Maine’s new adult-use cannabis market reported $1.4 million in legal sales in its first month.

Maine’s six licensed adult-use retailers in Auburn, Bangor, Northport, South Portland and Stratton reported 21,194 sales worth $1,409,442 from Oct. 9, the first day licensed retailers were authorized to sell recreational marijuana in Maine, through Nov. 8, the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy said on Monday. The state earned almost $141,000 in tax revenue from the sales.

“Business here is steady: not great, but OK, considering the time of year,” said Mark Humphries, who owns Northland Botanicals in Stratton, the only adult-use retailer in Maine’s northwest corner for most of the market’s first month. “October into November is always slow around here, and with COVID, slower than usual. And of course it’s harvest time for the locals.”

Humphries expects his sales to increase as nearby ski resorts at Sugarloaf and Saddleback open, but fears a COVID-19 surge may result in a state-mandated lockdown that could close them and starve him of much-needed ski crowd business and possibly even force him to close his doors if recreational marijuana shops do not get an essential business designation from the state.

The typical customer spent about $66 per sale in the first month of legal sales, according to statewide data. Smokable cannabis, or flower, accounted for 76 percent of initial sales. The average price of bud was $16.67 a gram during the market’s first month, state records show, or $59 for an eighth of an ounce. An eighth is enough to roll seven fat joints or about 14 cigarette-style ones.

In its second month, with 12 licensed adult-use retailers now open and supply shortages easing up, an eighth sells for $46 to $65. Two adult-use stores only sell smokable flower by the gram, or rolled into joints, at even higher rates. By comparison, an eighth of medical cannabis can run $28 to $40, depending on venue, quality and strain. A black-market eighth can be had for $25.

Humphries said the wholesale price of recreational marijuana remains high, but he expects that will drop as more cultivators are licensed and competing for wholesale customers. But he expects retail adult-use prices to remain above what he expects to be the long-term normal for the next eight to 12 months.

Concentrates made up 14 percent of the remaining sales, and edibles, which were not even available at most of the open retailers during most of the first month, made up the final 10 percent, state records show. But as the state licenses more adult-use infused food makers, that number is likely to rise.

“My average sale was about $70 until two weeks ago, when I got my first delivery of edibles,” said Humphries, who is now selling THC-infused chewables and infused chocolate bars at his shop. “Now my average sale is closer to $90 (with) edibles making up about 50 percent of sales.”

At first glance, $1.4 million isn’t a lot of revenue for the market’s first month. Massachusetts, the only other New England state with a legal recreational market, sold an estimated $440,000 in its first day of legal sales in 2018. But Maine launched its market during a pandemic, when many Mainers have lost their jobs, and rolled out its grow and retail licenses in such a way that limited start-up product supply.

That limited supply meant the adult-use market was unable to keep up its opening day sales pace. The state reported $94,643 in sales on the first day. At that pace, Maine should have recorded $2.9 million in sales during its first month. Supply shortages led many of the licensed stores to close during the week and only open for weekend sales.

“While it is 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,” said Erik Gundersen, director of the office. “We appreciate the commitment our licensees have demonstrated to enact COVID protocols to ensure a safe launch.”

Since the end of the market’s first month, Maine has licensed three additional retail stores as well as additional cultivation facilities. Supply shortages are beginning to ease up, causing some stores to eliminate strict in-store purchase limits and reduce high product prices that might have hampered the market’s startup sales.

In comparison, Maine’s medical marijuana program – which includes eight licensed dispensaries, more than 200 stores run by medical marijuana caregivers and individual caregivers that operate out of their homes or embrace the delivery model – sold on average $9.4 million in medical marijuana during a typical 31-day month in 2019.

Mainers had to wait almost four years to move from referendum to retail sales after narrowly approving legalization of adult-use cannabis at the ballot box in 2016. Legislative rewrites, gubernatorial vetoes, a change in state administration and then the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have combined to make Maine’s rollout the slowest in U.S. history.

Opening day meant more waiting, with long lines at Wellness Theory and SeaWeed in South Portland and Firestorm in Bangor.

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