AMHERST — Just past the general store heading east on Route 9, find Airline Apothecary by its colorful sign. The short driveway leads to a plain wooden cabin that owners Thomas and Deeanne Deckers put together themselves. Of course, with a newborn arriving about the same time, Thomas shouldered most of that burden.
Baby Andrew is now 3 months old and smiles during an early morning visit to the medical marijuana store, with an interior that matches the Amish aesthetic: plain, functional but not without beauty from its very simplicity.
And customers have been steady since their opening two months ago.
“Business isn’t crazy, but it’s been consistent and getting better every week,” Thomas said. “Considerably more locals than I thought [stop in].”
The couple have been personal caregivers since 2014, so when medical marijuana laws changed in 2019 to allow use for a much wider range of health issues, they were ready. And it didn’t hurt that Thomas — an Amherst native and former baggage handler at the Bangor airport — apparently inherited his mother’s green thumb.
“She always had beautiful gardens. I guess that’s where I got it from,” Thomas said.
Thomas grows in a greenhouse using a light deprivation method, which means he throws tarps over the top to regulate the light cycle, prompting the plants to grow and then flower by the amount of sunlight they receive.
Time spent in California when he was 18 opened Thomas’s eyes to medical dispensaries, which had yet to reach Maine.
“I got my medical card and fell in love with dispensaries,” he said. So, he and Deeanne started growing marijuana and became personal caregivers upon their return to Maine.
Like all farmers, Thomas said tending his plants can be arduous at some stages of their growth cycle, while at other times “the plants take care of themselves.”
To open a dispensary, the couple needed not only their state-issued caregiver license but also a retail store permit, a food establishment permit for beverages and edibles and a tobacco license for smoking accessories. The dispensary passed a state inspection last week with flying colors.
The most popular item so far is THC beverages, which the couple outsource from Bowdoinham and Lewiston manufacturers along with marijuana edibles. They also offer a variety of concentrates, both from flower they grow and independent caregivers.
Dispensaries are a cash-only business unless federal regulations change. If that happens, the couple not only could accept credit and debit cards but could “put our money in the bank a little easier,” Thomas said.
Airline Apothecary, at 573 Airline Road, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and can also be found on Facebook.