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After four years, Maine begins recreational pot sales

Oct 12, 2020

Residents of Maine have waited a long time to be able to purchase recreational cannabis. Voters passed a referendum to legalize weed back in November of 2016, but it’s taken until this week for the state to begin selling the drug to the public finally. For many, it couldn’t come soon enough.

As the Press Herald reported, some residents of the northern-most state have been waiting almost their entire adult lives for this moment. Dan Comeau, a 46-year-old Portland resident, told the Press Herald that he took the day off work and dressed up in his Sunday best to celebrate the momentous occasion.

“There’s a freedom about it,” Comeau told the Press Herald. He was one of 50 people waiting to purchase cannabis when a reporter interviewed him. “I don’t have to hide it. I don’t have to talk a doctor into a medical card. Now I can buy local weed from a local shop just because it’s my birthday, because I feel like it. That’s a real gift. It’s also been a really long time coming.”

But all of the waiting, mixed with excitement, caused a bit of a shortage of product across the state. Boston.com reported that because of a limited number of licensed retailers, combined with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, cannabis shortages were reported on the first day of sales.

Ben Bolstridge, of Lewiston, told the site that those shortages wouldn’t deter him from buying as much cannabis as he could.

“This is a big day,” Bolstridge told Boston.com. “It’s the first time in Maine history that you can actually buy recreational marijuana. That’s awesome. I wanted to be here today.”

Several factors caused the state to delay sales since voters approved legalizing cannabis in 2016. According to the Press Herald, “[l]egislative rewrites, gubernatorial vetoes, a change in state administration and then the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have combined to make Maine’s rollout the slowest in U.S. history.”

Furthermore, as Boston.com noted, state law requires marijuana growers and product suppliers to be licensed. Products themselves have to be certified as well. These strict requirements have led to only a few suppliers in the state, with only one lab able to certify products.

On the first day of sales, only six licensed stores were open for business. 

David Boyer, an independent marijuana industry consultant in Maine, told Boston.com that he would like to see more dispensaries available to the public, but that he was happy to see recreational sales finally beginning in the state.

“To the state’s credit, there’s something to be said for planting a flag and breaking the ice and starting sales for thousands of adults who don’t have access for one reason or another. It’s a big day,” he told Boston.com.

Tonya Rollins, who has a shop in Auburn called Green Cures, told the Press Herald that cannabis saved her life. And while she had some trouble negotiating with wholesalers for product, she was thrilled to be able to sell recreational weed legally. Rollins made the first adult-use sale in Maine, making state history last week. She sold some Alaskan Thunder to her friend, Nate Howard.

“I have friends locked up just for having pot on them, not even large amounts,” Howard told the Press Herald. “The idea that I could walk into a store free and clear and buy some weed and carry on with my day was kinda great. It feels like America, like freedom. Exciting. Was great to hang out and celebrate. We got this legalized. The fight has finally come to an end and we won.”

Photo Credit: Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance
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