Just weeks after issuing the first conditional licenses for cannabis businesses, Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy announced Friday that the launch of adult use sales in the state would be postponed “due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” Sales were expected to begin in June.
OMP Director Erik Gundersen wrote in a letter to stakeholders, “Just one month ago, as we announced the issuance of Maine’s first conditional licenses for adult use marijuana establishments, few would have envisioned the effects the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) would have on the daily lives of Mainers. However, it now appears as though a spring launch of Maine’s adult use industry is simply unrealistic.”
The Office has not yet announced a new date for the launch of sales. Two main issues have come to the forefront, according to Gundersen: localities deciding whether to allow adult use business have postponed “because of COVID-19;” it is not yet clear what the top-down “social distancing” requirements might be in the coming weeks.
Despite the delay of the launch of sales, the Office has awarded 70 conditional licenses to those hoping to grow, manufacture, or sell cannabis and cannabis products.
As Cannabis Wire reported in March, Mainers have waited more than three years for adult use sales after approving it at the ballot box in November 2016. No other state has taken this long to get its adult use cannabis program off the ground.
The delays began with Governor Paul LePage, who was a vocal opponent of legalization and repeatedly vetoed bills to establish the framework for taxed and regulated sales.
“There were the two legislative rewrites, two governor’s vetoes, and we were really left with a blank slate when we were established,” Gundersen told Cannabis Wire in March.
It wasn’t until 2019, with Governor Janet Mills in office, that the program began to take shape.
“We are simply unable to provide any concrete timelines in these uncertain times. We cannot tell you with any level of certainty when towns will be able to take action to ensure there will be adequate testing to meet the needs of program, and we certainly cannot set a definitive retail sales launch date amidst a public health pandemic,” Gundersen wrote to stakeholders.
“We appreciate your understanding during this most difficult time for our state and nation, and we look forward to working with you over the coming months to rollout Maine’s adult use marijuana program.”