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Dozens Apply To Open Marijuana Businesses In Now-legal Maine

John Locher
AP File

The first week of applications to open marijuana businesses in Maine has been busy, with dozens of prospective businesses lining up to sell, grow or make edible products with the newly legal drug.

The state started taking the applications on Dec. 5, and it has received 76 of them so far, according to the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy. Thirty-eight of the applications are for retail stores, 27 are for cultivation facilities and 11 are for manufacturing facilities, said David Heidrich, a spokesperson for the office.

The facilities would also need local approval from municipalities to be able to open. But they don’t yet need brick-and-mortar stores, and that could be motivating marijuana entrepreneurs to test the waters, said David Boyer, an industry consultant who helped lead the state’s legalization drive.

"You don’t even need to have a building or a town, you just need to have a dream," Boyer said. "When the town opts in, you can apply for the local license."

Maine voters approved legal sales of marijuana for adult use in a November 2016 vote. It’s one of a growing number of states to go legal, although the process of developing regulations and licensing businesses has been slow. Massachusetts also went legal in 2016 and has had retail stores for more than a year.

One obstacle was that former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, was opposed to legalization. He left office in January. LePage’s successor, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, has been more open to working with the state’s nascent marijuana industry.

Recreational marijuana could be available in stores in Maine by spring 2020, Heidrich said.

"It’s certainly possible — it really depends on the completeness of the applications and the speed at which municipalities provide authorizations," he said.

State officials have not released the names of applicants for marijuana licenses to the public, but that could change soon. The state also needs applications from prospective marijuana testing facilities to ensure the safety of the products, but has not received any yet, Heidrich said. At least one company is working on an application, he said.

Maine already has a longstanding medical marijuana program, and it is continuing while the state rolls out legal recreational marijuana.