How to Open a Dispensary In Maine
Marijuana legalization has come a long way in Maine. In 1999, Maine legalized medical marijuana, starting a gradual push toward full legalization. In June 2019, Governor Janet Mills signed into law the legalization of recreational marijuana, intending to start sales spring of 2020. Due to a COVID-19 related delay, these plans have been postponed. On September 8th of 2020, the first round of recreational licenses will be granted, and sales are slated to start a month later on October 9th.
On October 9th, 2020, recreational sales in Maine are slated to begin. The first round of cannabis licensing being issued will be on September 8th, 2020.
Size of Opportunity
According to Marijuana Business Daily, Maine’s market should reach $275 – $325 million by 2024.
The Maine Municipal Association advised towns and cities to adopt moratoriums to prevent unwanted developments until regulations and local guidelines are approved. Municipal stances on the topic vary from town to town.
Here are a few unique situations in particular towns in Maine:
- Camden has a specific procedure for obtaining a recreational cultivation business
- Bridgton failed to pass a recreational initiative
As of June 2019, only 14 towns have opted into Maine’s program. The second crucial step as you’ll learn below is to get approval of the local municipality to start your dispensary in Maine.
Maine’s relationship with marijuana dates back to 1913 when they prohibited it, joining the bandwagon of other states who decided to create cannabis laws. However, in 1976 Maine changed its tune by decriminalizing having small amounts.
Maine’s next step was in 1999 when ballot question 2 was voted on creating a medical marijuana program. The program is run by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services. Initially this allowed eight non-profit, licensed dispensaries, but it wasn’t into 2009 that the remaining legislation allowed marijuana to be sold. The Maine Medical Marijuana act would expand upon the previous existing state laws:
- Expanding the list of pre-qualifying conditions to receive medical cannabis
- State registry of qualified patients
- Rules around distribution
- With a doctor’s permission, patients can possess 2.5 ounces and up to 3 platforms for medicinal purposes.
In July of 2018, two new Medical Marijuana bills were proposed.
LD 238 which allows for 3rd party extraction of medical cannabis.
LD 1539, which involved reform put together by Maine’s Health and Human Services Committee. The first important part of this removed qualifying condition list so any resident can use medical marijuana as long as their doctor thinks it would benefit them. Patients also will not be required to designate a caregiver or dispensary as their sole provider. Finally, this bill added two more dispensaries to the original eight. Most importantly, the cap will be lifted off dispensaries on January 1st, 2021.
Both bills were vetoed by Governor LePage but turned over by the state legislature and went into effect on December 13th, 2018.
The next big step for Maine was the Marijuana Legalization Act. The act was specified to take effect within 40 days of November 8th, 2016. The act did the following:
- Allows adult use for those not participating in Maine’s medical cannabis program.
- Legally grow and possess personal
- License commercial cannabis production and retail
- 10% tax on commercial cannabis sales
- It is left to the local municipalities to regulate, control, and prohibit operations of cannabis businesses
In 2017, as this became a bill to be passed into law (Bill LD 1719), Governor LePage vetoed the bill to regulate and tax recreational sales. This was specifically due to the conflicts of the federal government’s stance on the issue. However, the state legislature was able to overturn the veto successfully, and it became a law. This law made some noticeable changes from what was passed by voters in 2016, including disallowing social clubs for consumption, which essentially means that consumption must be done in private residences. The second significant change is the lowering of 6 flowering plants allowed to having only 3 for personal use.
Sales were supposed to start Q2 2020, but due to a series of mainly COVID-19 related delays, the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy finally announced that retail sales would begin on October 9th, 2020.
Steps to Get a Cannabis License
There are four potential licenses which include:
- Cultivation Facilities
- Product Manufacturing
- Testing Laboratories
To apply for a cannabis business license in Maine you have to go through 3 steps.
Step One: Conditional Licensure
Your first step to open a dispensary in Maine (or any cannabis business) is you need to receive a conditional license. First, you must go through a criminal background check. All applicants and their employees must next apply for the OMP-issued Individual Identification Card (IIC). Once this process is taken care of the application must be submitted along with fees. Within 90 days, Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy will look over information you submitted and either deny the license or issue a non-renewable conditional license. Each conditional license is valid for one year.
Step Two Local Authorization
To get an “active license,” you must be authorized by the local municipality. Each municipality has 90 days to respond to your request. In some instances, they are given an additional 90 days to respond.
If the local municipality determines that the applicant has satisfied all local regulations and licensing requirements, they may choose to approve. The Office of Marijuana policy will receive this authorization form directly.
Once the OMP receives local authorization, they will request additional information and updated documents within ten days from the applicant.
This will include:
- Evidence of compliance with all electrical and permitting requirements.
- Relevant tax information and documents.
- Changes to the original application.
- Any updated plans.
Step Three: Active Licensure
The OMP will review your supplemental information and if all approved, will issue an invoice to the applicant for the licensing fee.
Upon receipt of payment, the applicant will be issued an “active license” valid for one year.
Licensing and Financial Requirements
Maine’s Department of Administrative and Financial Services is charged with the regulation and licensing of cannabis businesses. When crafting rules for cultivation, testing, and manufacturing, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Conservation and Forestry must be consulted. When it comes to public safety and law enforcement, they must consult with the Department of Public Safety.
Maine Cannabis License Application Fees
Application fees range from $60 – $500 depending on the type of application you are doing. This includes:
- Stores, manufacturers, testing $250
- Nurseries $60
- Cultivation facilities $100 (tier 1) to $500 (tier 4)
Maine’s Cannabis Annual Licensing Fees
- Dispensaries – Up to $2,500
- Testing Facilities – Up to $1,000
- Nurseries – $350
- Small cultivators (tier 1) –
- Outdoor – Not exceeding $250 OR $9 per plant if a plant-based cap is elected
- Indoor – Not exceeding $500 OR $17 per plant if a plant-based cap is elected
- Large cultivators (tier 4)
- Outdoor no more than $15,000
- Indoor no more than $30,000
- *If the larger canopy is allowed, then a larger fee may be created
To personally be able to apply for a business license, you must
- Be a Maine resident. If ownership is held by a business entity, all officers, directors, managers, and general partners must be residents, and a majority of shares must be owned by Maine residents. All business entities must be incorporated in Maine.
- You must be 21 years of age or older.
- Criminal History – not been convicted of a drug offense carrying a max penalty of a year or more. The exception is the individual completed their entire sentence at least ten years before application, or the offense was for marijuana-related conduct that has been legalized.
- Employed by State – you cannot apply if a state agency employs you with a regulatory role.
- Law Enforcement – not currently employed as a law enforcement or corrections officer.
- History of Revoked cannabis license – you cannot have had a previous cannabis business license or medical marijuana ID card/license revoked.
- Court Debts – You cannot have outstanding court-ordered payments
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