Firestorm employee Kyle Farmer helps a customer decide which product to purchase in Bangor on Feb. 22. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

ORONO, Maine — The owners of the first legal recreational marijuana shop in Bangor are expanding their operations and plan to open Orono’s first recreational pot business by September.

In March, Orono residents passed a referendum opting the town into the commercial marijuana market in Maine, voting 472 to 365, after years of debate. So far, the town has only received one application to set up shop, which was approved last month, Orono Town Manager Sophie Wilson said Wednesday.

That application came from Salvatore Faro III of Orrington, who, with co-owner Mohammed “Moe” Ibrahem, will expand their existing recreational marijuana store Firestorm with a second location inside the University Mall on Stillwater Avenue in Orono.

“We’re just excited to be in Orono. We’ve actually run half of New England Reserve [a medical marijuana store] in Old Town for the past four years,” Faro said. “And the same thing with Bangor — we’re just excited to be the first store to open up in the area.”

Firestorm was the first recreational marijuana store to open its doors in Bangor after the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy licensed the shop to change from medical to recreational.

“We’re bringing freedom to the patrons, so they can have the freedoms we all voted in, in 2016,” Faro said.

Faro said he and his business partner, Ibrahem, have been holding their new location in the University Mall shopping center for the last 18 months, waiting to see what was going to happen in Orono.

Now, with approval from the town and a license from the state, the focus is on setting up the store, with a tentative opening date of Sept. 1, he said.

Since recreational pot shops opened up in Maine in October 2020, the market continues to bring in big bucks across the state. May alone was the highest-grossing month ever for the state’s marijuana industry, bringing in $5.36 million, according to the marijuana policy office.

Firestorm and the Reserve in Old Town have felt the impacts of the growing market and the plan is to replicate that success in Orono, Faro said.

“There’s a bunch of jobs we’re planning on to bring to the town —15 to 20 jobs — we’ve already started hiring for, and I know just from running the other shop in Old Town we bring people from Bangor into town and they’re not only spending money in my shop,” Faro said. “I know we’re bringing money to the town.”

Although voters approved the referendum in Orono this past March, getting recreational marijuana into the town has been an uphill battle.

Sometime between 2018 and 2019, the town conducted an online survey to gauge residents’ perspectives on the issue, after hosting a public forum that garnered “strong negative feedback” and very little support, Wilson said in February.

Many residents against recreational shops raised concerns about the impacts on child development.

While the initial ordinance enacted by the Orono Town Council in March allowed marijuana establishments in two commercial zones — on Stillwater Avenue near the University Mall and along a stretch of Park Street — the council discovered a flaw in the legislation, forcing a moratorium on any store opening on Park Street, according to Wilson.

Firestorm sells plain marijuana — or “flower” — along with edibles, prerolled joints and cannabis concentrate — marijuana products with high levels of THC. Additionally, Firestorm grows all of its products in Maine, Faro said.

When the store does open the plans are to be open seven days a week with hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

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Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...