Last week in cannabis news, a Maine legislative panel announced that recreational marijuana sales will be delayed. In Nevada, distribution is still being debated. And, in Alaska, the governor released a letter written by Attorney General Jeff Sessions warning about marijuana regulations. Find out about this and more in our weekly marijuana legislative roundup.
On Tuesday, members of the special legislative committee tasked with implementing marijuana legalization announced that they would be unable to meet a February 2018 deadline for the start of recreational sales. After the committee wrapped up preliminary work on tax rates, licensing fees, and a number of other basic regulatory issues, regulators will now analyze months of committee votes to craft a draft bill before a series of public hearings in September.
Related Story: What To Expect From Maine’s Recreational Marijuana Market
A vote by the full legislature on the final bill is set for October. However, lawmakers say that the agencies involved in implementation will need additional time to write rules, hire staff, and issue licenses. The legislature already voted in January to delay implementation of the Marijuana Legalization Act until February 2018. It is unclear at this time when recreational sales will begin in Maine, which voted to legalize marijuana for adult use in November 2016.
On Thursday, a Carson City judge issued a ruling that will allow the Department of Taxation to issue cannabis distributor licenses to businesses other than liquor wholesalers. A unique provision of the legalization measure passed by Nevada voters grants alcohol wholesalers exclusive rights to distributor licenses unless they are incapable of keeping up with demand.
The Department of Taxation had made such a determination earlier this year, which was challenged in court by a group of liquor wholesalers. After initially siding with the wholesalers, the judge subsequently approved a set of emergency regulations allowing the state to consider other applicants. In his ruling Thursday, the judge ruled that the state has provided sufficient evidence that liquor wholesalers are incapable of meeting demand, and lifted the moratorium on issuing licenses to non-liquor wholesalers. The protracted judicial process has led to a bottleneck in the state’s recreational cannabis system, driving up prices for legal marijuana. A related case is now before the state Supreme Court, though it concerns administrative procedure and is therefore unlikely to have an impact on recreational sales.
Last week, the governor of Alaska released a letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressing concern over the state’s ability to regulate its recreational marijuana industry effectively. The letter cited a 2015 Annual Drug Report by the Alaska State Troopers, which found that marijuana was widely available throughout the state and was seen by many as a “gateway drug” to more harmful substances. The letter follows the release of similar letters sent to the governors of Washington, Oregon, and Colorado. This has raised concerns by advocates of state legalization that the federal government is planning a crackdown on states that have legalized cannabis for adults.
Sessions has been a frequent critic of the Obama administration’s largely hand-off policy on state marijuana policy as outlined in the 2013 Cole Memorandum, which laid out a number of public health and safety guidelines for states implementing marijuana legalization.