In this Dec. 13, 2017, file photo, a marijuana plant grows under artificial light at an indoor facility in Portland, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s path to legalized sales of marijuana has cleared a major hurdle with the state making applications for retail businesses available.

The state Office of Marijuana Policy said Thursday that license seekers can now start the application process to open businesses that sell marijuana for recreational adult use. The state’s also taking applications from businesses that want to manufacture or cultivate marijuana for adult use.

Marijuana office director Erik Gundersen said the acceptance of applications meets a goal the department had to make them available by the end of the year. He said the office has “made good on our commitment to an industry and public that have been waiting for nearly three years for this moment.”

Maine voters chose to legalize marijuana with a 2016 vote. Retail marijuana could be available in stores during the first quarter of 2020, the department has said previously.

The state previously began accepting applications for marijuana testing facilities.