This April 22, 2016, file photo shows a marijuana bud at a medical marijuana facility in Unity, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

The retail sale of recreational marijuana to consumers age 21 or older will start on Oct. 9, with the state issuing licenses to recreational cannabis businesses on Sept. 8, officials said Friday.

The launch of recreational sales was due to occur sooner this year, but the Office of Marijuana Policy was delayed by the pandemic and the absence of a marijuana testing facility, office Director Erik Gunderson said in a statement released on Friday.

The industry’s roll-out since since 2016 has been impeded by several governmental and regulatory twists and turns, including a gubernatorial veto. And then the pandemic happened, which slowed Maine municipalities passage of ordinances that would or would not allow recreational marijuana to be sold locally. Some hoped it would open last spring, but the state’s structured rollout was delayed in April with the coronavirus crisis. More recent speculations had it occurring by Jan. 1.

An active license is required for adult-use establishments to buy or grow, process and sell marijuana, including initiating plant transfers from Maine’s existing medical marijuana program, officials said.

Retail sales businesses must utilize social distancing and other public health guidance to prevent the spread of coronavirus, given that buyers will likely flood retailers, officials said.

The identities of active licensees will be made available on Sept. 8, officials said.