Maine Lawmakers Address Key Issues on Adult-Use Cannabis

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Editor’s note: This story was updated 10/24/2017 to include the outcome of Monday night’s vote.

 

Lawmakers returned to Augusta for a special session Monday after Republican Gov. Paul LePage ordered lawmakers to return to fix problems in the food sovereignty law and to provide funding for the Maine Office of Geographic Information Systems. But the biggest fights were expected over two more-complicated issues: adult-use cannabis sales and the future of a new voting system approved at the polls last fall.

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Update: The House and Senate late Monday night endorsed a revised marijuana bill proposed by a bipartisan legislative panel. Members of the panel spent months rewriting the law to allow local communities to opt-in to recreational marijuana sales, which would likely start in 2019. The bill also makes other changes, like adding an excise tax to the existing 10 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Republican House Minority Leader Ken Fredette asked lawmakers to simply delay sales until 2019, without making other changes. Adult possession of recreational marijuana became legal in Maine this year, while sales are delayed until at least February.

The Legislature’s Monday vote was not enough to withstand vetoes from LePage. The bill now heads to his desk for consideration.

The committee has been working for months on a plan that would allow municipalities to opt-in to the state’s recreational cannabis market, with sales expected to start in 2019.

But Republicans Gov. Paul LePage and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette wanted lawmakers to rework the committee’s proposal and in the meantime simply delay sales until 2019. The House voted to indefinitely postpone such a plan.

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Republican Rep. Patrick Corey said he’s concerned the committee’s bill won’t provide enough tax revenue to cover the state’s implementation’s costs.

Some of the key issues left on the table when lawmakers adjourned in August, the Bangor Daily News reported, involved making rules for the state’s adult-use retail market, implementing laboratory testing procedures, hammering out tax rates, and establishing regulations for both commercial and home cultivation.

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In September, lawmakers proposed regulations that would establish a system where adults 21 and older could purchase cannabis from licensed dispensaries through a drive-thru window, as well as being able to purchase cannabis over the internet. The proposal also included a 20% tax rate on cannabis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.