Maine residents can finally buy legal adult-use cannabis in their state, almost four years after they approved legal sales in November 2016. The Maine legal marijuana system has gone through a vote recount, a governor’s veto and other issues, but it’s finally up and running.
Six dispensaries began sales in October. In the first day alone, they took in almost $95,000 combined, according to the Portland Press Herald. That also netted about $9,500 in sales tax revenue for the state.
Such large numbers are nothing new. The other 10 states that have legalized recreational marijuana have also seen big windfalls, immediately, including Illinois and Michigan in the past year.
The difference with Maine is in how long it took them to get to this point.
It’s Been Four Long Years Since Voters Approved Legal Cannabis
On the first day of sales, dispensaries opened in South Portland, Bangor, Auburn, Stratton and Northport. Maine joined Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Washington in allowing adult-use sales. Vermont legalized possession, but has yet to set up a regulated system that allows sales.
Three of those states – California, Massachusetts and Nevada – approved legal recreational cannabis the same day as voters in Maine. All three had their systems up and running quickly, especially Nevada (which started in July 2017) and California (January 2018). Massachusetts began in 2019.
Meanwhile, Maine couldn’t get off the ground. The troubles started with the vote itself, which was challenged. A recount began, but once it became clear the measure would still pass, the recount petition was withdrawn.
The next issue came with then-Gov. Paul LePage. After state lawmakers spent nine months hammering out details of a state-regulated marijuana industry, LePage vetoed the measure. At the time, in November 2017, he cited then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions as offering him important guidance on the issue.
LePage argued that “until I clearly understand how the federal government intends to treat states that seek to legalize marijuana, I cannot in good conscience support any scheme in state law to implement expansion of legal marijuana in Maine.”
Starting Over in 2018
Maine’s state Legislature passed a compromise bill in 2018 that aimed to please conservative critics. LePage vetoed that one, too. However, this time the Legislature overrode his veto and moved forward with plans. The state eventually had to hire an outside consultant to write the legal framework for the program.
LePage’s term ended in 2019, and he’s now a bartender at McSeagulls’sRestaurant in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. The new governor, Janet Mills, has been supportive of the legal program. After finally getting the legal framework in place, sales began in October, just a month shy of four years since voters first approved it.
Consumers were ready, but many had to wait hours to get into a dispensary and make a purchase. Customer Jeremy Howe, who was in line early, told a local television station that he had heard that “the supplies were going to be kind of low initially for the opening day, so I wanted to make sure that I got what I wanted.”
The long lines might be inconvenient, but finally both he and his fellow Maine residents can get what they’ve wanted since 2016.