20 January 2017
The Republican Journal reports
In the legislative session’s first major action on marijuana policy, the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee endorsed a bill that would:
- Make clear that recreational marijuana will be legal only for Mainers 21 and older as of Jan. 30.
- Require agencies to complete rulemaking by the end of October but delay retail marijuana sales licenses until at least February 2018.
- Limit the amount of “marijuana concentrate” a person can possess to 5 grams.
- Stipulate that neither drivers nor passengers can use marijuana in an operating vehicle.
Maine is among eight states and the District of Columbia where voters have legalized marijuana for recreational use, despite federal prohibitions on the drug. By month’s end, Mainers 21 and over will be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of dried marijuana, consume marijuana “edibles” and possess as many as six adult plants. The transition to legal pot has not been smooth in other states, and Maine lawmakers are rushing to address several vagaries or potential flaws in the state’s voter-approved law before Jan. 30.
At the top of that list was correcting a drafting error in the ballot initiative passed by voters in November that, according to Attorney General Janet Mills and others, could have inadvertently made it legal for minors to possess marijuana. The bill endorsed by the committee Thursday clarifies that possession of small amounts of marijuana by minors will continue to be a civil violation, except for medical marijuana patients.
More controversially, some lawmakers want to delay retail sales of marijuana by several months to give state agencies time to craft rules to regulate the cannabis industry. The bill endorsed Thursday, L.D. 88, would give the state three extra months to begin issuing licenses to retail stores or marijuana social clubs.
While the practical impact is arguably negligible because retail sales were unlikely to begin before the Legislature reviewed the rules in January 2018, proponents of a three-month moratorium celebrated the committee vote.
L.D. 88 is only the first of many policy debates over legalization that will play out in Augusta over the coming months.
In another major step, the House and Senate voted to form a special legislative committee to review the more than 50 marijuana-related bills submitted by lawmakers. That committee is expected to do more of the heavy lifting on marijuana issues, now that the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee has recommended ways to address the immediate concerns headed toward Jan. 30.
“We have got to fix what we can, and then this (special) committee will have to do the rest,” said Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, a co-chairman of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.