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Years After Legalization, Maine Releases First Cannabis Industry Rules

April 23, 2019
(Sean Pavone/iStock)
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine released its long-awaited draft rules about its adult-use cannabis program late Monday, revealing a plan that would limit licenses to residents of the state for the first two years. The draft stated Maine would give licenses to grow and sell marijuana only to people who have lived in the Pine Tree State and filed income tax returns there for four years, and that standard would apply until June 2021.

(The full draft rules are included below.)

“We need to get the adult market up and running because the diversion market is exploding.”
Rep. Teresa Pierce, Marijuana Advisory Commission member

Residents voted in favor of legalizing marijuana in 2016, but crafting the rules has been a long and sometimes contentious process. Proponents of legalization said the emergence of a legal framework for sales and production of marijuana is a major step forward. The proposed rules will be subject to public comment and must survive legislative approval before they can go into effect.

It’s still hard to say exactly when marijuana could be available in stores, but the time is coming, said Democratic Rep. Teresa Pierce, a member of the state Marijuana Advisory Commission.

“I am most anxious to get these rules passed, because we need to get the adult market up and running because the diversion market is exploding,” Pierce said. “The longer we wait without passing rules, the greater the black market becomes.”

Maine already has a long-established medical marijuana program. It’s also currently legal to grow marijuana for personal recreational use in the state. Other states that have launched recreational marijuana markets have also prioritized state residents for licenses, said David Heidrich, director of engagement and community outreach for the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy.

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Putting state residents first would allow the state to develop a “craft cannabis” market, said David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbied for legalization.

“The draft rules allow for Maine’s existing businesses to operate and give the little guy a shot,” Boyer said. “The market will grow, just as it has with craft brewing.”

Legalization of recreational marijuana in Maine has faced numerous delays in the nearly 2½ years since voters approved the idea in a statewide vote. Former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, was an opponent of legalization, which made implementing laws difficult until his term ended last year. His successor, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, has been more supportive of implementing legalization.

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More recently, the state ran into trouble approving a contract with a consultant to help write the rules. The contract ultimately went to Freedman & Koski of Colorado, while another firm, BOTEC Analysis of Los Angeles, was hired to analyze the proposed regulations.

A final version of the draft rules is expected within about two weeks. Scott Gagnon, a member of the state marijuana commission, said he would like to see the rules about advertising and packaging tightened.

Gagnon was director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which fought against the legalization drive. He said the draft rules for the most part ensured “the hard work we did advocating for public health was still there.”

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  • Dominick Carnevale

    So, the people who fought legalization are now in charge of setting the rules? SMDH!

    • Helen Martyn

      If these people had chronic debilitating pain or their parents had a condition where cannabis was safer than opiods, which was not addictive with no side effects. How would they vote? for more needless suffering or safe pain relief.? Why make life harder for these people ? God put in on the earth for these people and you think “Oh, let them suffer, it doesn’t bother me” Why so selfish?”we want to protect them from the harm cannabis causes” Protect the people , God’s Law should prevail . We need compassion and empathy in this world. Especially for US Vets. Cannabis saved my life. Helen chinadollxtwo@gmail.com