OAKLAND — One of the state’s first — if not the first — cannabidiol-themed coffee shop has opened its doors.
The Oakland business, called The Warehouse, has been providing free samples of its signature cannabidiol-containing product since its soft opening Sept. 3, but needed to pass a final health inspection before it could serve the drink for profit.
On Friday, the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention granted The Warehouse a 60-day conditional license that will be extended if owner John Jabar installs a specific kind of sink, said CDC spokesman Robert Long.
Jabar said he has already accommodated the request between the inspector’s visit and the issuance of the conditional license.
Regulators said with the laws governing CBD being both new and complex, it was difficult to answer why Jabar was able to serve the CBD prior to the final health inspection, but that the act was legal. Long noted the CDC was solely responsible for ensuring that the building — not the product — meets health codes. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry handles food inspections.
“We as a department only regulate retail sale, so it’s within their purview to sample (the cannabidiol) at their own discretion, as long as they’re not selling it,” said Jim Britt, communications director of the agriculture department. “Things are still being worked out, rules are being enacted and it’s still so new to the state of Maine. It’s complicated.”
Cannabidiol, which is extracted from the hemp plant, is believed to provide a range of health benefits. According to a 2019 Harvard Medical School publication, it can be used to help alleviate anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, arthritis and inflammation.
CBD has also been known to help treat certain childhood epilepsy syndromes. Though hemp is a so-called cousin of marijuana, CBD is non-psychoactive and does not get users “high.”
The CBD used at Jabar’s coffee shop is produced at The Warehouse at 826 Kennedy Memorial Dr., in the red building that once housed Guardian Building Products.
Jabar said he processes about 5,000 pounds of dry hemp a day, extracting and purifying the CBD before he sends it off to a lab to be tested, then refining it again to ensure that zero THC, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis, makes it into the end product. Eventually, Jabar plans to build labs in the Oakland facility so nearly everything can be done in-house. The hemp, Jabar said, comes from local farmers.
Customers appeared to be satisfied with the business so far.
“The first day was kind of slow,” manager Jessica Thurlow said, attributing the lull to a purposeful lack of advertising. “(Wednesday) was a really good day. We had 13 sales and about 25 people come in. The coffee seems to be a hit — people like it.”
The Warehouse has a shiny concrete floor, wood accents and a small seating area with ample pillows that add a warm touch. Thurlow said she hopes it turns into a place where people feel like they can combine work and leisure. There is WiFi available.
“It has a rustic, homey feel,” she said. “It’s a very comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. People can come in, hang out, do homework.”
Consuming CBD coffee at the location where it is produced intentionally mimics the brewery model, according to Jabar. Both Britt and Long said they were unable to confirm whether The Warehouse is the only facility of its kind in Maine. Several stores across the state offer customers the option to add CBD into coffee drinks, though, said David Heidrich of the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services, who helps oversee marijuana-related policies.
People looking for a hot cup of CBD coffee from The Warehouse can choose whether they would like their dose to come from pre-infused coffee beans or from a water-soluble liquid added into plain coffee after it is brewed. Plain coffee — including nitro cold brew — will always be available for purchase, Thurlow said, for those just looking for a regular cup of joe.
The price of a 12-ounce cup of hot coffee without CBD is $1.99, while the same size with an 8-milligram dose of CBD is $3.50, according to Thurlow. A 16-ounce cup of cold brew is $4.50, with an additional sum for a touch of CBD.
“The prices are very good,” Thurlow said. “But we’re keeping things high quality, having a Maine-made process and everything’s local.”
The coffee beans used at The Warehouse come from Vera Roasting Co., out of New Hampshire. The company infuses all of its coffee beans with the antioxidant resveratrol, which is found in red wine and boasts benefits for cardiovascular, neuromuscular and immune system health. A line of the beans is infused with CBD, as well.
Vera Roasting Co. was founded by organic chemist and University of New Hampshire professor Glen Miller. Jabar said he chose to partner with Vera because he was connected to Miller through his son and mutual friends.
Whole beans and K-Cups — with and without CBD — are available for sale at The Warehouse. The store is not yet fully stocked, though it does have a range of tinctures and gummies available. Thurlow said she hopes to introduce seasonal CBD tincture flavors, such as pumpkin spice, for the fall. Eventually, there will be pain creams, lotions, pet treats and more, Thurlow said.
The business caused a bit of a stir in February when town councilors and Jabar’s lawyer clashed over the legality of operating the CBD-extraction lab before ultimately allowing Jabar to go through with the plan.