COVID-19 May Delay the Launch of Maine’s Adult-Use Cannabis Market
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COVID-19 May Delay the Launch of Maine’s Adult-Use Cannabis Market

While the state planned to open the market in June, a memo from the Office of Marijuana Policy states this timing could conflict with social distancing guidelines.

March 25, 2020

Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) released a memo March 24 indicating that while medical cannabis dispensaries are considered essential businesses under the state’s coronavirus policies, the launch of Maine’s adult-use cannabis market, which was slated for June, will likely be delayed due to the pandemic.

The announcement is the latest in a series of delays for the adult-use market, which voters legalized in 2016.

The OMP sent its memo to the state’s licensed medical cannabis businesses, as well as applicants seeking adult-use licenses, according to a Portland Press Herald report. The memo urges existing medical cannabis businesses to review their operating procedures and find areas to improve upon, including increased sanitary protocols and managing patient lines and interactions in compliance with social distancing guidelines.

The memo also indicates that the OMP has heard concerns from dispensaries and caregivers about staff shortages as employees self-quarantine, and the agency said it will work with the industry to process caregiver assistant and dispensary employee applications.

The fate of the state’s adult-use market launch is less clear.

“While all eyes remain fixed on a spring launch of adult use, there are several factors that may force us to reconsider the appropriateness of those plans,” the memo reads. “Several communities preparing for local authorization and to opt-in for adult use—most notably those that serve as hosts to our prospective marijuana testing facilities—may have to postpone those actions due to the effects of COVID-19 on their communities. Even if those actions proceed as planned, OMP would be abdicating its responsibility as a regulator committed to ensuring the health and safety of the public if it were to attempt to launch a program that would result in actions contrary to the social distancing guidance provided by our state and nation’s leading public health experts.”

The OMP concluded its memo saying that it “is proceeding at full speed to fulfill the ill of Maine voters and establish and adult-use program. If and when it becomes apparent that a spring launch of this industry no longer appears viable, we will communicate that fact to you as quickly as possible."