Maine has started awarding adult-use cannabis business licenses

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Almost four years since recreational cannabis in Maine was successfully voted on by residents, the first six business licenses have been issued among lucky applicants. Thanks to the state office’s decision, consumers are one step closer to obtaining legal weed from specialist establishments, A.K.A. “dispensaries”.

Friday, October 9 is the all-important date that should be marked on people’s calendars, since this is when retail sales will officially kick off. Holders of active retail licenses will then be allowed to sell recreational cannabis products to people aged 21 and older.

Adult-use cannabis business applications were initially made available on December 5, before the first conditional licenses were dished out on March 13. Prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, retail sales of adult-use cannabis in Maine were expected to begin in the spring.

“While the current health pandemic delayed our efforts and will likely contribute to a less robust introduction to the market than expected, today’s action is a start to the realization of the will of Maine voters to provide adults 21 years of age and older with a lawful mechanism to obtain cannabis,” said the director of the state cannabis policy office, Erik Gundersen, who feels that the new market may struggle with product accessibility and availability before it matures.

Who were Maine’s adult-use cannabis business licenses awarded to?

Three companies were on the receiving end of a cultivation license South Portland-based GELE LLC, Auburn-based Grass Roots Marijuana LLC and Detroit-based Room 5 LLC. Also included in the awarding process were three active licenses received by South Portland-based Theory Wellness of Maine LLC, Northport-based Sweet Relief Shop LLC and Kennebunk-based testing facility Nelson Analytical LLC.

In August, adult-use licensees were provided with a COVID-19 checklist of requirements that would enlighten them on the health and safety rules for obtaining approval from the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) to operate legally. This checklist was a collaborative effort between the cannabis office, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Medical retailers can transition to Maine’s adult-use cannabis program 

With Maine’s adult-use cannabis market almost in full swing, many medical retailers are keen to get a slice of the pie. However, it should be noted that Maine law forbids a single establishment from selling both medical and non-medical cannabis.

While it is possible for retailers to transition to the adult-use program and serve this separate consumer demographic, it is not possible for those who don’t transition to sell recreational cannabis products; medical-only retailers will be limited to serving qualifying patients.

Although active licensees must wait until October 9 to start selling adult-use cannabis in Maine, cultivators have been informed that they are able to begin transferring plants from the state’s existing medical cannabis program for immediate harvesting. The OMP will continue distributing active licenses on a rolling basis and therefore the number of establishments will grow by the time sales launch.