It was November of 2016 when Maine passed it’s recreational cannabis laws to tax and regulate, Question 1. Though the bill allowed for up to two and a half ounces of processed cannabis, home cultivation and five different license types (social club, cultivator, retailer, product manufacturer and laboratory), experts are clueless as to when the program will be put in place and when sales will begin.
One expert wasn’t surprised, however. David Boyer, Maine’s political director for Marijuana Policy Project, said MPP anticipated the delays when the legislature carried out a moratorium on rulemaking until February 2018.
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In January of this year, Maine passed LD 88, an emergency bill that set the consumption age to 21, the personal possession limit to five grams and set the rulemaking deadline to February 2018. A Joint Select Committee was formed on Marijuana Implementation so that legislature could form solid regulations for Maine’s cannabis program.
After that, the next bill to pass was LD 243, which transferred authority from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations within Maine’s Department of Administrative and Financial Services. Now the bill is sitting on the Appropriations table and waiting to be sent for the governor’s approval, by means of MPP.
Keep in mind that every time a change is made, legislature has a required grace period in which to garner public comment and to vote on changes, further delaying the program’s rollout. This puts caregivers and dispensary owners at a loss and a standstill.
Boyer pointed out that cannabusinesses had to learn to roll with the legislative punches in order to thrive. “That’s the thing about this industry,” he told Cannabis Business Times, “Your business model has to be dynamic and able to change when a new policy comes out that maybe you didn’t expect.”
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He also said that MPP was overall satisfied with the way things were looking, yet there are still bits of contention that they will fight once the bill is rolled out in a few weeks. All in all, however, he said, “It’s created a lot of opportunity.”
They’re not as pleased with the proposed bans on social clubs and public consumption, though. It’s a longtime problem with recreational cannabis legalization, if the tourists come to smoke, where do they go to do so legally?
“We already have thousands of social clubs in Maine. They’re called bars and they serve alcohol, a far more dangerous substance than marijuana, so we’re not sure about the fear from the committee on that,” Boyer added.
In the meantime, they’ll wait until it officially passes to work on the rules. It’s Boyer’s hope that if the committee works earnestly and there are no more delays, recreational dispensaries could be operating by summer 2018, but he also said there’s a chance only retailers will be licensed. The application process likely opens in the spring, once all regulations are in place and licensing will then follow.