Maine medical marijuana sales slow markedly in 2016

Medical marijuana sales in Maine continued to rise last year, but the pace of gains slowed considerably from previous years for what could be a variety of reasons – including a jump in the number of caregivers who grow marijuana for patients.

Figures from the state’s revenue department show that Mainers spent $24.8 million on nonedible marijuana products at the state’s eight dispensaries in 2016, a 5.3% increase over 2015 sales, the Portland Press Herald reported.

However, the 5.3% boost pales in comparison with the 46% and 40% year-over-year growth that Maine dispensaries experienced in 2015 and 2014, respectively.

The president of the Maine Dispensary Operators Association, Timothy Smale, blamed the slower growth on patients dropping out of the program and instead buying cannabis on the black market, where prices are cheaper, according to the newspaper.

Another consideration is Maine’s growing network of caregivers, who each can provide MMJ for up to five patients.

The number of caregivers surged by 42.5% in 2016, from 2,277 in January to 3,244 in December, the Portland Press Herald reported.

According to estimates by advocacy group Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, caregivers sold $27.3 million in medical cannabis in 2016. Maine Revenue Services doesn’t track caregiver sales tax data.

Though dispensary sales as a whole are slowing, not all outlets are experiencing declines.

According to the Press Herald, Canuvo in Biddeford, Maine, saw roughly 25% growth while Smale said his Remedy Compassion Center experienced sales above the 5.3% state increase.

By contrast, owners of the Wellness Connection of Maine, which owns four of the state’s eight dispensaries, said in February that sales had dipped since voters approved adult use marijuana in November.