Cannabis is now Maine’s most valuable cash crop. The industry is thriving, providing tremendous revenue to the state without assistance from the federal government such as Paycheck Protection Program relief, earned income credit or FDIC banking privileges.

A state-licensed grower holds a handful of buds from a medical marijuana plant in 2011. Maine’s medical cannabis industry is on track to bring in $266 million this year – more than potatoes and more than twice as much as milk.  John Patriquin/Staff Photographer, File

Crucially, it is Maine’s medical cannabis industry that is the state’s largest cash crop, with industry sales on track to hit $266 million for 2020. That’s more than potatoes, at $184 million, and more than twice milk, at $124 million.

This has been accomplished through the hard work and commitment of small independent growers working through Maine’s 21-year-old Medical Marijuana Program, not the new “adult-use” marijuana industry.

The growth has occurred despite an extended state of emergency that has devastated or destroyed many Maine businesses and put thousands out of work. Maine needs our local growers to offset the loss of revenue from businesses affected by the pandemic.

The Maine Medical Marijuana Program has improved quality of life for Mainers, generated huge income and sales tax revenues for the state, created more than 7,000 direct jobs and supports thousands of other Mainers through ancillary jobs such as contractors, accountants, electricians, attorneys and more, again all during a devastating pandemic.

The medical marijuana program is a uniquely statewide industry. It is vibrant in rural as well as urban communities.

Despite the persisting negative stereotypes of people who work in the marijuana industry, the level of voluntary compliance with laws and regulations (including tax and fee payments) by Maine’s registered medical providers is exemplary, contributing $12 million this year to the state in the form of sales taxes alone. Maine’s medical marijuana program is known throughout the country as a model for privacy, access, quality and variety.

Importantly, the value of these Maine jobs and tax revenues is in addition to the most important purpose of Maine’s Medical Marijuana Program – to safely and affordably provide access to high-quality medicine for patients suffering from a variety of mental and physical illnesses and conditions. On that front, the the program is also a success. Medical cannabis gives patients, working with doctors and caregivers, an alternative treatment to pharmaceuticals and improves the lives of nearly 65,000 Mainers.

Yet with new rules being developed by the Governor’s Office of Marijuana Policy and the next legislative session upon us, we must fight to prevent the imposition of extreme processes, out-of-state interests and regulations that would undermine the program’s success.

The imposition of broad, mandatory product testing is an example of one potential new policy. There is no data to conclude that this costly and burdensome process leads to improved health outcomes or that it provides reliable information about adulterants, potency or quality.

And it would certainly disadvantage small Maine growers while benefiting large, out-of-state corporations with deep pockets.

Caregivers are not opposed to reasonable oversight – including testing measures, such as spot and voluntary testing, which is the agricultural norm and would be both more affordable and effective.

Further, Maine medical cannabis providers already offer information by recording and reporting sales to the state, and the sheer amount of declared, taxed sales demonstrates compliance.

Maine is known for native and cultivated products: lobster, blueberries, maple products – and, yes, marijuana. Maine’s marijuana caregivers are an essential part of the state’s public health infrastructure and small-business industry and should be seen and supported as such. If we are to continue to drive the state’s economy, we need to stay the course and support the Mainers behind our most valuable cash crop. This revenue was created in Maine, for and by Mainers, and by Mainers. We should be allowed to keep it that way.


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