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Business and Economy

Report: Maine is curbing illegal cannabis market at faster rate than other states with adult-use laws

Maine Marijuana
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
A salesperson answers questions at Theory Wellness, a cannabis retail store, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, in South Portland, Maine.

State policymakers believe that Maine's illicit cannabis market is smaller than in other states with adult-use cannabis laws.

New data show that 15% of cannabis purchased in Maine came from adult-use stores, according to a report from the state's Office of Cannabis Policy, which surveyed nearly 2,000 Mainers about their buying and consumption habit within a month-long period.

A total of 64% of cannabis came from a regulated or legal source, such as medical dispensary or caregiver, while 36% came from an illegal source.

Data from Massachusetts, Alaska and California show a larger illicit market, despite adult-use cannabis stores in those states being open longer than those in Maine, according to the new report.

The first adult-use store in Maine opened a little more than a year ago. Stores in Massachusetts and Alaska first opened about three years ago, and the first adult-use store opened in California about five years ago.

Erik Gundersen, director of Maine's Office of Cannabis Policy, said the state is curbing its illicit market at a faster rate compared to others, and it's a testament to the work the state legislature did in drafting adult-use laws in Maine.

"We've proven that states can successfully implement adult-use cannabis programs, both in the way of mitigating negative health effects, but also creating a place where businesses can thrive and survive," he said. "And it creates an environment where people want to purchase their cannabis through those well-regulated test and track cannabis programs."

Mainers who live in a zip code with at least one adult-use store are more likely to buy cannabis at one of those stores, according to the survey results.

For Gundersen, the data show an opportunity to expand the program to more towns across Maine.

"If we want people who are accessing cannabis to do it through the regulated test and track marketplace, then we need to have more than the seven-percent of towns that have opted in statewide," he said.

More surveys are planned for the coming months, which Gundersen said will help policymakers monitor public health behaviors and track progress with the state's program.