Medical marijuana sales at Maine’s eight dispensaries were up 46 percent between 2014 and 2015 to $23.6 million, according to figures released by the state Tuesday.

That’s almost double sales from two years ago.

Tim Smale, who with his wife owns the Remedy Compassion Center dispensary at 730 Center St. in Auburn, which has thousands of customers, sees more older people using medical marijuana for pain and more doctors writing the certifications that clear the way.

“If you come into our store at any given time, you’ll see somebody in their 50s, 60s or 70s,” Smale said.

Last year, more than $23 million in medical marijuana sales at the licensed dispensaries throughout the state generated $1.29 million in sales tax, according to Maine Revenue Services.

That compares with $16.2 million in sales and $892,885 in sales tax in 2014 and sales of $12.5 million and sales tax of $636,986 in 2013.

Those figures don’t include sales to patients who buy directly from one of the 2,255 caregivers authorized to grow for them instead of buying from dispensaries.

David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a group promoting recreational use, said growing sales numbers indicate to him an increased comfort with marijuana as an alternative to traditional medicine.

“It’s just the natural progression where we are as a society, that marijuana is accepted now and marijuana is mainstream, as it should be,” Boyer said.

On Tuesday, he was busy getting signatures out the door to town clerks for verification ahead of a Friday deadline. His effort has collected more than 90,000 signatures to secure a referendum question this November asking voters to approve general marijuana use for people age 21 and older. The effort needs just over 61,000 valid signatures.

“We’re pretty confident that our numbers look good and we’ll be fine for the ballot,” Boyer said.

Maine voters first approved the concept of medical marijuana in 1999 and set up the nonprofit dispensary system to sell it in 2009 in another referendum.

One early indicator that 2015 was going to be a big year for medical marijuana: Last May, Wellness Connection of Maine, which runs a growing facility in Auburn to supply its four state dispensaries, filed plans with the city to quadruple the size of its growing operation to keep up with anticipated demand.

Work on that project is underway, according to the Auburn city planner.

Maine doesn’t directly track the number of people using medical marijuana, but Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Samantha Edwards said 39,456 certifications had been printed as of this week. (There’s a chance some were misprints or reprints, she cautioned.)

Certifications have to be shown to buy from a dispensary or a registered caregiver. Some 340 providers have written certifications attesting their patient has one of the preapproved health issues covered by statute.

“It’s not talked about in medical school,” Smale said. “It’s something that (providers) need to find out about themselves. In the early days, I think we were limited to tens of physicians giving medical cannabis certifications versus what we have today.”

Scott Gagnon, a local substance abuse counselor and state coordinator for Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group against legalization, said he wanted a better look behind the numbers.

“What’s the pattern of usage, how is that changing? Do we have maybe a similar number of patients who are using more often?” Gagnon said.

“I wouldn’t read too much into (growth),” he said. “We’re not convinced that the appetite is there right now for Maine to legalize. We feel confident that Mainers are going to see that we don’t want to take that next step and see some of the public health issues that they’re seeing in Colorado and Washington.”

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