Maine voters approved a legal adult-use cannabis market back in 2016. But the state has struggled to actually get the industry up and running. While state lawmakers have fought to override vetoes on adult-use sales and a medical marijuana program expansion, Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy has been crafting the regulatory structure the retail industry will follow. And in response to significant public interest and mounting pressure from lawmakers, Maine regulators have just unveiled the draft rules for the adult use industry. The rulebook gives Maine residents their first real glimpse at what their legal cannabis marketplace might look like. And if they don’t like what they see, they can provide feedback at an upcoming public hearing or online.
From licenses, tracking, and advertising to testing, waste management and fees (and everything in between), Maine just made a draft of its 74-page rulebook for the cannabis industry available to the public. The text represents roughly ten weeks of work by Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy, an agency created in February to establish the regulatory framework for legal adult-use cannabis.
The Office of Marijuana Policy is partnering with a pair of firms, California-based BOTEC Analysis and Colorado-based Freedman & Koski, to help craft and review its rules. Both BOTEC and Freedman & Koski have been vying for the competitive state contracts. Maine has even faced legal scrutiny over the scoring process for the contract awards.
The full text of the draft rulebook is available online. But some major takeaways address the state’s proposed fee and licensing structure for cultivators and retailers. Maine is proposing a tiered annual licensing fee structure. For the smallest, “Tier 1” growers, application fees vary based on indoor/outdoor grows and the number of plants and canopy space from about $100 to $500. For the largest, “Tier 4” cultivators, however, fees can reach as high as $30,000.
On the retail side, annual store licenses and product manufacturing facilities would cost $2,500. Testing facilities would cost $1,000. The draft rules indicate that anyone working in the legal industry would need to pay for a special state-issued ID. That rule would apply to workers whether they touch the plant or not.
The ID rule specifies that individuals would have to pay a fee of $50 for the card plus the cost of fingerprinting and a background check. Workers would have to pay an additional $50 annually to renew their ID. With access and equity in the industry a concern nationwide, fee requirements for cannabis industry workers are likely to be unpopular among the workforce.
Retail sales can’t begin in Maine until the legislature passes the rules crafted by the Office of Marijuana Policy. That could happen by the end of the legislative session in June or by the end of the year—or later, if the Legislature does not approve the rules.
The office and its partner firms will continue to develop the rules through April and May. They’re aiming to deliver a final draft to the Maine Legislature before the end of the first regular session this June. “We have been working at a breakneck pace to complete the work necessary to establish the regulatory and licensing regime that will govern adult use marijuana,” said Marijuana Policy Office director Erik Gundersen.
Between now and June, however, the Office of Marijuana Policy is inviting public comment and feedback on its draft rules. This is a chance for consumers, prospective workers and business owners to help shape the retail industry in Maine. Regulators will hold a public hearing on the rules in May. And the public will have an additional 10-day comment period after the hearing. Interested individuals can also submit feedback anytime online.
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