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At Long Last, Are Recreational Dispensaries Finally Opening In Maine?

Maine lawmakers are still working out details of the system, but it looks likely that state residents who voted for legal adult-use cannabis in 2016 may finally get the chance to buy some.

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Maine lawmakers have inched closer to fulfilling the will of the people: enacting the recreational marijuana law passed by voters in 2016.

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State officials recently announced that dozens of applications for dispensaries have been processed. That brings the state one major step closer to opening the first marijuana dispensary in Maine. 

RELATED: Boston Opens Up Its First Pot Shop

If it happens, it means residents will have waited almost 4 years to see the vote they took to legalize adult-use marijuana put into action.

It’s been a long wait for consumers and cannabis businesses.

The long delay has been no picnic for cannabis consumers or entrepreneurs, who have had dispensary applications ready to go for years. Some existing medical marijuana businesses have waited to expand into the recreational market, which some experts project could reach about $325 million a few years into operation.

One such entrepreneur is Cliff Miller, chief executive officer of Maine grower Atlantic Cannabis Collective. He recently received notice from the state that his application to expand from medical into recreational marijuana is complete.

Miller is transitioning into 20,000 square feet of cultivation for the new adult-use market, he told the Bangor Daily News. Like others, he’s interested to see how the market develops.

“We don’t have a lot of historical data as a market to look at what has happened here, what happened there," Miller said to the Bangor Daily News. "But we do have a lot of states that literally, day one, had a supply and demand issue.”

Related: New Mexico Fails To Legalize Recreational Marijuana, But There's Always 2021

It’s been a long, strange trip to legal sales.

Maine voters approved legalization in November 2016. The state anticipated putting a system into place early in 2017. Things didn’t work out that way.

The 2016 election also saw voters in California. Massachusetts, and Nevada approve adult-use sales. Maine is the only state not to have yet started legal sales out of the lot. Nevada, not surprisingly, seized the market opportunity first. Its sales began in July of 2017.

The vote was close, which in part caused the delay. Maine voters narrowly approved legal marijuana—the margin stood at 50.26 percent in favor and 49.74 percent opposed. Opponents called for a recount, but eventually withdrew that request in December 2016.

However, Gov. Paul LePage in 2017 vetoed a plan crafted by the state legislature to set up a legal adult-use system. That kept the process tied up until May 2018, when legislators finally had the votes to overturn the veto. LePage left office in 2019.

While the first dispensary could open this spring, Maine lawmakers continue to debate many aspects of the system. For example, bills that would allow marijuana delivery or medical marijuana dispensaries to sell adult-use marijuana have faced stiff opposition. Even as applications from dispensaries move forward, more legal wrangling is expected.

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