Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy announced that retail sales of adult-use marijuana to consumers 21 years of age or older will be permitted starting on Friday, October 9, 2020. The office, which is a part of the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services, intends to issue the first active licenses to recreational cannabis businesses on Tuesday, September 8, 2020.
“The public’s health and safety are at the forefront of every decision we make at the Office of Marijuana Policy,” said OMP Director Erik Gundersen. “While we were poised to launch this new industry earlier this year, we were unwilling to sacrifice the high standards we have set for this program by launching during an emerging public health pandemic and in the absence of a testing facility. With the support of the public health community, municipalities across the state, and the industry we regulate, we have used the last few months to ensure this new industry is introduced to Maine consumers in a manner that is as responsible as possible.”
The department said that the issuance of active licenses will continue the Office of Marijuana Policy’s structured rollout of Maine’s emerging adult-use industry, which had been indefinitely postponed in April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it isn’t a big state with regards to population, it is still seen as one that could be profitable for businesses. The recent BDSA Arcview State of Legalized Marijuana Report stated, “There are several small states like Maine, New Mexico and Rhode Island that will also pay off for operators on a smaller scale. That happens when what is typically a consumer base of 2% or less of the population with medical cars suddenly becomes 20%-plus of adults that consumer cannabis.” Maine’s cannabis sales are forecasted to reach $314 million by 2025, putting it on par with Alaska which is forecast to reach $325 million.
Getting Licensed in Maine
Getting a license in Maine is a three-step application process that also includes conditional licensure and local authorization, respectively. An active license is required for adult-use establishments to come into possession, process, and sell adult-use marijuana, including initiating plant transfers from Maine’s existing medical marijuana program.
The statement read, “It is expected adult-use licensees will utilize the time between active licensure and Maine’s retail sales launch date to harvest and process marijuana, ensure those products satisfy the mandatory testing requirements, and move product through the supply chain to stock retail store shelves.”
Voters legalized adult-use cannabis in 2016 and state legislators originally planned legal sales to begin in February 2018. Governor LaPage fought to keep that from happening and when he was replaced by voters with Janet Mills, the process was reenergized. She took over the Governor’s role in January 2019 and signed a bill defining the program in June 2019.
“Today’s announcement is a major milestone in honoring the will of Maine voters and a significant step toward launching a new industry in the state,” added Gundersen. “Many of the business owners we have spoken with during the application process are ready and eager to commence operations.”
The application process required by the adult-use law requires state regulators to review application materials for form and substance, with an eye toward details such as ensuring that all applicants have completed their required state and federal criminal history record checks; that the establishment’s operation, facility, and security plans satisfy the requirements of both the Marijuana Legalization Act and the adult-use program rule; and that the designated host municipality has provided the applicant with authorization to conduct business in their community.
OMP expects to issue licenses in each of the four categories of adult-use establishments: cultivation, product manufacturing, retail sale, and testing. Information on the specific number of licenses issued and the identities of active licensees will be made available on Tuesday, September 8, 2020.
The Mills Administration created OMP within DAFS in February 2019. The Office is responsible for the oversight of all aspects of legalized marijuana, including Maine’s existing Medical Use of Marijuana Program.
Feds Still Unhappy
Despite the legalization efforts in the state, it seems the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) isn’t too happy about the cannabis companies. A few weeks ago the Bangor Daily News reported that Homegrown Connection and Narrow Gauge Distributors in Farmington were raided by agents claiming “court-authorized activity” in connection with an ongoing investigation. The report said agents, “could be seen piling what appeared to be marijuana plants outside the back of one of those locations. More than 14 state police cruisers were there, as well as unmarked vehicles from several New England states, according to the Sun Journal.”
The article stated that, “Both businesses are linked to Luke Sirois of Rangeley, who is the registered agent for Narrow Gauge Distributors in documents filed with the Maine secretary of state and has owned the Homegrown Connection for roughly a decade.” He is described as “a strong and vocal advocate for public policy.”