In this Jan. 7, 2021, file photo, marijuana is sold at a cannabis retail store in South Portland. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

An economic analysis of Maine’s fledgling recreational marijuana industry shows that in its first full year sales quickly shot up to more than $50 million.

Economist Michael Donihue and students in the Colby College economics lab found that after businesses began selling recreational marijuana in September 2020 sales ratcheted up an average of 20 percent every month.

Donihue was surprised by the rate of growth.

“Initially this was done a lot locally. It wasn’t a lot of outside groups coming in and starting this up. These were Mainers who were doing this,” he said. “And the state did a pretty good job actually of regulating the industry in terms of vetting the licensing process and making sure the licensing was being done at different levels of the supply chain.”

He said the sector appears to have created a stable base of in-state customers — although sales did rise significantly during big tourist months. Sales in the market’s first 12 months totaled $58.5 million, he said, bringing in state tax receipts worth $5.85 million.

Donihue estimated that the industry supports about 900 direct and indirect jobs. He added that the Maine marketplace probably can’t sustain that initial growth rate, and some consolidation can be expected.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.