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February 12, 2021

Maine marijuana businesses, including some from away, are growing like a weed

Courtesy / MCR Labs A technician weighs cannabis flower at an MCR Labs facility.

Four months since lawful sales of recreational-use marijuana began in Maine, the industry is blossoming — and some of the newest sprouts are rooted outside the state.

Maine legalized cannabis for medical uses in 1999, and then authorized its recreational use by adults in 2016. But plans for a legitimate, open marketplace in marijuana stalled for several years until going live in October 2020.

Starting last summer, there was a land-rush grab for licenses needed by cannabis-related businesses to operate, and once they did, sales of marijuana soared. Recreational purchases of pot products in Maine total $6.75 million to date, according to the most recent data from the state Office of Marijuana Policy. January sales were double the level in November.

Maine’s medical marijuana businesses have also been setting records, with sales more than doubling in 2020 over 2019. Between that boom and the new recreational market, legal marijuana sales in Maine have been predicted to reach $300 million by 2025, according to Nucleus One, a Portland consultant.

Across Maine, a total of 53 businesses currently hold active licenses for operations related to recreational-use marijuana, and the medical market includes 700 providers and over 3,000 caregivers — 16% more than in 2019.

Now several businesses are entering Maine to keep pace with demand.

Curaleaf Holdings Inc. (CSE: CURA), based in Wakefield, Mass., on Wednesday opened a medical marijuana dispensary at 829 Hogan Road in Bangor. The new storefront is the third in Maine for Curaleaf, which already operates in Auburn and Ellsworth.

Curaleaf is the world’s largest cannabis company, with revenues totaling $293 million in 2019 and speculated to hit $1 billion next year.

Also on Wednesday, a Framingham, Mass.-based company, MCR Labs, received preliminary approval from the Gardiner Planning Board to construct a marijuana testing facility in the town, at 11 Technology Drive in the Libby Hill Business Park.

If plans go forward, the 3,500-square-foot facility would be MCR’s second lab outside of Massachusetts; the company opened a site in Pennsylvania earlier this year.

MCR has 100 employees, 60 of whom were hired in 2020 alone, and has already begun recruiting for staff in Maine. Currently, only two marijuana testing labs operate in the state, in Kennebunk and Portland.

The growth of marijuana businesses has also spurred other, non-regulated ones. For example, Denver-based GrowGeneration Corp. (Nasdaq: GRWG), acquired two Maine hydroponic gardening stores earlier this month.

Hydroponics, a type of plant cultivation without the use of soil and with little need for water, is widely used in marijuana cultivation, and GrowGeneration said it was attracted by the expansion of Maine's recreational-use market. The company now operates 42 hydroponics stores across 11 states, and has said it hopes to have 55 stores nationwide by the end of the year.

GrowGeneration’s current 2021 guidance calls for total revenue of $335 million to $350 million, as much as an 82% increase over revenue in 2020 of $192 million.

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