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Some Maine Lawmakers Push to Delay Legal Cannabis Sales

January 30, 2018
(gnagel/iStock)
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine lawmakers on Tuesday started discussions about how long to delay retail marijuana sales while lawmakers continue to work on regulations needed to get the industry up and running.

A ban on retail cannabis sales technically is in place until Thursday, but the state hasn’t set up a way for marijuana retailers to get the required licenses.

The Maine Senate began considering Republican Sen. Roger Katz’s bill to delay sales until the spring, though it’s unlikely regulations would be ready by then. Meanwhile, Republican House Leader Ken Fredette, who is running for governor, wants to delay recreational marijuana sales no longer than until Jan. 31, 2019, according to a proposed amendment provided to The Associated Press.

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Katz’s bill would face action in both chambers.

Maine voters in 2016 narrowly approved legalizing recreational marijuana, and adults over age 21 can now possess up to 2.5 ounces. But the state has placed a ban on retail sales as lawmakers try to overhaul the voter-approved law and get the regulatory process going under Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration.

Once lawmakers are finished making changes, it could take state regulators at least nine months to draw up rules that the next Legislature would have to approve.

LePage has said legalizing recreational marijuana flouts federal law and has called for lawmakers to address issues such as medical marijuana. LePage spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz said the governor supports delaying cannabis sales beyond this spring.

The Legislature last summer appropriated $1.4 million to help state regulators draw up marijuana rules that would require legislative approval.

Since then, a legislative panel has been trying to draw up an overhaul of the marijuana law that would address issues such as the taxing of retail marijuana, municipal revenue-sharing and cannabis social clubs. House Republicans helped sustain LePage’s veto of such a bill last fall, and the legislative committee is now working on a new version.

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Department of Administrative and Financial Services spokesman David Heidrich said it would be unwise to start rulemaking and planning for implementing the marijuana law until a final bill becomes law. He said the $1.4 million remains unspent.

“It would be imprudent to occupy staff time and expend tax dollars on rulemaking when the department does not have a regulatory framework in place to which we can rule make,” Heidrich said in an email.

Once lawmakers are finished making changes, it could take state regulators at least nine months to draw up rules that the next Legislature would have to approve, Heidrich said.

Recreational use of marijuana also has passed in Massachusetts, which is also awaiting the implementation of systems to tax and regulate marijuana.

 

This story has been updated.

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  • JeffWalenta

    Maine is some how such a special case that they need 2 years to implement the will of the people. They claim they are not intentionally obstructing but it’s hard to view it any other way when almost no state has taken as long they want to delay this for. I hope voters remember this at the polls because the citizens of Maine seem to have a severely incompetent legislature.

    • chincycoot

      Maine voters need to dump LePage, a red neck lunatic that seems to hate everyone that isn’t like him.
      Young voters need to get involved in politics and try their hardest to make sure that in the future mental midgets like Le Page and his ilk are never again allowed to have the power that they use to further ignorant agendas.
      The future is yours youngsters, don’t blow it.

  • jontomas

    To make this fair and spread the urgency to enact the voters’ will, all sales of the MUCH more harmful drug, alcohol, should be suspended until the politicians obey their constituents and enact marijuana sales.

  • Impasto

    California, with a population of around forty-million, voted for legalization, the same exact day as Maine. California, started selling marijuana on January 1st, while Maine plays games with the will of the voters.