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Coronavirus Delays Maine Recreational Marijuana Market Launch

By Eric Volkman – Updated Apr 14, 2020 at 11:25AM

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It won't happen this spring after all.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect that the start date delay decided by the Maine legislature's revenue committee was not due to licensing issues, according to the state's Office of Marijuana Policy.

The long-delayed rollout of Maine's recreational cannabis market is being delayed yet again. On Friday, the state's Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) announced that its opening won't occur this spring, as was the most recently stated goal. The reason is the same for virtually every business hiatus in these times -- the rapidly spreading SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that has put the world economy at a virtual standstill.

On the same day as its announcement, OMP sent a letter to businesses potentially involved in the recreational marijuana trade. In the document, it said that because of the coronavirus the planned spring market launch "is simply unrealistic."

Jars of marijuana on a dispensary counter.

Image source: Getty Images.

This postponement, in addition to being far from a surprise given current conditions, was previously anticipated by the state. In early March, the revenue forecasting committee in Maine's legislature pushed back its estimate of the start to June, rather than the previously anticipated March.

Although Maine technically legalized recreational consumption and sale in 2016, it is only now getting around to licensing cultivation facilities and dispensaries in order to create a proper market. Meanwhile, medical cannabis -- which was made legal in 1999 -- has been a busy market for many years now.

This will probably be the same for recreational, as the state had received nearly 200 applications for licenses to sell, grow, or process it.

Maine hasn't provided much detail about those applicants. It's very possible one is Curaleaf (CURLF -0.40%), a marijuana company headquartered in nearby Massachusetts. Curaleaf already operates a medical dispensary in the small Maine town of Auburn, and it's conceivable that it would like to push into the recreational segment too.

On Thursday, Curaleaf's shares moved more or less in concert with the broader stock market, rising by 1.5% on the day.

Eric Volkman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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