AUGUSTA (NEWS CENTER Maine) — It was January of last year when the Maine Legislature voted for a one-year moratorium on the commercial sale of marijuana.
Two months earlier, Maine voters had approved a referendum to legalize recreational use of pot. But that law still needed detail added by the Legislature before commercial growing and sales could begin. So in late January 2017, lawmakers passed a bill to ensure no one younger than 21 could have marijuana, and that it could not be used in motor vehicles.
Personal use and growing were made legal, but they imposed the 12-month moratorium on all commercial activity and formed a special committee to write a bill that added the needed details to the law.
One year, it turns out, wasn't enough. After their initial bill was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage in early November, the committee went back to work to make changes to the bill so it can finally become law.
That work continues, even as the Feb. 1 deadline for the end of the moratorium looms larger.
That deadline prompted town officials and voters in Waldoboro to take action. On Jan. 6, they passed a six-month moratorium on all commercial use of marijuana.
Selectman Bob Butler said Tuesday they didn't want to take the chance that the law might suddenly take effect before the state or town was ready. The local moratorium, he said provides breathing room for a town where many residents are still opposed to legal sales of marijuana.
The legislative committee held a public hearing last week and is now working to find ways to change the original bill to gain more support. There are multiple issues that have created controversy, including how to tax marijuana, whether to combine recreational and medical marijuana programs and whether to permit marijuana social clubs. Committee members said Tuesday they believe they can find agreement on needed changes, but admit it will take time.
Committee co-chair Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, said they are very aware that local governments are anxious to know what the new rules will be since much of the work of enforcement will fall to the locals.
She also said the legislators are fully aware of the Feb. 1 deadline, and that a public hearing will be held this Friday, Jan. 19, on a bill to extend the current statewide moratorium, until at least the end of the current session in April.