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Maine Starts Over Again With Recreational Marijuana

Recreational Marijuana is Coming to Maine Next Year but No One Knows How it Will Work Yet

There was lots of discussion about Maine allowing drive-ups for recreational marijuana, home delivery, internet ordering and a number of other relaxed laws. As Maine starts the marijuana rule debate over again, they instead look like they will have some of the most conservative laws for recreational marijuana. Do you think that implementing very strict rules for recreational marijuana is the way life should be?

The legislative committee writing Maine’s adult-use market regulations made big changes one day after a dramatic five-hour public hearing on the 70-page draft bill, with more adjustments expected to come Thursday.

The committee must complete its work this week to get the final bill drafted and ready for consideration by the full Legislature in late October during an emergency special session

Among the changes made Wednesday:

• Drive-up sales, internet sales and home delivery were eliminated.

• The residency requirement for recreational license applicants was increased from 6 months to 2 years.

• Those who hold both medical marijuana and adult-use licenses will be allowed to commingle grows and production lines in shared space.

• Dispensaries will not be allowed to convert from taxpaying nonprofits to for-profit status, which they said would help them compete and raise money.

• Municipalities were given the authority to expand the 12-plant per-property limit for adults who want to grow pot for personal use to 18 plants.

• Municipalities will be allowed to cut 1,000-foot buffer between recreational marijuana businesses and schools to 500 feet.

• The plan to allow for a one-time transfer of medical plants into adult-use market was rejected despite criticism that would push back legal sales three to six months beyond start of licensing.

The Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee will return for a final work session Thursday to get a detailed financial review on the draft bill and tackle the remaining areas of concern, including the divisive issue of taxation.

The committee had wanted to levy a 10 percent retail sales tax and the equivalent of a 10 percent excise tax. That would have worked out to be about twice what voters approved in last fall’s legalization referendum.

The committee wanted half of its marijuana taxes to come from an excise tax that could be based on product weight rather than sales price, which is subject to fluctuation and makes it difficult for the state to project revenue.

An excise tax also would make it easier for the state to share more of the tax proceeds with towns that host recreational marijuana businesses. The state has traditionally reserved the right to levy sales taxes.

But setting an excise tax based on weight is complicated, and might involve setting marijuana prices, according to the discussion that dominated the committee’s morning debate.

Committee co-chair Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, said the panel wanted state help to do it, but the bureau of taxation refused. It’s not the first time the state ignored the panel’s request for help drafting the marijuana law.

The committee began its day with a series of rapid-fire votes on a series of wide-ranging issues that had dominated much of the emotional testimony at Tuesday’s hearing on the draft bill.

Internet, drive-up sales and home delivery of adult-use cannabis were quickly eliminated, Some members said these components of the bill made buying pot too easy. Others said they were too controversial.

“I just don’t think we’re quite ready for this yet,” said Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, a committee co-chair. “We should be a little more conservative, at least initially.”

Supporters said many people will use recreational cannabis like an over-the-counter medicine, which many people buy at drive-up windows. And home delivery would at least keep consumers off the streets.

Rep. Craig Hickman, an organic farmer from Winthrop, said many people might want to order online and have their marijuana delivered to avoid being spotted walking into a retail store.

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