Maine’s adult-use marijuana market has yet to open, but almost everyone already wants to change it.

Legislators will consider at least a dozen marijuana bills this session, ranging from a proposal to allow delivery of adult-use marijuana by local and state-approved retailers to a bill that would reduce the 1,000-foot school buffer for retail shops down to 300 feet, the same as liquor stores.

The home delivery bill submitted by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, would have the most impact on regular Mainers, especially those who have been waiting for retail sales since voters approved legalization in 2016. Under current law, adult-use delivery is not allowed.

When crafting the current law, legislators worried that delivery would lead to sales in dry towns and increase the likelihood of sales across state borders and to underage consumers, prompting a public outcry and drawing unwanted federal attention.

Delivery advocates note that state law allows for beer and wine delivery, even in dry towns, and say marijuana should be treated the same. They argue home delivery will make legal marijuana as easy to buy as illegal weed, which will help Maine shut down the black market.

“Convenience is one of the big reasons that somebody turns to the black market,” said Paul McCarrier of Legalize Maine, which helped pass the statewide ballot measure that legalized adult-use marijuana in Maine.

CALLS FOR CHANGE

Maine is preparing to launch its adult-use market this spring. The Office of Marijuana Policy has received 156 adult-use business license applications so far, 70 of which have just been deemed complete enough for official departmental review, according to an office spokesman.

Applications that get conditional state approval require authorization from a host municipality before applicants could return to the Office of Marijuana Policy to get an active state license. So far, 32 municipalities have agreed to allow some form of local adult-use marijuana business.

These legislative calls for change are coming from all quarters, including small cannabis businesses, medical dispensaries, marijuana opponents and even the Office of Marijuana Policy itself, which has drafted three departmental bills for consideration.

It’s unclear how these attempts to change a system that took two years to build and has yet to even go live will be greeted by lawmakers, some of whom put in over two years of work crafting the Marijuana Legalization Act that was eventually passed over two gubernatorial vetoes.

‘A BIG FAT ZERO’

Lawmaker reaction to a proposed change to how adult-use marijuana is taxed suggests a certain reluctance to change a market that has yet to record its first sale, especially when the proposed tweak comes from industry.

“We don’t know we need to change anything other than what we are hearing from industry,” said Rep. Donald Marean, R-Hollis, a Taxation Committee member who helped write the final legalization law. “Unfortunately, it’s all about the money, and not about regulating the product.”

Advocates wanted lawmakers to base Maine’s marijuana excise tax on market price rather than weight to avoid driving marijuana prices up and consumers back to the black market, but lawmakers like Marean and Rep. Bruce Bickford, R-Auburn, told the industry it would have to wait.

“This has not got off the ground yet,” said Bickford, a fellow legalization committee member. “We need to have some historical data before we start changing things; otherwise that two years was a waste. We put a lot of work, a lot of effort in.”

The committee voted 9-0 to nix the tax bill, which was submitted by Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham. That is something that McCarrier of Legalize Maine said lawmakers will come to regret, predicting the existing tax rate would stifle the new market and cost Maine much-needed tax dollars.

“This will lead to huge revenue shortfalls because people won’t buy overpriced cannabis,” said McCarrier, who runs a medical marijuana shop in Belfast. “As a business owner, I’ve learned that it’s better to get 10 percent then 0 percent. At this tax rate, you’re looking to get a big fat zero.”

Under current law, recreational marijuana would have an effective tax rate of 20 percent – a 10 percent weight-based excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax.

WIDELY VARYING PREDICTIONS

State revenue forecasters are projecting Maine will take in $4.4 million in marijuana sales and excise taxes in fiscal year 2020, with sales beginning in March. But industry analysts have predicted the market is likely to top $158 million in its first year, which would net Maine $31.6 million in taxes.

Not every member of the legalization committee is sold on the current adult-use marijuana law.

Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, the former committee co-chairwoman and head of the Marijuana Advisory Commission, has submitted a bill that would let retailers sell medical and recreational marijuana out of the same shop and repeal the residency requirement for business licenses next year.

This is one of five marijuana bills that will be discussed at 10 a.m. Monday at a public hearing in front of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, the legislative body that will handle most of the new marijuana bills now that the legalization implementation committee has been disbanded.

Other bills considered Monday include the school buffer proposal and a bill allowing retailers to sell untested recreational marijuana to consumers if no testing laboratory can conduct the state-mandated tests within five days, as long as the customers know it.

Comments are not available on this story.