Maine voters approved a ballot initiative in 2016 that legalized adult-use cannabis, and now, four years later, the industry is still waiting to launch after a series of legislative and regulatory hurdles, the COVID-19 pandemic, and now, a new obstacle: local approval from the state’s municipalities.
Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) issued its first round of conditional adult-use cannabis licenses for cultivation, manufacturing and retail operations in March, and conditional licensees must now obtain local authorization before they can receive a final active license from the state.
OMP Director Erik Gundersen told Bangor Daily News that this authorization from the state’s municipalities may be delayed, as many communities remain shut down in response to the coronavirus. Many local governments have not yet opted in or out of hosting cannabis businesses, let alone drafted their local ordinances to outline how they will regulate the industry within their borders.
“With the local authorization piece, the second stop in the licensing process, towns and cities across the state are really closed,” Gundersen told Bangor Daily News. “Even though 87 conditional licenses are out there, the local authorization forms aren’t coming back at a volume where we can actually start the program.”
The OMP already decided last month that the launch of Maine’s adult-use market would be pushed back due to social distancing concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. While the market was originally expected to open in June, it has been delayed indefinitely as the state continues to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Each community must opt in to hosting adult-use cannabis businesses and must then adopt an ordinance, and while more than 40 have done so, according to Bangor Daily News, Gunderson wants to ensure that there will be enough adult-use dispensaries to meet consumer demand before the market launches.