Ask Our Experts: New Adult-Use Markets Amid the Pandemic


Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the rollouts of new adult-use programs in the U.S.? 


By Rob Kuvinka, Data Science Manager, New Frontier Data

A: The most recent states to introduce adult-use cannabis programs have been Illinois, Michigan, and Maine. While Michigan and Illinois began sales in December 2019 and January 2020, respectively, Maine has only begun to issue conditional adult-use licenses in the past few months, with sales now delayed past their original target in the spring.



In April, a requirement for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) to issue up to 75 conditional adult-use dispensing licenses by May 1 was suspended. Instead, the IDFPR will award them throughout the year; to date, four have been awarded.


During the state’s stay-at-home order, cannabis retailers were deemed essential businesses. The roughly 50 existing medical marijuana dispensaries which received Early Approval Adult-Use Dispensing Organization licenses prior to the program’s January 1 start date have enjoyed a significant advantage and have so far garnered nearly all the market. Adult-use sales for May stood at an impressive $44 million.

Illinois also extended application deadlines for 40 infusers, 40 craft growers, and an unspecified amount of transport licenses from March 30 to April 30, meaning that recipients of those licenses may not be identified until after the current July 1 deadline.

Illinoos Adult Use Cannabis Month Sales

Source: Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. 2020


Four years after voters legalized adult-use cannabis, and a year since a regulatory framework was adopted, adult-use sales in Maine were set to commence in March. Yet in the state’s latest delay, the start date has been pushed back indefinitely. The Maine Office of Marijuana Policy is citing the COVID-19 pandemic for delaying necessary approvals by local city and town government. Recent data shows that 34 of 42 municipalities in the state have approved retail operations, with all of those jurisdictions having approved some aspect of the adult-use program.


Licensing in the state continues forward: Since the first conditional licenses were awarded on March 13, a total of 127 conditional licenses had been issued as of June 25.


Maine Conditional License Counts (06/25/20)
License Type Count Notes
Stores 60 Authorized to sell adult-use marijuana, immature marijuana plants, and consumable product containing marijuana
Cultivation Tier 1 (Plants) 2 Not more than 30 mature marijuana plants and an unlimited number of immature marijuana plants and seedlings
Cultivation Tier 1 (Canopy) 2 Not more than 500 square feet of plant canopy.
Cultivation Tier 2 14 Not more than 2,000 square feet of plant canopy
Cultivation Tier 3 18 Not more than 7,000 square feet of plant canopy
Cultivation Tier 4 9 Not more than 20,000 square feet of plant canopy
Product Manufacturing 21 A products manufacturing facility licensee may manufacture marijuana concentrate by marijuana extraction

Source: State of Maine. Office of Marijuana Policy


Michigan’s adult-use market has seen solid month-over-month gains since its December inception. Growing at a 42% monthly compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to reach $39.3 million in May, adult-use sales have exceeded medical sales. Like Illinois and most other adult-use states (excluding Massachusetts), Michigan deemed cannabis as essential business during its stay-at-home order. Furthermore, adult-use sales are continuing to grow throughout a weekly basis in June.


Michigan Adult Use Cannabis Sales

Source: Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency

Licensing continues to make progress amidst the pandemic. There are currently more than 200 adult-use licenses approved across the supply chain. However, most municipalities have decided to not allow adult-use business in their communities, their resistance representing a large headwind for the industry. According to the Michigan Regulatory Agency, as of this month over 1,400 municipalities have opted out of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA), with more than 50 opting in with restrictions.

Michigan Adult Use License Counts

Source: Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency