Maine’s recreational cannabis industry shifted into a new gear on Thursday. The state’s Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) opened up its application process for adult use cannabis sales licenses, and also started accepting applications for the cultivation and manufacture of marijuana.

Applicants have started tearing through the paperwork in the hopes of being among the first applicants. Some of these would-be entrepreneurs have been waiting for years for the chance to start in on bureaucratic process. Further encouraging applicants’ quickness is the fact that business licenses will be awarded on a limited basis in some cities.

Maine’s voters opted for cannabis legalization back in 2016, but former Governor Paul LePage blocked the bill that would officially regulate marijuana, citing Maine’s high number of deaths from opiate addiction. It wasn’t until June 2019 that current Governor Janet Mills finally signed cannabis regulations into effect.

In April of 2019, the state made public its cannabis business guidelines. The OMP, which is part of Maine’s Department of Administrative and Financial Services, had already started accepting marijuana testing facility applications November 18.

Other Post-Legalization Issues Examined

Maine’s laws provide no framework for expungement of past cannabis-related crimes, necessitating that lawmakers propose stand-alone bills to ensure that past offenses that are no longer crimes are cleared from individuals’ records.

State law lets cities determine whether they will permit cannabis sales. For the first two years of regulation, the state will only accept applications from businesses that are primarily held by people who have lived in Maine for four years or more. That’s actually a relaxation of stricter residency requirements, likely due to the uproar raised by multi-state medical marijuana companies that are already operating within state lines.

Individuals with drug-related felonies — well, besides cannabis crimes — are prohibited from applying for a marijuana business license in Maine.

Many prospective small business owners have bemoaned these and other regulations, like the state’s exigent security requirements, which include 24-hour surveillance and comprehensive security camera coverage.

The initial applications the Office of Marijuana Policy is now accepting will be only the first step for prospective cannabis companies. Maine regulations have established a three-step licensing process; conditional licensure, local authorization, and active licensure. The Office of Marijuana Policy has estimated that the total process will take between 90 and 180 days.

That timeline suggests that recreational sales will not be taking place in Maine until March at the earliest.

Local cannabis industry advocates advised applicants not to panic if the bureaucracy — often hundreds of pages of documents — involved seemed daunting.

“Cover your basics for how you’re going to operate your business, and if your financials and everything are sort of in order, it’s not such a panic moment,” Mark Barnett of the Maine Craft Cannabis Association told a local news outlet. “You know, everyone’s kind of freaking out, and I think it’s just take a deep breath and realize it’s another step in the path.”

After nearly a three-year wait, surely some of Maine’s prospective cannabis business owners have no choice but to agree.

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