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June 14, 2022

Maine's legal cannabis industry is grabbing market share from the illegal one, state says

File photo Findings of a new report by the Maine Office of Cannabis Policy suggest the adult-use recreational market for cannabis has reduced illicit use.

The growth of Maine's recreational cannabis market has displaced much of the illicit one, according to a state report issued Monday.

Based on a survey, the Maine Office of Cannabis Policy estimated that 64% of cannabis used by Mainers between November and December last year came from a regulated or otherwise legal source. The remaining 36% was from illicit sources.

That breakdown beat the office's expectations.

"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," the OCP findings said.

The report examined how cannabis consumption, market dynamics and health outcomes varied by geographic region and other variables.

The presence of an adult-use store in a consumer’s ZIP code may incentivize the consumer to get cannabis from the regulated market instead of the illicit market, the study found.

Survey respondents who accessed cannabis from adult use stores did not report negative health behaviors, such as cannabis use disorder or driving under the influence of cannabis, concerns which were prevalent in illicit and medical markets, the report found. 

The report is the result of the OCP's first population-based survey effort, recruiting almost 2,000 participants across 262 zip codes in Maine. The survey was conducted in partnership with Advocates for Human Potential Inc., led by Michael Sofis, a cannabis-demand and consumption behavior researcher.  

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

There are 90 active adult-use retail cannabis stores across 34 municipalities in the state. 

Retailers had adult-use sales of $82 million in 2021, compared with $4.3 million in 2020, after sales were legalized in October. Through May of this year, sales of adult-use marijuana totaled $51.5 million, putting Maine on pace to surpass last year's sales.

“Make no mistake, the findings of this report show that the implementation of the adult use market in the state of Maine may be considered an achievement in both public health and cannabis policy,” said Sofis.

In addition to the adult-use cannabis market in Maine, there’s also a medical marijuana market. 

Maine first legalized medical marijuana by referendum in 1999. In 2009, Maine voters established a legal distribution mechanism and the medical marijuana program became operational in 2010, with the first of Maine’s medical marijuana dispensaries opening in 2011. 

Since its establishment, the state’s medical program has grown from a small industry consisting of eight dispensaries and nearly 600 caregivers to 13 dispensaries and about 3,000 registered caregivers currently.

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