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Maine sales of recreational cannabis surpass $5 million in May

Maine’s adult-use cannabis retailers sold over $5 million worth of marijuana products in May, a new record for the state’s nascent legal market. 

The state’s 34 licensed adult-use retailers reported 71,843 sales transactions totaling nearly $5.4 million last month, earning the state roughly $536,000 in tax revenue. 

 

Recreational cannabis sales figures in Maine have climbed steadily since the market launched in October, with retailers bringing in about $1.1 million in the first month.

May’s $5.4 million record broke the previous record, set in April, by over $1 million. 

So far, the legal adult-use market has reported about $22.7 million in sales, earning the state more than $2.2 million in sales tax revenue, according to data from the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy.

The boost comes before what retailers and regulators alike hope will be a busy summer season.

Rebecca Henry, director of marketing at Sweet Dirt, which has a medical store in Eliot and two recreational stores, in Waterville and Portland, said the company is expecting a “tsunami of tourists” this year.

With 60-70 percent growth in online search views each month, Sweet Dirt anticipates seeing some big crowds and is hiring at all locations, possibly even doubling the retail staff, to prepare.

Jim Henry, Sweet Dirt CEO, said it’s been good to see the state start to reopen.

“The diversity of license plates in our parking lot has been really exciting,” he said, adding that “we’re excited about being able to have people who’ve never been able to experience our product before because they come from a state” where it may not be legal.

Mohammed Ibrahim, owner of Bangor’s Firestorm Cultivation, which opened among the first wave of stores last fall, is optimistic that the state’s many summer tourists will be looking to buy more than lobster rolls and whoopie pies.

“I’m expecting to see (sales increases) align with other businesses, but we have no data to go on,” he said. “I’m optimistic people will be coming out of their COVID comas and taking advantage of the great businesses and goods (in the area).”

Erik Gundersen, director of the Office of Marijuana Policy, said licensees have been both “innovative and resilient” as they’ve navigated launching a brand new market during a global pandemic. 

“As our state prepares to welcome visitors as part of the summer tourist season, I am confident they will remain committed to upholding the high standards we have for protecting the public’s health and safety,” he said in a statement. 

The average customer spent about $74 per sale in May, a trend which has held steady since at least the start of the year.

Smokable cannabis, usually called flower, accounted for about 59 percent of sales, down from 76 percent when the market opened and 63 percent in January, likely the result of a product line that continues to expand and diversify. 

Similarly, infused products and concentrates saw their share of the market increase to 23 percent and 18 percent, respectively, compared with the 10 percent and 14 percent shares they held in October.

The average price of flower fell from $16.68 per gram to $13.22 per gram, or about $49 for an eighth of an ounce, down from $56. An eighth is enough to roll seven large joints, or about 14 cigarette-style ones. 

At the start, the industry struggled with limited supply, few options and high costs, but with almost three dozen stores, 21 manufacturing facilities and 30 cultivation sites, buyers are now seeing more options and lower prices on the shelves. 

That trend is not likely to change anytime soon – the state has 239 stores still in various stages of the approval process. 

As the market grows, so does the need for product testing, a requirement under the adult-use program. 

In May, the state licensed its third testing lab, CATLAB LLC in Eliot.

According to Ibrahim, business has been excellent, despite launching in the fall in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Since then, a lot of people have come on board, and existing brands have expanded production,” he said, meaning his business and others are “able to offer more and more products, and more at a lower price point.”

He said an eighth can now go for as little as $35, something that he hadn’t been able to offer until recently.

At Sweet Dirt, Jessica Oliver, senior vice president of cannabis operations, said the company is starting to see wholesale prices dip, but since they “made a choice from the very beginning that we’re not going to price-gouge our customers,” buyers won’t likely see much of a change.

The average sale transaction between the two retail stores is around $85, she said.

Maine’s rollout of legalized adult-use cannabis has been the slowest in U.S. history. It took almost four years after voters approved legalization in 2016, with movement slowed by legislative rewrites, gubernatorial vetoes, a change in state administration and the pandemic.

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