. Captain Randy came out with a few bravely salvaged essentials.
Dan said he was going to pass out — again. I gave him the only quick sustenance on hand — some cold milk and an energy bar. It was only 10 minutes to the marina. Two minutes into the ride, Dan spoke up, “Guys, I’m not going to make it...we need to pull over.”
(For the record, the answer is always, “YES, FUCKING NOW” when a grown man has dabbed too much.)
We veered into a school parking lot and watched our dab greenhorn bend over like an 18-year old coming from his first frat party. Back into the (formerly clean) courtesy car, we beelined it to the marina. At the end of the long, wobbly walk down the dock, we stashed Dan in his bunk, cutting him off for from dabs for life.
Finding solace around the citronella candle on the back deck, Randy poured his Halloween stash on the table.
He stuffed his nose into packs of buds, deeply inhaling the wonderful scents, and laughing at how little he’d spent.
And there we sat, mired in citronella, lemon kush, and some blueberry chocolate bar concoction made by God Herself, plotting tomorrow’s trip to Jewell Island in Casco Bay. Needless to say, the Captain will flying north even in the winter months to procure the best cannabis on the Atlantic Coast.