It’s been a long and winding road toward widespread cannabis access for the residents of the state of Maine, but at last, another hurdle is about to be overcome—recreational cannabis is about to become available for retail purchase.
It’s surprising and frustrating to many, especially Mainers, that this process has taken so long. But it’s common for the path to cannabis access to be a complicated one. The state of Florida, for example, has recently seen a jump forward in the types of medical cannabis products available to those who qualify. But Florida legalized medical cannabis in 2014, so it’s surprising to some that hoops are still being jumped through.
The situation in Maine is similar in many regards. Though cannabis has been legal for some time, it hasn’t been available for purchase, leaving those hoping that the legalization of the substance would bring about change disappointed. But all of that will change on October 9th, 2020.
Maine’s History with Cannabis
When we think about the early adopters of legal cannabis, we tend to think of states like Colorado, California, and Oregon—western states with a more laid-back attitude. And it’s true that those states have been pioneers of cannabis culture and industry, making strides in the area of legalization long before the rest of the country got on board.
But many don’t realize that Maine was among the first wave of states to legalize as well. Cannabis decriminalization in Maine occurred way back in 1976, allowing the possession of small amounts of cannabis. Then, in 1999, medical cannabis was legalized, and it became possible for Maine residents to obtain medical cannabis cards and even grow their own plants with the recommendation of a doctor.
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In 2013, the city of Portland, Maine legalized recreational cannabis. The state as a whole wasn’t too far behind, legalizing in 2016. And in theory, that should have been it—the cannabis industry should have begun to flourish, much as the medical cannabis industry had after it was legalized, and Mainers should have been able to shop retail stores for recreational cannabis. So what went wrong?
It’s common for states to experience delays in rolling out their cannabis industry once legalization laws are passed. Most laws pass with a goal in mind regarding the date for implementation. But sometimes that deadline can be difficult to meet.
Licensing is an issue. Those wishing to participate in the cannabis industry must be licensed as growers, manufacturers, product testers, or retailers. Putting the licensing system into place takes time, as does enabling citizens to actually obtain those licenses. There’s also the matter of actually growing, producing, and testing the products to be sold. It takes time to amass the items that will fill the retail stores, to prepare for their opening.
Maine had hoped to make cannabis available for retail sale several months ago, but this year has been more complicated than most because of COVID-19. Concerns about contamination and the spread of the virus caused officials in Maine to delay the rollout of commercial cannabis. Fortunately, the delay gave the officials the ability to move forward with confidence that everything will be handled safely and that cannabis will be able to be sold commercially with no inordinate risk to the consumer.
So after four years of waiting from the time cannabis was legalized for recreational use, Mainers will finally be able to get their hands on some herb and celebrate the rise of a new industry in their state. Enjoy it, Maine—we’re sure that it will have been worth the wait!
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