Maine Lawmakers Approve Bill to Regulate Recreational Marijuana Retail

The Democratic governor, Janet Mills, says she intends to sign the bill.
Maine Lawmakers Approve Bill to Regulate Recreational Marijuana Retail

Nearly three years after voters in the state approved legalized marijuana, Maine is finally inching closer to fully regulated pot sales.

Janet Mills, Maine’s Democratic governor, said Friday that she intended to sign a law that establishes rules over the sale of recreational marijuana. A day earlier, the state’s legislature passed the bill at the 11th, approving the measure just before the summer recess.

A spokesperson for Mills told the Associated Press that the governor would sign the bill in the next few days, and Maine officials have indicated that stores selling marijuana could open their doors by 2020.

For Maine, it represents a major breakthrough in a legalization push that has been marked by delays and setbacks. Voters there approved a referendum in 2016 to legalize recreational pot use by fewer than 5,000 votes — a razor-thin margin that prompted calls for a recount. The result stood after a partial recount was suspended in January of 2017, but Paul LePage, the state’s Republican governor at the time, defied voters and remained steadfast in his opposition to the measure. He vetoed a bill to move ahead with legalization in November of 2017, saying he remained “concerned about expanded legalization of marijuana in Maine.”

“The dangers of legalizing marijuana and normalizing its use in our society cannot be understated,” LePage said in his veto letter. “Maine is now battling a horrific drug epidemic that claims more than one life a day due to overdoses caused by deadly opiates. Sending a message, especially to our young people, that some drugs that are still illegal under federal law are now sanctioned by the state may have unintended and grave consequences.” In April of last year, LePage again vetoed a bill to regulate marijuana in the state, but Maine lawmakers eventually overrode his veto.

Mills was elected last year, and in the campaign she made it clear that she supported the implementation of the new law. The rules approved this week permit licenses to sell marijuana to individuals 21 and over, while cities would be given the discretion to allow sales or not. Legislators had considered limiting licenses only to in-state residents, but that provision was relaxed in the final version of the bill. Now, licenses will be limited to in-state residents only for the first two years.

The rules also require all marijuana stores to have tight security: according to the Portland Press Herald, that includes “an alarm system monitored by a round-the-clock security company, and a raft of security cameras, whose video must be stored for at least 45 days.” The rules also bar state employees and law enforcement officials from receiving a license, while prohibiting marijuana edibles in the shape of animals or characters — a provision designed to protect children.  

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