Three years after voters legalized the plant for adult use, things are finally picking up for the cannabis industry in Maine. With the application set to go live from the state Office of Marijuana Policy on December 5th, many companies are already doing what they can to get prepared. As with any state to legalize marijuana, there are plenty of hoops for these businesses to jump through in order to obtain a license to grow, process or sell marijuana. If all goes as expected, the first sales are expected to happen mid-March 2020.
“The Maine cannabis industry has been waiting over three years for Dec. 5, and of course there will be a race to be the first operator to ring in an adult-use sale,” said Wellness CEO Patricia Rosi. “We have been revving up our engines waiting for the flag to drop and get the green light to start working.”
However, any business that plans to submit their application needs to be prepared for a lengthy application process. At first, businesses will only be issued a conditional license. Then, they must obtain approval on a local level – which is often a more detailed process on its own – before their conditional license can be switched to an active one, allowing them to legally operate.
To get a conditional license, the applicant will need to prove that most of the key people involved (owners, investors, etc.) are local to the state of Maine. These individuals must also have obtained identification cards that will be required of all marijuana business owners, executives and employees. Getting the ID requires going through a background check – and as of right now, the Office of Marijuana Policy’s licensing division, which is an 8-person team, has only just started processing forms and won’t begin to issue the IDs until Thursday.
“I don’t have any clients who will be ready to go on that date. That may also slow down the race for licenses. I hope that people are using lawyers and accountants, because even though these are marijuana businesses, they are really compliance businesses.”
Obtaining a conditional license is going to be challenging, but some companies are getting a head start by getting their local approval ahead of time. South Portland has already granted land-use approvals for some businesses, including Curaleaf and Theory. Similarly, the town of Poland held their lottery for licenses back in July. Since only three growers and five retailers applied for one of 10 licenses available for both cultivation and retail businesses, all of them were approved.
It’s been extremely slow moving so far, but Maine is finally on the way to having their adult-use cannabis market up and running. Though it’s unlikely anyone will get through all the forms in as little as a day, if business owners are ready for the mountains of paperwork, conditional and active businesses licenses could be issued before the end of the year.