Demand from cannabis-related businesses helped boost the Portland area’s industrial real estate market in 2016, according to presenters at the annual Maine Real Estate and Development Association conference Thursday.

And with the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Maine, demand for industrially zoned properties is expected to increase even more, they said.

In 2016, medical cannabis-related businesses leased an estimated 300,000 to 350,000 square feet of industrial space in the greater Portland area, according to Justin Lamontagne, partner and broker at NAI The Dunham Group in Portland. He valued those transactions at $15 million to $20 million.

While commercial landlords continue to grapple with questions about legality, insurance liability and financing, Lamontagne said they are generally becoming more comfortable with the idea of leasing space to marijuana-related businesses.

One significant hurdle that remains for cannabis growers and sellers is their inability to obtain traditional bank financing for new construction, he said.

Lamontagne also said he expected interest in cannabis-related real estate to slow down as municipalities and regulators “bring in the rope a little bit” as they consider how to deal with the commercial aspects of legal marijuana.

“The barrier of entry in that market will be higher in 2017,” he predicted.

Drew Sigfridson, managing director of CBRE|The Boulos Co. in Portland, said the November election could have other effects on Maine’s industrial real estate market, but that the full impact is still unknown.

“While national policies will certainly affect us, there are also some local referenda that may impact our market,” Sigfridson said. “Among them are the legalization of recreational marijuana, which we anticipate creating additional demand for industrial and retail space, an increase in the statewide minimum wage, and an additional 3 percent income tax on income over $200,000.”

Vacancy rates for industrial properties in the Portland metro area range from virtually no vacancy in Westbrook (0.5 percent) to 4.8 percent in South Portland, according to Lamontagne. The current industrial vacancy rate in Portland is 1 percent, he said.

Lamontagne pointed to a recent sale in Bayside as an indication of how active that neighborhood has become.

A 4,300-square-foot commercial building at 175 Anderson St. was recently sold to an investment group for $810,000, which was able to attract some long-term tenants, including Magoulian Rugs, said Lamontagne While the overall purchase price may not raise eyebrows, the per square foot price of $200 should. A typical sale price for industrial property is $50 to $55 per square foot.

“It is a very, very hot neighborhood,” he said.

Overall, greater Portland’s vacancy rate has declined from about 3.3 percent in 2011 to 2.3 percent at the end of 2016, he said. Both the average lease rate and sale price per square foot for industrial property have increased every year since 2013, Lamontagne said.