In Maine, the Marijuana Comes to You

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Logan Martyn-Fisher checks his phone’s GPS one more time and pulls up at the Portland Amtrak station, thousands of dollars of marijuana concealed in a pair of colorful beach totes sitting on the back seat of his BMW SUV.

He’s looking for a guy who’s looking for pot.

Maine doesn’t yet allow legal marijuana sales, so Martyn-Fisher, his girlfriend and their BMW have carved a niche for themselves in a state where possessing, growing and consuming cannabis now is permitted. This past fall, Maine voters legalized marijuana as of the start of this year, but lawmakers still are developing a system of state-regulated stores to sell it.

They hope to have the stores open by February 2018.

That’s where Martyn-Fisher stepped in: While marijuana sales remain illegal, he’s giving away pot but charging hefty “delivery” fees.

“It kind of sucks we don’t have a store,” he said. “We have to have all these sketchy meetings in parking lots. It doesn’t really feel like you’re running a legitimate business.”

And so this day finds Martyn-Fisher driving through the train station parking lot, peering through his mirrored Oakley sunglasses for his next customer, wads of cash stuffed in his pocket. Like many marijuana entrepreneurs, Martyn-Fisher can’t accept credit or debit cards since most banks are afraid to violate federal drug-trafficking laws.

His girlfriend runs the online ordering via the Elevation 207 Facebook page and directs Martyn-Fisher to the customers. (207 is Maine’s sole area code). Much of their time is spent reassuring customers that what they’re doing is legal, especially first-time buyers nervous that they’re ordering a federally illegal drug to be delivered personally.

“Got him,” Martyn-Fisher says as he makes another pass through the station parking lot.

He pulls up and the man, looking a little nervous, opens his wallet and begins counting out $20 bills, handing the stack to Martyn-Fisher, who hands him back packages of vacuum-sealed marijuana. The buyer offers his thanks as he stuffs the packages into his backpack, and Martyn-Fisher discreetly counts the $390 he was expecting.

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He hits the road again, headed to a luxury hotel near the waterfront, to meet a frequent buyer and business traveler. The buyer recognizes the arriving BMW and walks to the window as Martyn-Fisher pulls up, handing over a wad of greenbacks in exchange for 2.5 ounces of marijuana, the legal maximum a person can possess.

On a whim a few months ago, Martyn-Fisher posted a Craigslist advertisement offering delivery services. It didn’t get much attention at first, but a series of television and newspaper stories about it has taken him and his girlfriend from about four deliveries a day to more than 30 at their busiest as the summer tourism season was getting under way in June.

“I do this every day, all day long, every day,” he said. “It’s really hard to say no to money.”

Maine’s legislators are meeting nearly daily all summer and fall as they develop a system to tax, regulate and sell marijuana. Like legislators in other states, Maine’s lawmakers are trying to decide who can get a license to sell pot and who will oversee the regulations and collect the taxes.

Martyn-Fisher isn’t waiting for them.

Using Facebook to highlight the day’s offerings, such as $100 for 10 grams of marijuana delivered, he’s quickly building a customer base around the Portland area, stressing that he’s charging a delivery free for a free product.

The minimum delivery fee is $75. His Elevation 207 service is booming as he drops off smokable marijuana flowers, concentrates and cannabis-infused candies to customers.

Based on his encounters with local police, he’s confident his workaround is working, particularly in exploiting the interplay between the state’s medical and recreational cannabis laws.

The recreational laws don’t yet permit someone like him to have so much marijuana. But he’s also a certified medical caregiver, which means he’s allowed to grow and possess larger amounts.

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The legal area is gray, in part because Maine hasn’t made marijuana enforcement a priority. In Portland, voters in 2013 decriminalized marijuana, suggesting to Martyn-Fisher and other advocates that police have gotten the message: Hands off our pot.

“They don’t seem to care, and that’s a feeling I’ve had for a while,” he said. “Maine has some pretty relaxed views about marijuana. They’ve got more serious things to deal with.”

One of those more serious things is the state’s rampant opioid and heroin abuse.

Last year 376 Mainers died from drug overdoses. In a state with just 1.3 million residents, those deaths hit extra hard.

For many marijuana sellers, it’s hard to understand why their industry faces such scrutiny when oxycodone — a federally regulated prescription medicine — repeatedly has proven fatal when abused.

The kinds of customers that Martyn-Fisher said he gets show the nation’s drug laws and police are focused on the wrong priorities. In an afternoon, he made deliveries to a man with his kids in the backseat and a married couple with their kids in the backseat.

Baby boomers make up a large portion of his client base. These are not irresponsible drug abusers but instead regular Americans who choose to consume marijuana the way many other consume alcohol: responsibly and in moderation, he said.

Martyn-Fisher’s favorite customer so far was an out-of-state father taking his daughter on a college visit

“He was so excited, giving us thumbs up as we were leaving,” Martyn-Fisher said.

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Looking ahead, he hopes Maine’s lawmakers can settle on a regulatory system that rewards and encourages entrepreneurs like himself, people who want to own and operate legitimate businesses, selling a product that millions of Americans clearly want to buy.

Portland police didn’t return a message seeking comment.

“My mom is still worried,” he said as he turns the BMW down one of Portland’s cobblestoned streets en route to the next customer. “But my dad went on deliveries with me.”

Follow Trevor Hughes on Twitter: @TrevorHughes

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