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Committee Named to Develop Rules as Marijuana Becomes Legal in Maine

Medical marijuana is rolled into a joint in Belfast, Maine, in 2014.
Medical marijuana is rolled into a joint in Belfast, Maine, in 2014.

Recreational Marijuana Becomes Legal in Maine

Maine has joined eight other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing the recreational use of Marijuana as of Monday. But sales will not be allowed for another year as a special legislative committee develops rules for how those sales will take place.

Legally, you can now possess 2.5 ounces of pot and grow six mature plants in your home. Use of the drug can only be done in private, and retail sales are expected sometime next year. But first, the law allowing recreational marijuana needs to be implemented.

Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau and Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon have named a special select committee of 17 lawmakers to begin doing that. Thibodeau says the five senators and dozen representatives have a lot of work to do to resolve all of the issues surrounding the citizen-initiated legislation that narrowly passed last November.

“State of Massachusetts did a moratorium that was twice as long. These folks are going to have to be very efficient in their work, they are going to have to take their job serious, but I am really confident they are going to do it,” he says.

So far, more than three dozen bills have been identified that will likely be referred to the committee. They cover a wide range of topics, everything from which state agency should oversee the new law to rules governing the sale of marijuana products aimed at children.

Gideon says the issues are so complex that the creation of a special committee was necessary.

“It’s going to be an intense and arduous and a complex task in front of this committee. It’s really going to take a tremendous amount of work, which is why we decided to put together a group of people that can focus on it in its entirety,” she says.

Gov. Paul LePage reluctantly agreed to sign legislation that delayed marijuana retail sales until February of next year. He also issued an executive order that directs the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations to develop and oversee the rules for marijuana sales.

But the order also bans the agency from spending any money to accomplish that task until the Legislature appropriates money for the process. Gideon says while having the bureau do the rulemaking makes sense, lawmakers want an open and transparent process.

“That is something we feel is appropriate to have a public discussion about, that’s why we reference a bill to this joint select committee to look at that and appropriate money for rulemaking,” she says.

A measure appropriating $1.6 million for the rulemaking process has already been referred to the panel, which has yet to schedule its first meeting. Augusta Republican Sen. Roger Katz and Falmouth Democratic Rep. Teresa Pierce are the co-chairs of the committee.

Copyright 2017 Maine Public

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.

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