Legalization

First two licensed Maine marijuana stores located far apart

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SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – Maine’s first two licensed retail marijuana stores are located more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) apart in very different areas of the the state, officials said Tuesday.

The stores will be located in South Portland, in the state’s most heavily populated area, and Northport, a town of about 1,500 people in mostly rural Waldo County. The Maine Office of Marijuana Policy announced the much-anticipated licenses along with its first licenses for testing labs and cultivators.

Marijuana won’t be available for sale for about another month, but the issuance of licenses is a major hurdle for the state’s cannabis industry. Mainers voted to legalize marijuana with a 2016 vote, but the rollout of rules, regulations and licenses has been slow going.

“The initial market will likely be limited in both accessibility and product availability, but the industry will evolve responsibly and provide safe, convenient access to adult use marijuana over the coming weeks and months,” said Erik Gundersen, director of the state marijuana office.

The state also issued licenses to three cultivation facilities and one testing facility. The cultivators are located in Detroit, South Portland and Auburn and the testing facility is located in Kennebunk.

Marijuana sales for adult use will be limited to people age 21 and over in Maine.

“It is important to remember the law allows for adult use only, and adults who choose to use these products should take precautions to ensure that younger people do not have access to them,” said Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state previously issued dozens of conditional marijuana licenses that needed further evaluation. Marijuana businesses must receive conditional licenses and local approvals before they can receive an active license.

State officials said the marijuana office wold continue to take applications and issue future licenses on a rolling basis. The number of businesses that can conduct retail sales is likely to increase next month.