Maine may make purchasing an ounce of marijuana almost as easy as buying a six-pack of beer.
Proposed adult-use cannabis regulations from the Legislature’s marijuana committee would allow licensed retail stores to sell pot from drive-up windows and over the internet. Like any other recreational marijuana consumer, drive-up and online customers would have to show identification to the window or delivery employee to prove they are at least 21 years old.
Supporters say such retail conveniences are already available to the state’s alcohol industry and will help Maine’s new legal marijuana market compete with a thriving illegal market. But opponents, including a leader of the marijuana committee, warn against making it too easy to buy a drug that is still illegal under federal law, and too hard for new state regulators to track sales.
“If Maine allows it for alcohol, we see no reason why it shouldn’t be allowed for marijuana, the safer substance, so long as Maine puts in place reasonable regulations to protect public safety and the consumer,” said David Boyer, director of the Maine chapter of the Marijuana Policy Project. “The voters want it regulated and taxed like alcohol. The rules should be the same.”
TOO SOON FOR EASY PURCHASING?
But state Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta said allowances for drive-thrus and home delivery should be stripped from the proposed bill to decrease the risk that delivered marijuana will end up in the hands of underage users or residents of towns that have adopted a local ban on marijuana sales. Delivered marijuana might more easily be diverted across state lines, which could draw unwanted federal attention to Maine’s newly legal recreational market, he said.
“Given the fact that about half the people in the state voted against legalization, I think we ought to go slow and be cautious in the beginning,” said Katz, Republican co-chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization Implementation. “But this is a legislative process. We reach decisions collectively. This is just a draft. I anticipate a vigorous debate. We’ve still got a ways to go yet.”
The committee’s bill, which sets up the regulatory framework for commercial cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and sales, will be the subject of a public hearing at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Room 228 at the State House in Augusta. The committee will reconvene Sept. 27 and 28 to discuss the bill. If the committee approves it, the full Legislature will likely consider it next month.
BUYERS FACE 20% SALES TAX
The bill essentially outlines how the new market would work, from who could grow recreational marijuana and the cost of a license, to the maximum amount of THC allowed in an edible marijuana product and how much marijuana would be taxed. The committee had hoped adult-use licensing would begin in February, but now says it is unlikely to hit that deadline.
Although advocates support drive-thru, online and home delivery options and hope the language will stay in the bill, they say they won’t draw a line in the sand over them if they put the bill’s future at risk. The proposed 20 percent sales tax rate is a much bigger burden for recreational cannabis users than having to make face-to-face, in-store purchases, said Paul McCarrier, president of Legalize Maine.
“Back in July, the committee agreed that delivery would help combat the black market,” said McCarrier, whose advocacy group helped pass the statewide ballot measure that legalized adult-use marijuana in Maine. “We know that convenience is one of the big reasons that somebody turns to the black market, but price is an even bigger one. That is our top priority, keeping it affordable for Mainers.”
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