It’s been almost three years since the residents of Maine voted to legalize recreational marijuana and there has only been incremental progress. The initiative has been curtailed by two legislative rewrites, multiple vetoes by the former governor, and the disintegration of deal with the track-and-trace firm Metrc over a bidding controversy. Fortunately, the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee voted this week to send the current version of the Maine marijuana regulations to the house and senate for a vote.
In April, state officials selected Freedman & Koski, a consulting firm based in Colorado, to help develop the initial draft of Maine marijuana regulations. The regulations were then sent to state regulatory agencies, including labor, agriculture, and public safety, for review and revisions. The newest version of the marijuana regulations included a few amendments that have created some backlash from existing cannabis companies in Maine.
Maine residents are hoping that this version of the regulations is adopted so they can finally have the opportunity to legally purchase cannabis. However, some of the existing medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine feel excluded by the residency requirements and have filed suit to have this changed. A new residency amendment in the Maine marijuana regulations restricts cannabis businesses from having out-of-state investors and business partners. This would include Wellness Connection, one of the largest cannabis companies currently in Maine and think these regulations go too far.
This amendment was added to offer local residents and small businesses the opportunity to enter the market unobstructed by big businesses. Wellness Connection had no qualms with resident-owned business being licensed in the first wave of applicants, but shutting them out completely will force their hand. “Regrettably, if the provisional rules are not sufficiently changed by the Legislature, my client, or one of our partners, will be forced to sue the state on the grounds that the residency requirements in the (underlying) statutes are unconstitutional.” explained the companies lawyer Dan Walker.
The Office of Marijuana Policy was appointed only four months ago and have now passed the baton to the lawmakers to review the drafted Maine marijuana regulations and make any final changes. The hope is that they will make their final determination by the end of session on June 19th. If they are able to approve the new regulations, it’s expected that the recreational market could commence at the beginning of 2020.
The new version of the regulations also addressed packaging concerns about creating too much waste by pulling back on some of the requirements. Distributors and retailers argued that they would incur unnecessary expenses as well as harm the environment.
Also the Office of Marijuana Policy made some slight changes regarding the location of testing facilities. Originally, they planned to restrict testing labs from being close to other cannabis businesses to prevent any bias in the newly formed industry. The regulations have been altered to allow testing facilities next to other marijuana businesses, as long as they have separate entrances accessible for the public.