Maine’s largest city has entered the adult-use marijuana market with the opening of Portland’s first dispensary, and, with dozens of retail license applications awaiting approval, many more look to be on the horizon.
Maine’s Road to Recreational Marijuana
It’s been a difficult journey to Portland, Maine’s first recreational cannabis dispensary. When a referendum aiming to legalize marijuana passed by a margin of less than 5,000 votes back in 2016, the expectations were set: growing and possessing cannabis was legal for personal use, the state would establish a licensing system for the production and dispersion of cannabis products, and retail sales were set to begin in February of 2018.
However, former Maine Gov. Paul LePage had other plans. In November 2017, he acted against his constituents’ will and vetoed the Marijuana Legalization Act.
“Until I clearly understand how the federal government intends to treat states that seek to legalize marijuana, I cannot in good conscience support any scheme in state law to implement expansion of legal marijuana in Maine,” LePage wrote in a statement following the decision. “The dangers of legalizing marijuana and normalizing its use in our society cannot be understated. Sending a message, especially to our young people, that some drugs that are still illegal under federal law are now sanctioned by the state may have unintended and grave consequences.”
Despite the governor’s vague concerns, Maine lawmakers overturned the veto the following May. After months of building out the program’s infrastructure, along with a slight delay caused by COVID-19, Maine dispensaries were allowed to open for sale on October 9, 2020.
SeaWeed Co. Recreational Weed Dispensary Opens in Portland
“This moment has been a very long time coming,” said Scott Howard, owner of the SeaWeed Co. dispensary. “As the first retail license issued in the city, we are excited to set an example of how a cannabis store can be a net benefit to our Portland community.”
After the tumultuous start to Maine’s legal cannabis market, the city of Portland took its time in adopting rules for marijuana retailers. It was nearly a two-year process to draft zoning ordinances and work out the licensing situation for the local government. Initially, plans were to enforce a 20-store cap in order to lower the risk of flooding the new market. Then, there were suggestions to select retail licenses based on a system that favored certain applicants: Mainers, business owners, the economically disadvantaged, medical cannabis caregivers, or people with over $150,000 in liquid assets. However, voters denied the retail cap and a federal judge ruled that the licensing system was discriminatory.
Now—five months after initial recreational sales commenced—licenses are finally being issued. Despite the bumps in the road that led to this point, Jerrica Hanscombe, Portland’s Licensing and Housing Safety Manager, is confident that recent changes will lead to a more vibrant cannabis market in Portland.
“In the years I’ve been doing this, we’ve adopted different ordinances, but this is the first that’s so expansive,” said Hanscombe. “We hope to be a city every other city can look to for the best way to do this.”
With over 30 recreational marijuana shops and dozens of other cannabis-related license applications awaiting approval, Portland is ready to contribute to Maine’s growing adult-use marijuana market.
At The Weed Blog, we strive to produce the latest online news resources regarding marijuana. We also review various strains of cannabis or other edible counterparts. We are committed to helping you find valuable information about marijuana on our website. With marijuana laws constantly changing, learn from us what you can do to promote activism in your area. Otherwise, consider these other top-tier articles regarding cannabis: