Marijuana in Maine: Will retail sales ever be legal?
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In 2016, Maine voters approved Question 1, the Marijuana Legalization Act, which made cannabis legal to possess and use. Retailers, according to the act, needed to wait to sell cannabis-based products, and the retailers are still waiting.
“On January 27, 2017, the legislature placed a moratorium on certain parts of the Marijuana Legalization Act regarding retail sales and taxation until at least February 1, 2018,” explains David Heidrich, Jr., Director of Communications in Maine’s Department of Administrative and Financial Services.
For individuals, the act allows anyone over 21 years of age to grow six mature plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis. That went into effect on January 30, 2017.
Retail sales still on hold
The legalization for retailers, though, will still take some time. “The moratorium expired on February 1, 2018 after a legislative effort to pass a short-term extension was unsuccessful,” Heidrich notes. “However, retail sales are unable to take place until a regulatory framework is established by the legislature, the Department of Administrative and Financial Services completes rulemaking and those major substantive rules are approved by the legislature.”
To set up the regulatory requirements some work remains. “The legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization Implementation is working on a piece of legislation, LD 1719, to establish the new regulatory framework,” Heidrich says. “One area of change being discussed is placing the regulation of this new industry entirely under the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.” In addition to deciding how to setup the regulatory structure, Heidrich points out that “there are a number of other topics that are being reviewed by the committee.”
Regulatory issues remain
A variety of issues remain to be determined. For example, testing requirements have not been established. And, a list of discussion points for a late January meeting of the Marijuana Legalization Implementation included a dozen items, plus two more for future meetings. This list included the possibility of an initial residency requirement for individuals interested in operating a cannabis business in Maine, considerations of tiers of licensing and the associated fees, health and safety labeling on cannabis-based products, if the same license applies when transferring plants from a medical- to adult-use facility and more.
As Maine’s experience reveals, legalizing cannabis for personal use takes many steps. In fact, it remains to be seen how many steps remain before cannabis-based products can be sold in the state. In the meantime, recreational use is legal, as long as residents follow the rules.