Potatoes and wild blueberries are two of the agricultural products Maine is most known for. Now, there might be a big green addition to that list.
Medical marijuana sales from January to October 2020 alone were roughly $222 million, according to new data from Maine’s Department of Administrative and Financial Services.
And The Portland Press Herald obtained data from Maine Revenue Services and the US Department of Agriculture that showed the total exceeds 2019 sales of crops like potatoes which at $184.1 million.
Asked for her gut reaction to the news, Catherine Lewis, chair of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, said, “It’s about time that the state and population of Maine was aware of what we’ve known for a while.”
Lewis explained that the financial success her industry is seeing became possible after decades of work with bipartisan lawmakers and continued advocacy that’s gone on since 1999.
Now, as other sectors that once drove economies in Maine towns are declining, there is new opportunity for economic growth and, in turn, tax revenue, she said..
“We’ve given away a lot of our industries, our textiles, our shirts, we used to have factories all over the place that made things,” said Lewis, adding, “during this pandemic, we’re supporting the state.”
Peter Ingram, the CEO of Maine Cannabis Exchange, which sells medical and adult-use marijuana from two different South Portland locations, agreed with Lewis’ takes on how marijuana caregivers and businesses got to this point.
“We were anticipating this would happen,” he said.
Going forward, Ingram does not expect the market for Maine cannabis to shrink or slow, something he says may prompt a larger discussion about whether or not cannabis deserves a place alongside craft beer, wild blueberries and potatoes as products that represent Maine beyond its borders.
“I think we absolutely have to talk about marijuana being part of Maine’s cultural brand,” he said.