Question: What steps can I take to obtain a license to open a cannabis business in Maine?

Answer: Applications for adult-use cannabis business licenses are expected to be available by late 2019. If you want to be prepared to launch your business in 2020, now is the time to review business plans with a knowledgeable attorney, and set up meetings with your bookkeeper and accountant to organize financial records.

You will need to develop detailed operating plans which include facility, waste management, safety and security plans. Standard operating procedures for every step in the manufacturing process must be prepared if you intend to make edible cannabis products.

Make sure your facility will be located in a municipality that’s voted to opt-in and allow your type of business on the property where your operation is located.

Review your business structure and operating plans with an attorney and a regulatory compliance specialist who understand the unique laws and regulations impacting cannabis businesses in Maine.

Question: Do I need investors in order to launch a successful cannabis business?

Answer: Not necessarily. Dozens of investment schemes are being marketed to hopeful cannabis business entrepreneurs, promising millions in funding, usually available after business owners have put up significant funds of their own.

Some are fly-by-night operations that take the money and run. Others are legitimate investors seeking business partnerships, but whose background may complicate chances of qualifying for a license.

Giving control of your business to investors may jeopardize your ability to meet licensing requirements in Maine. Officers, directors, managers, and general partners of adult use stores, cultivation and manufacturing facilities must have been tax-paying Maine residents for at least four years.  Residency requirements also apply to investors with majority ownership interests.

Financial, criminal, and personal histories of anyone with controlling interests in a cannabis business will be evaluated prior to licensing. Research each investor’s background, and take time to establish trust prior to making major commitments.

Evaluate your available business resources, and determine whether you can get started on a smaller scale without depending on outside investors.

Think twice before turning over control of your business to outside investors.

Before committing large sums of money or giving away control of your business, be sure to have any proposals reviewed by professional advisors who are knowledgeable in this state’s cannabis business regulations.

Question: How can I keep up with changing regulations impacting my cannabis business?

Answer:  Prepare to function in a business environment where the only thing you can count on is change.

In the past two years, hundreds of pages of new state laws and Department rules have been drafted, detailing new regulations for cannabis businesses in Maine. In the past four months, three bills making changes to adult use marijuana laws and six bills amending medical marijuana laws were enacted by Maine legislators.

The Legislature also enacted three bills changing laws governing hemp cultivation, and regulating sale of products containing CBD.

Municipalities across Maine are implementing a wide variety of local regulations governing cannabis businesses, and this is all occurring at a time when interstate distribution of cannabis remains mostly illegal.

For small business owners seeking stability and wanting to plan for the future, changing laws create significant uncertainty. Relying on social media and word of mouth to stay informed about complex law changes can result in costly business decisions.

Take the time to find trusted professional advisors who can help you navigate changing regulatory landscapes and ensure you have up-to-date information needed to make wise investments in the future of your business.

Hillary Lister ([email protected]) is a Regulatory Compliance Specialist at Green Ventures Advisors in Auburn. Attorney Lenny Sharon ([email protected]) is the founder of Green Ventures Advisors. With over four decades’ experience as a defense attorney, he was elected to “Best Lawyers in 2018. America”  in 2018.

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