Maine’s Cannabis Stores Will (Finally!) Open in 2020

Maine’s Cannabis Stores Will (Finally!) Open in 2020

Cannabis sales are coming to Maine—nearly three years after state voters passed a legalization law back in 2016.

Legislators in Augusta on Thursday finally approved a legal framework that will allow the state’s long-delayed retail cannabis stores to open. Gov. Janet Mills is expected to sign the measure, which would allow the first stores to come online in early spring 2020.

Since 2016, cannabis has been legal to possess but not to purchase in Maine. The yearslong holdup has been largely thanks to former Gov. Paul LePage, an ardent legalization opponent who did all he could to slow-walk the implementation of the voter initiative. Mills, LePage’s successor who took office earlier this year, has vowed to move ahead with a legal, regulated, taxed cannabis market.

Despite the delay, Maine’s new market is shaping up to be one of the most consumer-friendly in the nation. While most states limit adults 21 and older to one ounce of cannabis flower, Maine set its limit at 2.5 ounces. Consumers may possess up to 5 grams of cannabis concentrate.

Mainers Only (Kind Of)

The rules proposed by the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy and adopted by the Legislature this week deal mainly with the details of adult-use cannabis regulation. Some of the highlights include:

  • A local opt-out clause: The state won’t issue a license until a grower, processor, or retailer secures local authorization to locate in a specific town or county. This could be a huge impediment for consumers. In other states (most notably California), opt-out clauses have allowed cities and counties to effectively re-impose prohibition by banning all cannabis companies entirely, and some lawmakers are now working to undo them.
  • A strong “Mainers Only” provision: The first batch of growing, processing, and retailing licenses will be limited to in-state applicants. Originally, lawmakers wanted to require every person involved to be a longtime Maine resident. But Wellness Connection of Maine, the state’s largest medical cannabis company, has out-of-state financial contracts. It threatened to sue. So lawmakers amended the rule. Now, a cannabis company must prove at least 51% ownership by Maine residents who have lived in the state for at least four years. Read more

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