The exact size and scope of Maine’s medical marijuana market has been revealed for the first time thanks to new sales tax data.
The figures, provided by the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services and reported on by the Portland Press Herald, showed that the market is much larger than previously believed. Last year, state residents purchased more than $111.6 million worth of medical cannabis which, according to the Press Herald, is dwarfed by Maine’s lobster market ($485 million) and the potato market ($167 million) but “bigger than blueberries, maple syrup, apples, elvers, herring and oysters – combined.”
Most of the $111.6 million was accounted for by medical cannabis sales by caregivers, who sold around $85 million worth, which is about 76 percent of the market. The remaining $26. million was generated by sales at the state’s eight medical cannabis dispensaries.
The figures were made possible after Maine officials gave the medical marijuana industry its own tax category.
Dawson Julia, who was the first caregiver to open a marijuana shop in Maine, told the Press Herald that the figures give caregivers like him leverage.
“This is huge for us,” Julia told the Press Herald. “You want the tax revenue that comes from a $111 million market? Then you can’t regulate the caregiver out of existence. Sure, fix problems when they occur, but don’t fix a thing that’s not broken, ’cause what you’re doing is killing us, sending us right back to the black market.”
Maine voters approved a ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana all the way back in 1999. Today, more than 30 states have laws allowing cannabis treatment for patients with certain qualifying conditions.
In 2016, Maine voters went further, approving a measure legalizing recreational marijuana. But the new legal, recreational pot market has been slow to open in the state, thanks to opposition from the state’s former Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Maine officials said last year that they anticipated marijuana to be sold in stores by March after lawmakers there made adjustments to the law. In December, the state began accepting applications for dispensary licenses.