Bangor’s 1st legal pot store sees market grow as recreational sales double statewide

Firestorm first opened its doors as a medical marijuana shop a year ago. Yet co-owner Mohammed “Moe” Ibrahem said he had long been interested in entering the recreational market, where he saw untapped potential.

So Firestorm switched from the medical to the recreational marijuana market last year, and it was the only recreational marijuana shop open in Bangor on Oct. 9, the first day such sales were allowed in the state nearly four years after voters authorized them.

While many continue to buy marijuana for medical purposes, and a new medical dispensary just opened in Bangor, recreational sales — for which buyers simply have to be 21 or older — have been growing since October.

As more stores have opened across the state, more supply has led to lower prices and more customers. The $2.5 million in recreational marijuana sales in January marked a 92 percent increase from sales in November, the first full month of recreational sales, according to the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy.

And in another sign of the growing local market, Firestorm, located on Outer Hammond Street, is no longer Bangor’s only recreational marijuana shop after Brothers Cannabis opened on Stillwater Avenue on Feb. 6.

Recreational cannabis continues to cost more than products available in medical retail stores and on the black market, with many consumers being driven away as a result. But that is starting to change statewide as supply grows. Prices have decreased in Maine, including at Firestorm, where Ibrahem said prices had been reduced twice since it opened.

From left: Michael Vachon (left) and Kyle Farmer work at Firestorm in Bangor on Feb. 22; Firestorm co-owner Mohammed “Moe” Ibrahem, 38, of Hermon gives a tour of the business in Bangor on Feb. 22; Receptionist Feryal Hilmi checks a visitor out from Firestorm at Bangor on Feb. 22; Firestorm employee Kyle Farmer helps a customer decide which product to purchase in Bangor on Feb. 22. Credit: Natalie Williams | BDN

“All our great colleagues in the adult-use industry are expanding and growing their brands, increasing production,” Ibrahem, 38, said.

While prices can be higher, recreational marijuana can appeal to those who do not want to seek a doctor’s approval to use marijuana or renew their medical marijuana card annually. Others do not want their cannabis use officially recorded, especially for when they seek to purchase firearms, Ibrahem said.

Some patrons may not be eligible for a Maine medical marijuana card, including tourists. Ibrahem said he had seen patrons from as far as Arizona.

“We’ve seen a lot of out-of-staters,” Ibrahem said, “and just a lot of people who don’t want to go through the process of getting a card.”

Ibrahem co-owns Firestorm with business partner Salvatore Faro III of Orrington. With its team of about 10 employees, Firestorm sells plain marijuana, popularly known as “flower,” along with edibles, pre-rolled joints and cannabis concentrates — marijuana products with high levels of THC. Firestorm is a reference to the use of “fire” to describe especially potent weed.

Bangor Daily News Maine-made pipes sit in a glass display case at Firestorm in Bangor on Feb. 22. Credit: Bangor Daily News / BDN

Much of the product comes from Allure Cultivation — also owned by Ibrahem and Faro — down the road from Firestorm.

Ibrahem, of Hermon, had been a caregiver — someone licensed to sell people medical marijuana — in Maine’s medical marijuana industry for nearly a decade when he made the switch to the recreational side.

The future of the Bangor area’s cannabis industry will be in the recreational market, said Greg Hawes of Eddington, who recently opened Brothers Cannabis with his brother Matt, of Bath. While Matt Hawes has spent decades in the cannabis industry, Greg comes from a retail background.

The store has seen a steady and growing stream of patrons since it opened a few weeks ago, and Greg Hawes expects more stores to open in the Bangor area.

“I fully predict business will continue to climb,” he said, “especially as the market changes, prices come down and [recreational cannabis] becomes more competitive with the medical program.”

Competition from other recreational businesses is not a problem, as it will allow the industry to expand, Ibrahem said.

Looking ahead, Allure Cultivation hopes to expand the amount of marijuana it is growing. And Ibrahem hopes to continue growing Firestorm’s clientele.

“I’m a big believer in personal freedom,” Ibrahem said. “Adults should be able to use [cannabis] as they see fit.”

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