PORTLAND, Maine — More than two years after Mainers voted to legalize recreational marijuana statewide, those hoping to cash in are getting a final say in how it is regulated.
State officials held a public hearing in Portland Thursday morning to get input on proposed rules and regulations that publicized last month.
"People seem appreciative that they're actually able to lay eyes and comment on these rules," Erik Gundersen said. Gunderson is part of Maine's Office of Marijuana Policy. "We look forward to seeing what we should change and what we shouldn't."
The regulations discussed surrounded everything from concerns about overproduction, kids’ safety and bank regulations.
Others mentioned making changes to how long someone must have residency in Maine before opening up shop, saying four years is too long.
Another hot button issue focused on packaging requirements. Many felt the state could find a more eco-friendly alternative to the plastic packaging.
“We do believe that selling products with THC is really going to improve our ability to change people's lives,” Mark Barnett said.
Barnett, the owner of Higher Grounds in Portland, hopes to expand the coffee shop into a full cannabis product business.
Right now the shop sells coffee, pastries as well as CBD products and infusions.
Barnett said it is time to finally get recreational pot sales going for business owners like him to benefit.
“"I do think we're going to get there,” Barnett said.
“It’s important because we're trying to put forth the best rules and regs that we're able and the industry,” Gundersen said. “The general public has an understanding of what could work, what might work better that we might not have seen."
Attorneys General in 30 states, including Maine, sent a letter to Congress last week asking them to pass the SAFE Banking Act to protect banks that work with marijuana businesses.
Barnett said it is critical to get recreational sales up and running in the state to catch up to the competition in medicinal sales.
"This hearing isn't going to solve all the issues or fix all the problems, but it's a really big step in the right direction,” he said.
The Maine Office of Marijuana Policy overseeing Tuesday’s hearing plans to get them approved by the legislature before the end of the year.