Legalize Maine has come out against the proposed legislative rewrite of a voter-approved recreational marijuana law, saying the bill that is slated for a special session vote Monday “isn’t ready for prime time.”

The group’s president, Paul T. McCarrier, said the amendment to the state Marijuana Legalization Act would create chaos in the new market, making it difficult for marijuana businesses to find a place to set up shop.

The major sticking point for Legalize Maine is language in the bill requiring towns to “opt in” to the marijuana market, or take legislative action to allow recreational marijuana businesses to operate in their borders, McCarrier said this morning.

The voter-approved law gives towns the ability to “opt out” of the adult-use market by taking legislative action, like a ban adopted by ordinance or city council vote. A municipality could also require occupation permits and charge business license fees.

“This will only encourage the black market in Maine and is the exact opposite of what the voters of Maine approved of last fall,” said McCarrier. “The process of how this language was inserted is disturbing and makes this bill not ready for prime time.”

Supporters of the opt-in language, including Republican Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta and Democrat Rep. Teresa Pierce of Falmouth, the two chairmen of the marijuana committee, say this gives towns more local control to towns, which is something promised by the voter-approved law that Legalize Maine helped to pass. Without it, lawmakers from the towns that voted against last fall’s referendum may not support the bill.

The proposed bill is the result of nine months of work by a special joint committee established to set up the rules of the new adult-use cannabis market. The legislature is expected to take the bill up for discussion and a likely vote at an Oct. 23 special session of the legislature.

Supporters have said the bill needs to be passed to get the new market up and running. The legislature voted to delay implementation of most sections of the law, including all retail sales, to allow the committee time to establish a licensing and tax structure.

But McCarrier said killing the bill would not necessarily delay the launch of the adult-use cannabis market in Maine. The state could set rules for cultivation and retail sales for the voter-approved law that Legalize Maine helped write, McCarrier said.

McCarrier also criticized the legislative process of developing the bill, which he said was rushed and included last-minute changes that took place after public hearings, such as the opt-in language that caused Legalize Maine to pull its support for the bill.

His group also opposes a part of the bill that would require cultivators to pay an excise tax to municipalities, which would require towns to accept large amounts of cash. Because marijuana is prohibited under federal law, most marijuana businesses do not have access to banking services, which means they must pay all their bills in cash. He thinks this poses a public safety issue for local municipalities.

This story will be updated.


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