On Maine Mall Rd. in South Portland, the Theory Wellness storefront is a picture of a modern cannabis business. Its bright, white façade with the company’s geometric logo juts above the roof line of the brick strip mall. The image is forward-facing, pristine and approachable.
Next week it will be one of at least six retail operations licensed to sell recreational cannabis in Maine and its co-founders, Brandon Pollock and Nick Freidman, are excited about being a part of the state’s cannabis market.
“Cultivators and producers in Maine are some of the best in the world,” Pollock said in an interview alongside Friedman, adding that the mix of refined and curious consumers here form a base they feel they can serve through quality products and education.
Theory Wellness first opened stores in Massachusetts, but Pollock and Friedman have been waiting for an opportunity to return to the state. They started their first business here, a bottle-less water cooling and purifying system for office use, while seniors at Colby College. Their mutual passion for the environment was at the root of a business plan that would also reduce plastic waste, plastic production and fuel use.
“Starting a business requires a ton of work and you’re on call 24/7, so you better be motivated by something other than fiscal considerations,” said Friedman.
They spent six years in Portland growing the company, Blue Reserve, until it reached a point of operational self-sufficiency. As any good entrepreneurs would do, they began thinking about their next project
During that time, Friedman’s father was seriously injured in a ski accident and had severe pain from nerve regeneration. After trying many types of palliatives, he found medical cannabis provided him the most relief.
So the co-founders left Maine and entered the cannabis industry as business consultants for new and emerging companies. They began to cultivate their vision for a cannabis company that they would want to patronize: an independent business focused on craft quality products and social innovation. After a few years, they found the opportunity to stand-out with a launch back east.
“Part of our vision is to normalize cannabis as a common pursuit,” said Friedman. When Theory Wellness started the first, regulated outdoor cannabis farm in Massachusetts, they partnered with a local, organic farmer who wanted to participate in a new industry and revitalize their land. They are also planning outdoor grows in Maine, citing the innovative strains developed for the climate.
Pollock and Friedman are also creating market normalcy by investing in solutions for industry specific social inequities.
“Some people have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs to the extreme,” said Pollock. “People that had been participating in the industry that are different than the ways we do, they should have the same opportunity.”
To that effect, Theory Wellness administers a Social Equity Program that provides no-interest financing to businesses launched in these targeted communities. Their first recipient of a $250,000 loan is Brockton, Mass.-based Legal Greens.
“It’s not marketing or politics,” Pollock said. “It’s just what’s right.”