SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — A mermaid clutching a shell is now at the center of a statewide marijuana debate.
South Portland adult-use cannabis retailer SeaWeed Co. is taking legal action to appeal state regulators' decision that deemed the company's logo goes against rules to prevent sales to minors.
"It has been frustrating and challenging," owner Scott Howard told NEWS CENTER Maine. "In no way was our logo designed to attract or appeal to children."
According to court documents, the state Office of Marijuana Policy found the mermaid violated a rule that prohibits using "humans, animals, or fruit" to "attract persons under 21 years of age."
The Office of Marijuana Policy and Attorney General's Office declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.
While a legal debate about the logo has been going on for months between attorneys, a memo sent to SeaWeed Co. in December declared the logo was clearly a violation.
"It is generally known that mermaids are featured in a number of stories, movies, toys, costumes, and other popular culture items and marketing aimed at young children and teenagers," Vernon Malloch with the Office of Marijuana Policy wrote.
Court documents revealed state regulators reportedly showed the mermaid logo to several children who "liked it" to further solidify their stance.
Howard said he does not believe a mermaid is a person or animal and does not "run afoul" of the adult-use marijuana packaging and labeling laws.
"I support their position and the rule. I just don't think I support their interpretation at the moment," he said.
The company has temporarily covered its logo and stopped using it until a final conclusion is reached.
Meanwhile, Howard said the company is doing well when it comes to sales, especially amidst the pandemic.
They are working to open its newest location in Downtown Portland.
"I'm hoping that someone will rule that our mermaid is compliant and that we'll be able to continue with our brand the way we've designed it," he said.
SeaWeed Co. is now facing a $10,000 fine. This is the first and so far only case in the state involving a dispute over the branding of adult-use cannabis.