Maine Legislature Advances Cannabis Retail Regulations: UPDATE

Maine Legislature Advances Cannabis Retail Regulations: UPDATE

The bill further develops Maine’s cannabis regulations, while limiting the impact of the 2016 voter initiative.

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April 11, 2018
Eric Sandy
Legislation and regulation State by State: Maine

Update: The Maine Senate approved the marijuana regulations bill with a 24-10 vote on April 11. That margin is wide enough to withstand a possible veto by Gov. Paul LePage.

Once the House grants a concurrence vote -- a "formality," as Portland Press Herald reporter Penelope Overton writes -- LePage will have 10 days to sign the bill (or not).

See our April 10 story below.

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The Maine House of Representatives approved a bill that would set up a regulated retail market to complement the state’s 2016 voter-approved adult-use cannabis law. 

With a 112-34 vote on April 10, House members showed a “super majority” that could override a potential veto from Gov. Paul LePage. (Last year, Page vetoed a similar bill.)

The retail measure would levy a 10-percent sales tax and a $335-per-pound excise tax on cannabis products.

Compared to state lawmakers’ attempts to regulate cannabis sales in a 2017 bill, this new legislation takes a more conservative approach to building a marketplace in Maine. In HP 1199, the legal language drops a provision for “social club” licensing and decreases home-grow allowances from six plants to three. (Both of those changes contradicted original language in 2016’s Question 1, which voters had approved.)

“Those are the things that give us the biggest heartburn,” David Boyer, Maine political director for Marijuana Policy Project, tells Cannabis Business Times.

The wide vote margin does bear out a broader support base for this regulatory frame work, however. Even known opponents were onboard. 

“I did not support legalizing marijuana,” Assistant House Minority Leader Ellie Espling told the Portland Press Herald. “What we have before us today is what I think is a much better bill. I need this to be as strict and as stringent as possible. I need real protection in this for my family. I think Mainers are asking for that… As long as it’s determined to be legal, I think we need it to be as strict as possible to protect our families.

“There are things in the bill that we liked, and there are things in the bill that we didn’t like,” Boyer says. “Ultimately, we’re glad that the legislature has taken steps to move toward a regulated marketplace here in Maine.” 

The bill now heads to the Maine Senate.

The governor, for his part, is term-limited and ineligible to run for re-election this fall.

Top photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

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