As Maine inches closer to finally fulfilling the voters’ desire to bring legalized recreational marijuana to the state, Tuesday represents a significant milestone.
That is when Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy intends to begin issuing the first active licenses to recreational cannabis businesses.
The office said last month that active licensure is “the culmination of a three-step application process which also includes conditional licensure and local authorization, respectively.”
Recreational Marijuana’s Journey In Maine
It is perhaps the last major milestone before October 9, when retail sales of recreational marijuana will be permitted—the climax in a nearly four-year long journey to ending prohibition in Maine that has been beset by repeated delays.
The most recent interruption to the rollout of the new law came earlier this year, which the Office of Marijuana Policy said “had been indefinitely postponed in April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The public’s health and safety are at the forefront of every decision we make at the Office of Marijuana Policy,” OMP Director Erik Gundersen said in a statement last month. “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 pandemic was far from the only impediment to implementing the new cannabis law in Maine. In 2016, voters in the state narrowly passed a measure to legalize recreational pot use for adults 21 years and older. The margin was so thin that it triggered a recount, though the pro-legalization result stood after the counting was complete. However, Paul LePage, at the time the state’s Republican governor, stymied the law’s rollout, defying the voters’ will by vetoing a bill in 2017 that would have pushed legalization ahead.
But LePage left office in 2019, and he was replaced by a Democrat, Janet Mills, who made it clear from the jump that she intended to see legalization through. Still, danger could loom: LePage said earlier this year that he intends to seek a third term by challenging Mills in 2022.
For now, legalization is a go, and Maine businesses will begin selling pot to customers in a month. Those business owners will not have to be Maine residents, either, with the Office of Marijuana Policy standing down on that requirement after facing a lawsuit earlier this year.
The Office of Marijuana Policy said last month that it expects “adult use licensees [to] 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.”
“Many of the business owners we have spoken with during the application process are ready and eager to commence operations,” Gundersen said.