AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — After more than seven months of work, Maine legislators have unveiled a proposed new law for legalizing recreational use of marijuana. It’s designed to implement the referendum that was passed by voters last November.
The bill is more than 60 pages and covers everything from licensing growers and retailers of marijuana to how the drug would be taxed — using a 20 percent state sales tax.
The proposed law allows for a lot of local control, meaning towns and cities would get to decide how many commercial marijuana facilities they want, or if they don’t want any.
The bill does not set any state limits on the number of growers, retailers or other facilities, and it sets size limits for growing facilities using a four-tier system of licenses, ranging from 500 square feet and 30 plants to a maximum of 30,000 square feet.
It would delay the start of marijuana social clubs until June of 2019. Those clubs were part of the referendum and were identified as places where people could gather to use marijuana. However, the drafted bill states that smoking marijuana wouldn’t be allowed, consistent with Maine law that prohibits smoking in public gathering places.
Committee members said that even after lawmakers pass the bill into law, it could still be another six months before it takes full effect. That’s because state agencies will then need to write all the specific, detailed rules.
“That’s not unusual,” said committee co-chair Rep. Teresa Pearce, D-Falmouth. “We’re on a timetable similar to other states such as Colorado. From the point of their vote, it took almost two years to get it up and running. Not necessarily faster or slower but we surely don’t want to drag out heels.“
There will be a public hearing on the proposal Sept. 26. Some marijuana caregivers, who currently grow and furnish medicinal marijuana, said they don’t like certain provisions in the proposed law, including one that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to also apply for and receive commercial licenses.