In 2016, Maine residents went to the polls and voted for a ballot initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana in the state. The process that followed that vote has been long and complicated, involving lawmakers, regulators, industry groups and the public at large, so I’m offering this update to keep you all in the loop.

In January of 2017 following the referendum, the legislature imposed a moratorium on the retail sale of marijuana, to allow time to work out potential problems. The provisions of the law allowing individuals over the age of 21 to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for personal use were allowed to go into effect. A 17-member legislative committee, co-chaired by Sen. Roger Katz and Rep. Teresa Pierce, was formed to address the issues surrounding full implementation of the law. The committee heard hours of testimony from experts and the general public about the best way to implement a retail marijuana program for Maine.

As a result of this committee’s work, LD 1719, “An Act To Implement a Regulatory Structure for Adult Use Marijuana,” which set in motion a process for creating an adult-use marijuana market in Maine, was passed by the legislature. As I wrote in this paper last year, my decision to support this bill was based on it meeting three important criteria — it keeps marijuana away from kids, lets towns decide whether or not they want marijuana to be sold on their main streets, and taxes it at a fair but substantial rate.

With LD 1719 in effect, the state began its work of creating rules to govern a retail marijuana market in Maine. Earlier this year, a consultant was hired to draft the rules, and last week a first draft of these rules was released.

The proposed rules lay out a process by which a person can be licensed to sell, or grow or process marijuana for retail sale in Maine. It requires that anyone who wants to open a facility submit an extensive application and undergo a review of their criminal history, after which the state may designate a conditional license.

This conditional license doesn’t allow that person to operate a facility, but simply indicates they have met all the necessary state requirements. In order to be granted a full license, a facility must get approval from the local community in which they intend to operate.

The draft rules also have strict requirements governing licensed facilities and the products that may be sold. For example, a store is not allowed to sell more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana to a customer per day, they must verify that everyone who enters the store is over 21 and they may not sell products designed to appeal to minors.

The Office of Marijuana Policy has said they expect to deliver final rules to the Legislature before we adjourn in June, and if we approve them, the first facilities could be licensed shortly thereafter. You can read the proposed rules here: www.maine.gov/dafs/services/marijuana/rulemaking/draft-rules. I’m still looking them over myself, and would be happy to hear your feedback. Feel free to reach my office at (207) 287-1515 or email me at [email protected] I work for you, and my line is open.

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