Maine announced this week that the state is on track to be able to offer legal, recreational cannabis to those 21 and over by the end of the fiscal year.
This past Tuesday, the Office of Marijuana Policy announced that they had 27 businesses in the final phase of licensing and authorization in order to fully open. After a final state review, including security and operation plans and an official inspection, the businesses will be ready to launch, kicking off the start of recreational cannabis in the state.
Recreational cannabis in Maine has been delayed several times, and this latest delay was, of course, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state had originally planned to launch adult use in June, but this was pushed back as the industry shut down and quarantined. Instead, the focus switched to future projections. Now, the plan is to let a few dispensaries, testing labs, grow facilities, and manufacturing labs open up at the end of the first quarter, roughly late September or early October.
Director Erik Gundersen of the Office of Marijuana Policy said that this date will give the industry the time to grow and test their products, ensuring high quality for their first legal run. Maine will not allow their legal industry to launch until they are completely confident in the cannabis being produced and can safely say that all industry standards are being met.
“Our intentions are to start the system,” he said. “But it’s going to be a slower start than we originally intended, pre-COVID. I don’t know when, but we should get to where we expected to be pre-COVID.”
While the state is going to make less than what they originally predicted, which was $84 million for the fiscal year in 2021, Maine is already projected to make $118 million for fiscal year 2022, which will be the first fiscal year the industry will be fully up and running. Cannabis sales are also projected to reach $166 million by 2023, a huge boost for the industry and for the state in general.
Maine also feels confident about this boost and these projections because their medical cannabis market, although it is small, already does good business. Sales in 2019 averaged $10 million monthly, despite the fact that it’s restricted to card-carrying patients only. Also, many predict that once cannabis becomes recreationally legal, medical patients will also move over to the recreational market due to ease and convenience.
Additionally, the 27 businesses approved so far are just the tip of the iceberg. In total, 342 businesses have applied for licenses. Of those, 151 are in phase two, meaning they have a conditional state license and need a local license, and 164 are in phase one, waiting for a license. Once this system becomes more streamlined, the industry will grow even larger.
While Maine is certainly off to a slow start with their recreational market, it is clear that they are going to be poised for success once they finally do open their first grows, stores, and testing sites.