The Maine regulatory body overseeing the adult-use cannabis market is introducing new regulations to improve consumer accessibility. These modifications, driven by recent record-breaking sales, are primarily influenced by two legislative bills passed this year. One of these bills seeks to diminish the stigma surrounding cannabis. At the same time, the other aims to rectify an omission in a previous year’s bill, which permitted cannabis sales at events like concerts and festivals.
Maine, the way life should be, is the state slogan, and for cannabis fans, they can now agree!
The proposed rules represent a comprehensive transformation and complete rewriting, often called a “repeal and replace,” of the initial guidelines. According to Gabi Pierce, the policy director at the Maine Office of Cannabis Policy, this overhaul aims to enhance the user-friendliness of the approximately 100-page regulations governing adult-use cannabis in Maine.
It includes formatting, organization, and language updates to make the rules more accessible and understandable. A public hearing to discuss these changes is scheduled for next week.
Last year, the Legislature granted authorization for cannabis delivery from retail stores to customers, and this year, they expanded this privilege to include small cultivators and manufacturers. Presently, cultivators and manufacturers are prohibited from selling directly to consumers.
The proposed bill would also allow stores, manufacturers, and cultivators to directly serve tourists by delivering to hotels and businesses, provided these establishments have written consent for such deliveries.
Rep. Laura Supica, D-Bangor, who introduced the bill, pointed out that medical and illicit cannabis are already being delivered to these locations. She emphasized that if we are genuinely committed to using a regulated adult-use market to eradicate the illegal market, these changes in delivery regulations should be beneficial.
Furthermore, the bill proposes to increase the permissible potency of a cannabis product, raising the limit from 100 mg of THC per package to 200 mg. Additionally, it doubles the quantity of cannabis concentrate an individual can buy in one go, from 5 grams to 10 grams. THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana responsible for the user’s high, is the key focus of these changes.
Rep. Laura Supica emphasized that many of the current limits stem from the stigma associated with the drug. She argues that, in this instance, cannabis should be regulated more akin to alcohol.
She pointed out that when purchasing alcohol at a liquor store, individuals can buy as much as they can afford and even purchase spirits with 150 proof. The intent is to shift the prevailing cultural perspective on how cannabis is treated and regulated.
The preceding year, lawmakers passed a contentious bill permitting the off-site sale of non-smokable cannabis. This meant that, theoretically, cannabis products like edibles could be marketed at venues such as farmers markets, concerts, festivals, and fairs, among others. While the law allowed the sale of specific cannabis items, it strictly prohibited their consumption in public spaces.
However, Governor Janet Mills opted not to endorse the bill, as indicated by draft veto language briefly published on the governor’s website before its removal. Her concerns revolved around the bill’s perceived need for clarity and the potential for inconsistent interpretations in municipal oversight. Also, off-site sales could encourage public consumption, posing significant safety concerns.
In the draft language, Governor Mills also noted that the bill lacked the necessary statutory safeguards for her office to effectively and responsibly oversee its implementation.
In the end, Governor Mills decided not to veto the bill, allowing it to become law without her signature, and the previously drafted language outlining her concerns was subsequently removed from her website.
The revised version of the bill, passed this year, extends permission for the sale of smokable cannabis and addresses the statutory issues by offering more precise instructions for both state and municipal regulators.
In 2022, Maine’s adult-use retailers achieved sales totaling $158.9 million worth of products, and they are currently on a trajectory to surpass that figure this year, having already sold $118.3 million through July.
July marked a historic high for the market, with sales reaching almost $21 million, demonstrating a continuous uptrend in revenue. Notably, the average price for a gram of cannabis flower has dipped to $7.88, nearly half its 2020 selling price. Despite this price drop, the number of sales in 2023 has almost doubled compared to all of 2021, totaling approximately 2 million transactions.
Maine currently boasts 287 state-licensed adult-use cannabis businesses, including cultivators, store owners, manufacturers, and testing labs, with 198 companies in various stages of the approval process.
The proposed rules will undergo discussion at a public hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. on Wednesday at the state’s offices in Augusta. The Maine Office of Cannabis Policy is welcoming public comments until September 17th. These rules are anticipated to come into effect in January.
Maine’s adult-use cannabis industry is projected to generate annual sales ranging from $275 million to $325 million by 2024, as reported by “Marijuana Business Daily.” This growth potential is underscored by the experience in Massachusetts, where dispensaries recorded over $420 million in sales during their initial year of recreational marijuana operations, highlighting the significant opportunities for cannabis businesses in the Northeast.
Maine’s adult-use cannabis market is experiencing significant growth and evolution. July marked a milestone with record-breaking sales despite a noticeable decline in the price of cannabis flowers. The industry has seen a remarkable increase in transactions in 2023, nearly doubling the figures from the previous year. With 287 state-licensed cannabis businesses already operational and another 198 in the approval pipeline, the industry is poised for further expansion.
The proposed rule changes, aimed at enhancing accessibility, potency limits, and regulatory clarity, signal a proactive approach to the evolving cannabis landscape. These changes will be discussed in a public hearing, allowing stakeholders to voice their opinions. As these rules are expected to take effect in January, Maine’s cannabis industry is on a dynamic path, adapting to meet the needs of both consumers and regulators in this rapidly evolving market. (Full Story)