FILE - ME Marijuana-Maine 10-9-2020

Buyers line up to purchase cannabis products Oct. 9, 2020, at Theory Wellness in South Portland, Maine, on the first day of legal marijuana sales for adult recreational use in the state.

(The Center Square) – In the first month of adult use marijuana retail sales in Maine, merchants grossed roughly $1.4 million from 21,194 transactions, data from the state Office of Marijuana Policy shows.

“I agree that the sales look promising, taking into consideration all of the variables, including the pandemic, scarcity in product, and the pace of regulation and guidelines around adult use cannabis,” Eben Sumner, a founding board member of Maine Growers Alliance, told The Center Square by email.

“Personally, I feel that demand is coming from a combination of things; more research and education around cannabis and its benefits, an open dialogue between consumers now that the ‘Reefer Madness’ stigma is beginning to lift, and an all-around need for alternative medicine in the wake of the destruction that heavily addictive pharmaceuticals have created,” said Sumner, CEO and founder of 1780, a medical cannabis cultivation business in North Berwick, and co-founder/CEO of Casco Bay Hemp in Portland.

Maine’s adult use market officially launched on Oct. 9, and the figures represent sales through Nov. 8.

“While it’s easy to focus solely on the numbers, it is important to note that the Office of Marijuana Policy’s primary objective is maintaining the high standard of public health and safety we have set for the adult use program,” OMP director Erik Gundersen said in a news release. “We appreciate the commitment our licensees have demonstrated to enact COVID protocols to ensure a safe launch and their continued commitment to these efforts in light of the recent spike in COVID cases in Maine.”

The coronavirus pandemic has added a layer of complication to an industry that’s taken several years to launch since voters approved it by referendum in 2016.

“The cannabis industry is full of difficulties; this is nothing new to us,” Sumner said. “Regulation and access to banking is the largest of many problems we as an industry have to navigate. Motivated companies have to boot strap their development either through personal funds or private capital. Many people aren't aware that we cannot go to the local bank and finance a business loan like every other industry can with ease, that we have extremely limited options with institutions that we can bank at, and those institutions limit even further their services.”

Change could come from passage of the SAFE Banking Act or a similar bill focused on financial access, Sumner added.

At the state level, some of the rulemaking and guidelines have lacked clarity, Sumner said.

“This is one of the reasons for founding Maine Growers Alliance,” Sumner said. “We feel that we are underrepresented in the legislative process and hope to help and work with the state as a professional industry resource."