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Maine Completes Regs for Legal Pot Industry

(From Mainebiz) – Although some Mainers say it’s high time, the state has completed adopting rules for the new recreational-use marijuana industry.

The regulations govern licensing, compliance, enforcement, and oversight of the legal marijuana trade and become effective December 5, the Office of Marijuana Policy said in a news release Monday.

With the rules in place, OMP is now shifting its attention to the application and licensing processes for prospective pot purveyors.

Maine law requires employees of any marijuana-related business to pass a background check and obtain an identification card from OMP. The office now provides an application for the card on its website, and is referring applicants to a vendor for fingerprinting.

OMP plans to offer license applications for marijuana testing facilities on its website beginning Nov. 18, according to the release. Applications for adult-use marijuana cultivation, product manufacturing, and retail facilities will be made available Dec. 5.

A 2016 citizen’s referendum allowed Maine adults to grow, own and use marijuana without demonstrating a medical need for it. But efforts to implement rules around the drug quickly stalled.

Due to legislative delays, a 2017 veto by then-Gov. Paul LePage, and in January, the state’s decision to change consultants for developing the regulations, Maine had no legal market for recreational cannabis, more than two years after it became legal.

In February, Gov. Janet Mills established the OMP to oversee the state’s existing medical marijuana program and implement the 2016 law. The office’s first rulemaking began in late March.

In April, David Boyer, State Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Mainebiz, “We knew this would take a long time, but it’s disappointing for Maine to be last among the states that passed laws in 2016.”

In addition to the Maine referendum, voters in California, Massachusetts, and Nevada approved recreational marijuana that year. A total of eight states and the District of Columbia now have such laws, and medical cannabis is permitted in 28 states, including all of the Northeast.

More than a dozen licensed stores were selling pot for general adult use in Massachusetts earlier this year.

“Mainers are working in the Massachusetts cannabis industry rather than Maine’s,” Boyer said at the time. “I imagine they’d rather be here.”

In June, the Legislature tweaked Maine’s marijuana policy with a law that spelled out details of licensing and the rulemaking process.

“We established several lofty goals at the outset of our work, including delivery of adult-use rules before the Legislature adjourned in June and making adult-use applications available by the conclusion of 2019,” OMP Director Erik Gundersen said in the release.

“I am proud of the incredible work of our office to fulfill these commitments to an industry and public that have been waiting patiently for this work to be completed.”