Maine’s Cannabis Market & Solventless Extraction

Maine is considered a pioneer as one of the earlier legislators of medical cannabis legislation in America. Its market, however, has not been so quick to launch. The state's initiatives for medical cannabis were first proposed in 1999. However, it wasn’t until 2009 when the first dispensaries were licensed and regulated by Maine's Department of Health and Human Services. 

In November of 2016, Maine joined the slowly growing ranks of adult use states. Nevertheless, four years after, the industry remains bogged down by legislative and regulatory hurdles.

Despite recent setbacks, Maine remains an outstanding market according to many experts—with forecasts projecting a robust demand with high projected sales, as changes are expected to happen soon.

Maine’s Cannabis Legal Status

In 2013 and 2014, the possession and recreational use of marijuana was decriminalized in Portland and South Portland, putting pressure on state governments to act. 

In November of 2016, Maine would pass its adult use laws. By January 2017, the law went into effect, allowing adults to grow and possess cannabis for personal use, and stipulating a 10% tax on marijuana sales.

Legislative and regulatory hurdles have since impeded the state’s cannabis industry, yet many remain hopeful and active to make Maine a viable and strategic player in the market.

Currently, medical marijuana dispensaries are open for business, a milestone in itself when considering former Governor Paul LePage, a staunch opposer of cannabis, delayed recreational dispensary openings under his leadership. Over his time in office, LePage cited various reasons for opposing the rollout of the law, including making parallels between cannabis use and vehicular crashes, as well as concerns over running separate medical and adult use markets.

In February of 2020, under Governor Janet Mills, many were expecting Maine to issue the first retail licenses, and retail stores to open in June 2020. However, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Marijuana Policy announced another delay. Despite the latest setback, optimism largely remains among its licensed operators. 

Maine’s Cannabis Landscape. Slowly Emerging

Previously, Maine implemented a residency requirement. The law prohibited operators who did not hold residency for four years or more from obtaining a license. After rounds of legal battles, the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy announced it would cease enforcement of this requirement. Since then, a legal battle has continued, but most believe that out of state operators will win out. Depending on where you stand, the ruling could be a benefit or barrier for Maine's market. 

Regardless, the state looks like it is poised to boom. According to Marijuana Business Daily, Maine’s market could reach $275 to $325 million a year in sales by 2024, and in-state customers could reach up to 230,000.  

Once the market is launched, a provision allowing licensed growers to move plants from the medical marijuana program to the recreational sector could make waves in the space. The expectations are so high for the state that many have secured their locations due to its tourist attractiveness. 

Expectations are set high for places like Portland; people expect the city to be quite open when it comes to cannabis, potentially serving as a hub of the state industry. Currently, there are 17 store locations with conditional state approvals. 

Solventless in Maine Could Be a Top Option

Maine has an advantage from other states because it possesses precise definitions regarding marijuana. This advantage comes after several amendments were made to the current laws. 

For example, both concentrates and hash are not covered in the Maine criminal statute definition of cannabis. The statute defines Hashish separately as the resin extracted from the cannabis plant including any derivative, mixture, or compound of the resin, effectively including all concentrates. Hashish is classified in Schedule X of the Maine Controlled Substances Schedule. Also, possession of up to 5 grams of cannabis concentrate is legal, yet public use is considered a civil infraction.

Concentrates are becoming very popular as Maine’s industry evolves. Specifically, many patients prefer solventless extract products like rosin since a little can go a long way, and are considered clean and chemical-free products. 

The demand for solventless products is increasing while consumers discover the benefits that these chemical-free options offer.

Booming Industry Despite Covid-19

Despite the current pandemic, Maine’s cannabis businesses have been booming. 

According to GlobalData, at the end of 2019, anxiety and stress were one of the top worries of consumers. The pandemic has only intensified this with consumer's feeling anxious about health, job instability, reports about looming recession and dramatic alterations in everyday life.

The trend that we are seeing from consumers in Maine is the increase in basket sizes; people preferably buy more and stock products resulting in a favorable opportunity for the cannabis businesses.  

Also, the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy reports that certifications for medical cannabis have increased by 30% from January to April 2020. 

Final Hit

Like in many states, the current pandemic has slowed process and activities related to the recreational sector. Despite the booming medicinal demand, there are still several concerns when it comes to Maine’s potential, mainly by the lack of concrete timelines to launch the adult-use market. 

Recreational Maine’s market might be on hold; however, its medical market continues to grow. Last year, the state scored twice the expected number, raising up to $116 million in sales

Despite its hurdles, Maine presents another ample opportunity for operators. While residency laws remain up in the air to a degree, it is clear the in-state consumers want their cannabis. It would be worthwhile to consider the opportunity if the law presents itself.