After having been indefinitely postponed in April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and nearly four years after Maine residents voted to legalize adult-use recreational cannabis, Maine is set to launch the long-awaited retail sale of adult-use recreational cannabis this coming October. While voters passed a ballot measure in 2016 to legalize adult-use recreational cannabis, state legislators and regulators have spent the time in between battling how to regulate the industry. And, as the state only started accepting applications to its adult-use recreational cannabis program back in December 2019, some had hoped that recreational sales would begin in April prior to the state announcing the indefinite postponement, which was then suggested would last beyond June.
Four months later, on August 14th, 2020, Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy finally announced its plans for the issuance of the state’s first adult-use marijuana establishment licenses beginning on September 8th, which is anticipated to give stores enough time to harvest, test and package products for sales to begin a month later on October 9th. In light of the ongoing pandemic, the Office of Marijuana Policy is also working with the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development in order to tailor a pandemic safety checklist for retail shops, including acceptable physical distancing rules and customer limits in order to combat the ongoing spread of COVID-19.
Despite the many setbacks in reaching this point, local industry experts are optimistic that there will be no further delays in the program’s implementation, which is projected to be a $300 million-a-year market once fully operational, in light of the positive responses seen nationally in states that have declared recreational cannabis as an “essential business”, thereby allowing them to remain open during stay-at-home orders and resulting in skyrocketing sales that have proved remarkably resilient throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, legislators, in light of a recession resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, are facing increasing pressure to launch the state’s adult-use program in order to alleviate potential budget shortfalls stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, which the state estimates could hit $168 million in sales it’s first full year of operation. Furthermore, several local private research firms project that first-year sales numbers could be even higher, and project the program’s launch would create 6,100 new jobs in the state as well.