After years of waiting, residents and business owners in Maine can expect recreational cannabis sales to begin in March of 2020.
Although recreational cannabis was approved by Maine voters almost three years ago, several obstacles, including former Governor Paul LePage’s (R) veto of a bill that would have finalized regulations in 2017, have delayed the start of the program.
New regulations passed by state lawmakers have now taken effect. This will finally allow the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy to fully implement recreational cannabis regulations. Office spokesperson, David Heidrich, expects the state to be able to accept retail cannabis license applications before the end of this year. It should then take several months to review, approve, and deny applications with sales expected to commence by March 15, 2020.
The precise timeline could be altered slightly based on the application review process.
“We won’t know until we get applications,” Heidrich said. “It’s possible we get applications from someone who has all their ducks in a row and has a municipality lined up that’s poised to give them local authorization.”
Despite a years-long delay for recreational cannabis sales, legalization opponent Scott Gagnon believes the delay was good for Maine residents.
“From a public health perspective it has been a slower pace, a more deliberative pace than has happened in some states,” Gagnon said. “I think that’s been good.”
Even after sales begin, the recreational cannabis program likely will not be out of the woods for some time. Almost every state that has legalized recreational cannabis has experienced an initial supply crunch. Having all of the necessary components in place, including enough licensed growers and laboratories, has proven difficult for regulators.
“We have seen that as a pain point in pretty much [every] other state,” said Erik Gundersen, director at Maine Office of Marijuana Policy. “I don’t think we’re going to be any different.”
Testing laboratories are already reaching out to Gundersen to obtain licenses as early as possible.
“I would imagine that there would still be some type of delays,” Gundersen predicted. “If we have at least a few in the fold then I think that it may not be perfect, but I think we’ll be able to manage it and ensure that the mandatory testing is happening.”