James MacWilliams prunes a marijuana plant that he is growing indoors Dec. 13, 2017, in Portland, Maine.
(The Center Square) – Nearly four years after state voters approved adult use marijuana, the COVID-19 pandemic has further delayed the start of what marijuana advocates say could be a $300 million-a-year business in Maine.
So far, several cities – Portland, Lewiston, Bangor, South Portland, and Auburn – have signed on to the adult-use program, though Portland has halted the number of retail licenses at 20, and 90 percent of the state’s 500 municipalities have not opted in, Marijuana Business Daily reported.
The state Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) announced late last month the completion of emergency rulemaking pertaining to sample testing, another step toward getting the industry up and running.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic, OMP has been operating at full capacity supporting both the existing medical program and forthcoming adult use program,” Erik Gundersen, OMP Director, said.
“On the adult use side, we are continuing to accept applications, issue conditional licenses, and remain focused on doing everything in our power to move swiftly when we are able to launch this new industry”, Gundersen said. “Completing this administrative rulemaking is an important step for industry stakeholders and shows that progress continues to be made.”
Maine, which has one of the country’s longest-running medical marijuana (MMJ) markets, has thousands of caregivers licensed to grow it, MBD reported, and according to tax payments to the state, Maine’s 2019 MMJ sales were more than $110 million, with caregivers accounting for roughly 80% of that.
While legal challenges and other roadblocks remain, local medical marijuana purveyors like Joel Pepin, co-owner of Jar Co., remain optimistic about the forthcoming adult-use market.
Pepin’s company has received conditional approvals from the state for two adult-use cultivation facilities, as well as retail locations in southern and western Maine, including close to the Sunday River resort.
“I’m very optimistic about the adult-use market in Maine,” Pepin said. “We already have a robust infrastructure of operators in lots of towns, focusing on different niches, certain strains, good extraction artists.”