The size of Maine's recreational cannabis market is expected to reach $60 million by 2018 and $210 million in 2020, according to The Arcview Group, a California-based investors network focused on the marijuana industry. In Colorado, where recreational pot has been legal since January 2014, sales of edible weed surged in the first quarter of the year. Nationally edibles and other infused products are on target to account for half the billion-dollar industry, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
But before the green rush that swept Colorado after weed became legal arrives here, numerous hurdles have to be cleared. Thirty days after the election results are certified, weed will become legal for those over 21 to possess and use in private. Adults will also be allowed to grow up to six plants for personal use.
But Mainers won't be able to buy recreational marijuana legally until the Legislature writes the rules regulating its commercial sale. That process, which will no doubt include concerns about how to keep pot-infused foods out of the mouths of children, is expected to take at least nine months. Once the regs — which will activate statutory requirements that all marijuana products must be labeled with potency per serving — are in place, the state is expected to begin accepting applications for manufacturing licenses to convert cannabis into edible products.
Meanwhile, growing, selling and distributing marijuana is still a federal felony. In 2013, the Obama administration told state governments that Uncle Sam's priority in terms of that particular drug is keeping it away from minors, targeting drug-trafficking cartels and preventing violence associated with it. That focus could shift radically if Sessions is confirmed.
Most of Maine's ganjapreneurs say they are proceeding cautiously.
"It is super sensitive. We are all very nervous. It's still federally illegal. The federal government could come in at any point and shut us down," a Greater Portland bartender, who is a caregiver and medical marijuana confectioner, said. She asked to remain anonymous because she doesn't want attention until the status of selling marijuana-infused products in Maine next year becomes clearer. "If Hillary was elected, I would be showing you things we are working on. But because of Trump and his appointees, I'm shaking in my boots."
The 39-year-old makes artisanal dark-chocolate cannabis bars and wants to sell them more widely. She thinks the edibles market could rival the state's booming craft beer scene. "I'm going all in," she said. "But if something goes wrong, I'll lose everything."
Portland attorney Ted Kelleher, who specializes in regulated substances at Drummond Woodsum, is working with several clients interested in the marijuana industry, from marijuana-infused edibles to cultivation, retail sales and testing labs.
"A lot of folks are turning their attention to this marketplace. If people felt they had to stop now, they'll lose ground," Kelleher said. He added that he's hopeful the incoming president won't destroy the nation's growing market for legal marijuana.
"Trump is pro business and pro jobs," Kelleher said. "This is a job and tax revenue creator for states that are eager for both."