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Updated: August 15, 2022

Towns can get reimbursement for opting into Maine’s recreational marijuana market

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The state has introduced a new program to compensate Maine cities and towns for costs they incur when opting to permit recreational, adult-use cannabis businesses.

The Office of Cannabis Policy last week announced the launch of an online portal Maine municipalities can use to obtain reimbursement for up to $20,000 of those costs. To access the portal, click here.

A state law passed earlier this year grants reimbursement for many municipal expenses associated with the opt-in process. The pay-back is provided by the OCP from the Adult Use Cannabis Public Health and Safety and Municipal Opt-in Fund, which comes from excise and sales tax revenues generated by the transfer and sale of recreational cannabis.

Qualifying expenses must have occurred in the previous three years, and must be associated directly with a municipality’s process of opting into the adult-use cannabis market. Eligible expenses include attorneys’ fees and staff time spent on developing cannabis ordinances, fees for providing notice of election and public meetings, and costs for the tabulation and publication of results.  

Reimbursements will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis.

The reimbursement program is intended to incentivize Maine municipalities to participate in the regulated adult-use market in an effective way, said OCP Director Erik Gundersen. 

“Maine’s launch of the adult use cannabis program has been strong,” he said. “But the benefits are still only being realized by about 7% of Maine’s cities and towns.”

A recent report commissioned by the OCP shows that the presence of adult-use retail stores and other facilities is “the most responsible way to continue to eradicate the illicit market, while driving down negative public health and safety impacts,” he added.

“The reality is, no matter if a town has opted in or not, there is cannabis being bought, sold and consumed there,” said Gundersen. “The most important thing we can do is to try and ensure that Mainers who choose to use cannabis can do so in a well-regulated environment that safeguards public health and safety in the best way possible.”

In June, the OCP released a report that showed 64% of cannabis accessed for consumption among past-month cannabis users in Maine is now coming from a regulated, legal source. 

The report resulted from a survey that examined how cannabis consumption, market dynamics, and health outcomes vary by geographic region, cannabis market, and other variables. The survey recruited almost 2,000 participants across 262 zip codes during the winter of 2021. It was conducted in partnership with Advocates for Human Potential Inc., led by Dr. Michael Sofis, a leading cannabis demand and consumption behavior researcher.  

Among the findings, and accounting for the relatively short duration of Maine’s adult-use program, the survey found that the current illicit market has diminished more than expected. 

Sales of adult-use cannabis were first allowed in October 2020. In the industry’s first full year in Maine, sales totaled $82 million. This year, sales are on pace to be more than $120 million, with retailers selling cannabis at a rate of $10 million a month through the first five months of the year. 

Stores are proliferating in 34 municipalities around Maine. Legal sales of adult-use cannabis in Maine could grow to $300 million by 2025, according to one industry consultant.

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