Two nationally known marijuana consultants are among those seeking to advise Maine on how to set up its new adult-use cannabis market.

Freedman & Koski of Denver, whose principals are the former Colorado regulators who launched the country’s first recreational market, and BOTEC Analysis of Los Angeles, which provided policy advice to Washington state during its adult-use launch in 2013, responded to a July request for information from the state agencies that will regulate adult-use cannabis cultivation and sales in Maine.

The state was not officially shopping for a consultant in its call for information, although both Freedman & Koski and BOTEC responded to it like a help-wanted ad. For example, BOTEC provided what it called a “back of the envelope” calculation that Maine’s illicit adult-use marijuana market is as high as $396 million, suggesting Maine could capture up to a third of that in legal sales in two years.

A Tax Foundation study put Maine’s legal market at $150 million.

This photo from BOTEC’s website shows Brad Rowe speaking at the 2017 Gang Prevention and Intervention Conference.

BOTEC admitted such a “back of the envelope calculation” – a phrase that gave BOTEC its corporate name – is a rough estimate based on a 2014 market study its principals did in Vermont while working for Rand Corp., a think tank that is closely affiliated with BOTEC. To achieve a more exact estimate, BOTEC would have to conduct a similar marketwide study, it said.

On several occasions, it noted shortcomings in the Colorado regulatory scheme, which was largely set up by the principals of Freedman and Koski, BOTEC’s initial rival for the attention of Maine regulators and lawmakers, and possibly future state contracts. In contrast, it highlights the rigorous regulatory approach used in certain areas by Washington, the state where BOTEC made its mark.

“Maine is not Colorado,” Brad Rowe, the CEO of BOTEC, wrote in his Maine reply.

Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s former so-called marijuana czar, said his firm is definitely looking at the request for information as a warm-up for a consulting job interview. He traveled to Maine in July to testify in front of the Maine lawmakers tasked with enacting the voter-approved legalization initiative, and has done the same in Massachusetts, which is launching its own adult-use market.

This photo of Freedman & Koski principals Andrew Freedman, right, and Lewis Koski, appears on the company’s Facebook page.

While Maine is not as big a market as Massachusetts, or California or Nevada, which also passed adult-use legalization measures last fall, it reminds Freedman of Colorado, where he was able to hold biweekly meetings of the heads of relevant state agencies in a single room. That would be hard to do in California, he said.

“With smaller jurisdictions, you can help them think holistically about everything, how everything fits together, while in bigger jurisdictions, you get one-off things, a specific contract for a specific state agency to do one specific thing,” Freedman said. “We can do that, and we are doing that in other states, but Maine gives you an opportunity for more hands-on work.”

The Marijuana Policy Project, a national pro-legalization advocacy group with an active Maine chapter, and Weedmaps, a tech company out of Irvine, California, often called the Yelp! of marijuana, also replied, along with six Maine groups, including Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the town of Fayette and the state’s leading legalization opponent. One respondent was anonymous.

The state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, one of the two state agencies that will oversee the new legal market, made the responses public last week, giving the public its first look at who wants to shape Maine’s emerging adult-use market from the inside. Until now, groups had to use legislative testimony or political lobbying to exert influence on state marijuana policy.

The legislative committee on marijuana legalization will hold a hearing Sept. 26 on an omnibus bill to establish a regulatory framework for wholesale cultivation and retail sales.

Pernelope Overton can be contacted at 791-6463 or at:

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