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Maine Won’t Meet its February Deadline for Recreational Marijuana Sales

Maine officials have announced that the state will not meet its February deadline to begin recreational cannabis sales.

Adult consumers in Maine will have to wait beyond February as originally expected to purchase recreational cannabis. President of Legalize Maine Paul McCarrier now estimates the market will launch summer 2018.

“The law as written and adopted by voters would have gotten the legal marketplace up and running as soon as possible,” said McCarrier. “We could have a program ready to issue licenses now, but the committee thought it knew better than the voters. It has made one change after another, and each change pushes the timeline back… and keeps the black market going.”

Republican State Sen. Roger Katz recently told the Portland Press Herald that agencies responsible for the market roll-out need more time to license growers, write departmental rules, and hire new inspectors.

“We want to get marijuana out of the black market and we want to do that as quickly as possible, but we need to do it right,” said Katz. “It is such a big subject and there was so much to consider. As it is, we’re remaining silent on some subjects, leaving others to consider them on other days, because we couldn’t possibly do it all.”

Earlier this month a special legislative commission finished preliminary work determining regulations regarding licensing fees and public health protections around the growing, selling and purchasing or recreational marijuana.

Analysts are now focused on drafting a bill that will undergo a public hearing in September and a full legislative vote during a special session in October. There’s concern among the committee that lawmakers, many of whom continue to oppose legalization, will remain resistant to the proposal. Even Republican Gov. Paul LePage has previously said he wants legalization repealed.

“We have an education job ahead of us,” said Katz. “A lot of people are not happy the law passed. To those people, I would say there are only two groups that want to see a regulated market set up – people who like marijuana and people who don’t like marijuana. Because really, we all have an interest in making the product safe, keeping it out of the hands of children, taxing it appropriate and keeping sales out of the black market.”

Maine voters narrowly approved the state’s recreational marijuana measure – Question 1 — last November. The measure permits adults 21 years and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and to cultivate up to six mature plants, 12 immature plants, and unlimited seedlings. The law went into effect January 30, but retailers won’t be able to legally sell products until regulatory framework legislation is signed into law and the program is established.

Eight U.S. states have so far legalized adult use marijuana. Colorado, the first state to legalize and implement its recreational marijuana market, has generated more than $500 million in tax revenue since legalized adult use sales began in 2014. State analysts originally projected that Maine would collect about $10.5 million from a 10 percent sales tax in 2018-2019 and about $18 million a year in two to three years, but those values could be higher as lawmakers are now proposing a 20 percent sales tax.

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