As Maine’s vigorous cannabis scene explodes in retail markets, Aroostook County growers say the boom means more work for less money. Safe Alternatives of Caribou was the first medical marijuana shop on the East Coast when it opened in Frenchville in 2011. Now The County has nearly 20 medical and adult-use storefronts from the St. John Valley to Houlton.
Medical and adult-use cannabis sales in Maine netted more than $460 million in 2022, according to the Maine Office of Cannabis Policy and Maine Revenue Services. That’s nearly double the $258 million potatoes brought in last year.
Potatoes are still the state’s No. 1 food crop, with around 90 percent of them grown in northern Maine. But unlike potatoes, little of the state’s cannabis comes from The County. Demand for the product may be up, but the price growers get per pound is trending down. That’s why you won’t find many local growers, according to Aroostook farmers.
“Three or four years ago, you could get $4,000 a pound. Now it’s about $1,300 a pound,” said James Bacon of Caribou, owner of Bacon Holdings LLC, a recreational marijuana growing operation in Presque Isle. “I notice that a lot of the little cultivators are giving up because they can’t make a living.”
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