Legal Marijuana in Maine Reducing Sales of Black Market Weed

The state of Maine is doing a better job than many of its peers in curbing the sale of black market weed, according to a new report. About 64 percent of all marijuana use in the state late in 2021 came from legal sources, higher than what officials expected.

That’s good news in a country where many states continue to struggle with black market weed sold through illegal means. The unregulated weed can prove dangerous to consumers, who may buy it because it’s offered at a discounted price.

Cannabis consumers can fight the illegal marijuana problem by making their purchases from a legal cannabis dispensary. In Maine, which began adult-use cannabis sales in the fall of 2020, that’s apparently what is happening.

Black Market Weed Sales Drop in Maine

The report on Maine cannabis sales came from the state’s Office of Cannabis Policy (OCP). It estimated that 64 percent of cannabis used by people in Maine between November and December 2021  came from a legal source. The remaining 36 percent came from illicit sources.

“When accounting for the time since the first adult-use store was opened in Maine, the current in-state illicit market is likely smaller than in most other states with adult-use cannabis laws, suggesting Maine is likely effectively curbing the illicit market at a greater rate than most other states with adult-use laws when accounting for how long adult-use stores have been open,” the report stated.

The report also found that younger cannabis consumers who prioritize their source of cannabis are more likely to buy from a legal dispensary. Maine currently has 90 adult-use cannabis dispensaries.

Sales Growing in Maine

After a long delay in starting recreational marijuana sales – voters first approved the measure in 2016 – Maine sales have taken off quickly. Adult-use sales reached $82 million in 2021. Through May 2022,  sales totaled $51.5 million and remained on pace to surpass the total from 2021.

“We are pleased to release this report that highlights the successful launch of Maine’s adult use market,”  OCP Director Erik Gundersen told MaineBiz. “The findings in this report point to policies and practices that promote and preserve public health and safety, while allowing legal businesses to compete.”

In searching for reasons why people choose legal over illegal cannabis, the report found that having a dispensary in their zip code seemed the No. 1 indicator. The report found that living in a zip code with at least one adult-use dispensary is associated with a significant increase in people buying legally, no matter their age, gender, or medical cannabis patient status.

Also, the report found that those who used legal cannabis did not report the negative health behaviors often reported by those who use black market weed. Those behaviors include driving under the influence of cannabis.

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