The Maine cannabis industry continues to grow. This month, the state’s total recreational sale of cannabis hit a new record of over $5 million. That’s more than $200 per day. In April, the state had sold over $4 million in cannabis, and in March, over $3 million. That’s more than $200,000 every day.
Maine voters paved the way for the recreational cannabis market by approving Question 1 of the 2016 ballot, becoming the first state to decriminalize adult use of cannabis. The industry has been slow to develop, but the May sales figures indicate that momentum is building.In May, sellers of adult-use cannabis in Maine sold more than $5 million worth of marijuana products, a new record for the state’s burgeoning legal market. Last month, 34 licensed adult drug retailers reported 71,843 transactions totaling nearly $5.4 million, generating about $536,000 in tax revenue for the state. Sales of recreational cannabis in Maine have been rising steadily since the market opened in October, with retailers earning about $1.1 million in the first month. The record $5.4 million in May beat the previous record set in April by more than $1 million. According to the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy, sales in the legal adult-use market have totaled about $22.7 million so far, bringing in more than $2.2 million in sales tax to the state. The increase comes on the eve of what retailers and regulators hope will be a busy summer season. Rebecca Henry, marketing director of Sweet Dirt, which has a medical store in Eliot and two recreational stores in Waterville and Portland, said the company is expecting a tsunami of tourists this year. With online search results increasing 60-70% per month, Sweet Dirt is expecting a large number of visitors and is hiring staff at all locations to prepare for this, even doubling the store staff. Jim Henry, CEO of Sweet Dirt, said it’s good to see the state starting to open up again. The variety of license plates in our parking lot was really exciting, he said, adding: We are happy to attract people who have never had the chance to try our product because they come from a state where it may be illegal. Mohammed Ibrahim, owner of Bangor-based Firestorm Cultivation, which opened its first set of stores last fall, is optimistic that the state’s many summer tourists will want to buy something other than lobster rolls and jelly pies. I expect (revenue growth) to be in line with other companies, but we don’t have data to rely on, he said. I am confident that people will come out of the COVID coma and enjoy the great shops and products (nearby). Eric Gundersen, director of the Office of Marijuana Policy, said licensees showed innovation and resilience when they had to venture into an entirely new market during a global pandemic. As our state prepares to welcome visitors for the summer season, I am confident that they will remain committed to the high standards we have in place to protect public health and safety, he said in a statement. In May, the average buyer spent about $74 per sale, a trend that has continued at least since the beginning of the year. Smokable cannabis, commonly known as flower, accounted for about 59% of sales, up from 76% at market opening and 63% in January, likely due to product expansion and diversification. Similarly, the market share of colorants and concentrates increased to 23% and 18% respectively, up from 10% and 14% in October. The average price of flour fell from $56 to $13.22 per ounce, or about $49 per eighth of an ounce. One eighth is enough to roll seven large joints or about 14 cigarette-type joints. Initially struggling with limited supply, few choices and high prices, now with nearly three dozen stores, 21 production facilities and 30 growing locations, customers are seeing more choices and lower prices on the shelves. This trend will not be reversed: 239 state-owned stores are still in various stages of the licensing process. As the market grows, so does the need for product testing, which is a requirement of the adult program. In May, the state licensed a third testing laboratory, CATLAB LLC, in Eliot. Ibrahim says business is excellent, even though the company was founded in the fall, in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic. Since then, many have entered the market and existing brands have expanded their production, he says, allowing his company and others to offer more and more products, and at lower prices. He said an eight is already costing $35, something he could not offer until recently. Jessica Oliver, senior vice president of cannabis at Sweet Dirt, said the company is starting to see a drop in wholesale prices, but because it made the decision early on not to raise prices for its customers, they probably won’t see a significant change. The average sale between the two retailers is about $85, she says. The introduction of legalized cannabis for adult use in Maine has been the slowest in U.S. history. It took nearly four years after voters approved legalization in 2016. Progress has been slowed by legislative changes, governor’s vetoes, changes in state administration and the pandemic.