Paul McCarrier, owner of 1 Mill in Belfast, Maine is one of 3,000 caregivers that seem to be cutting into the state’s illicit market. Credit: Submitted / 1 Mill

Two-thirds of all cannabis consumed in Maine came from the legal market according to the state’s Office of Cannabis Policy, in a report released June 13.

“We are pleased to release this report that highlights the successful launch of Maine’s adult use market,” said Erik Gundersen, OCP director. “The findings in this report point to policies and practices that promote public health and safety, while allowing legal businesses to compete.”

The report analyzed purchasing habits for cannabis users and found that the vibrant medical and caregiver market, as well as the state’s strong adult use market has brought a majority of Maine’s cannabis users into the legal market.

Advocates for Human Potential, a medical system and business research company, conducted the study, surveying 1,129 residents in the state about their use of cannabis. About 40% reported use within the previous month. The report shows that Maine’s legal market has significantly cut into the state’s illicit market, with the help of its vibrant caregiver market.

The report found that easy access to an adult use dispensary significantly increased the likelihood that users would rely on legal sources.

“When accounting for the time since the first adult-use store was opened in Maine, the current instate illicit market is likely smaller than in most other states with adult-use cannabis laws, suggesting Maine is likely effectively curbing the illicit market at a greater rate than most other states with adult-use laws when accounting for how long adult-use stores have been open.”

The study looked at sales figures and illicit market data in other states that legalized adult use in recent years, such as Massachusetts, Alaska, California, Oregon, Colorado and Washington, and found a correlation in the adult use market’s age and the amount of market share the respective state takes from the illicit market. Basically, the older the legal market, the weaker the illicit market.

The study showed Maine as an outlier, which could be a result of the strength of its caregiver market. The state has over 3,000 registered caregivers who are able to grow cannabis and sell directly to patients from their home, or through a storefront.

The OCP unsuccessfully attempted to update the testing and seed tracking requirements for Maine’s medical cannabis market last year, amid strong push back from the caregiver community. Shortly after the OCP dropped its efforts at a regulatory update, the state legislature passed a law limiting OCP’s ability to produce future regulatory updates without legislative approval.

The study also claimed that about 1 in every 10 Mainers meet the criteria for Cannabis Use Disorder. At the same time, over 9% of the state’s total adult population is a registered medical cannabis user.

Although the report speaks positively about the impact of the legal adult use market, it also shows that easy access to its medical market has likely taken a bite out of the illicit market.

The report found that just over half of consumers that purchase from home-based caregivers lacked an actual medical card.As the illicit market appears to be shrinking in Maine, the state is still cracking on improperly packaged or imported edibles, as per a recently released guidance document. Although the report shows enthusiasm for the adult use market, it also showed that most users obtained their cannabis from medical dispensaries or caregivers, or from friends or family.

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...