Yo, what’s good? This is Dan and I’m here to tell you that the medical cannabis industry in Maine ain’t doing so hot. Apparently, according to officials, the number of caregivers who supply medical-use cannabis in the state has been on a serious decline. The Sun Journal reports that over 25% of Maine businesses in the medical cannabis industry have shut down in the past two years, and regulators are pointing to oversupply as one of the primary issues.
The spring report from the Maine Office of Cannabis Policy (OCP) highlights a “mass exodus” of 1,350 caregivers who are registered with the state to supply medical-use cannabis for patients. Despite an increase in the number of people joining the industry, there’s been a net loss of around 950 caregivers between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2023. State data shows that there were 2,070 caregivers as of March 31, while in 2021 there were 3,032 and at its peak in 2016, there were 3,257.
The OCP’s recent survey of former caregivers included open-ended sections where respondents could anonymously describe their reasons for leaving the program. The report outlines several reasons why they think caregivers are leaving, including outdated statutes, steep utility and business costs, competition with adult-use markets, and banking restrictions. The OCP blames Maine lawmakers for refusing to update statutes for five years. Even though over 1,000 caregivers have left the program, supply has been uninterrupted which proves that the market is oversaturated.
In addition to these challenges, caregivers feel as though they are under constant threat and walking on eggshells in order not to break any rules. Caregivers say that a mandatory track-and-trace system would be too expensive for them to handle.
One caregiver surveyed wrote: “Nobody with a small business can afford to compete with the over-saturated market, at a time when prices are going up on electricity and rent (more than double) the recreational market has destroyed medical simply by growing more and dropping prices to rock bottom. Incidentally, our medical market is flooded with caregivers that are forced to sell illegally on the side just to survive in today’s market.”
It’s important to note that the response rate of the caregiver survey was just 8%, or 117 completed surveys out of more than 1,300 people who were contacted. The report identifies several things that need to change in order for Maine’s medical cannabis industry to survive. According to John Hudak, director of the Office of Cannabis Policy, “the biggest issue facing the medical program is oversupply. That oversupply has led to massive drops in wholesale price, making it difficult for registrants to endure mounting energy costs and other market conditions.”
So there you have it, folks. The medical cannabis industry in Maine is facing some serious challenges and caregivers are leaving the program in droves. It looks like changes need to be made in order for this industry to survive, but only time will tell if those changes will happen. For now, it’s a tough road for those who are still in the game.