Senator Joyce Maker’s Monthly Column

In a few days’ time, the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee, a bipartisan 17-member committee on which I serve, will hold a public hearing on LR 2395, “An Act To Amend the Marijuana Legalization Act.” 

This bill draft, which is yet to be finalized, is the result of many months of hard work and deliberation by the committee. Over the summer, in the time since the full Legislature adjourned, we have received input from interested parties, been briefed on how other states are handling recreational marijuana and have delved into the issue extensively. 

But it is important to note that this bill is still in the form of a draft. We will not make our final recommendations until we have received adequate input from the general public, and I expect that the debate will be vigorous on all sides.

Included in this bill draft are committee recommendations on how the new retail industry should work (who can grow the product, the cost of licenses and the amount of THC that should be allowed in edible marijuana products, etc.), the rate at which marijuana products should be taxed and how those taxes should be divided between the state and to cover implementation costs and the municipalities that house these facilities.

While there is some pressure to get this framework in place quickly, it is critical that we take enough time to get this right the first time. 

Last November, the voters of Maine legalized recreational marijuana by an incredibly slim margin of 0.3 percent. This new law, which was drafted by special interest groups and didn’t receive a thorough vetting ahead of the vote, included some serious unintended consequences. 

Had the Legislature not acted swiftly, it would have been perfectly legal for anyone under the age of 21 to possess and use marijuana, and it would have allowed people to use marijuana while behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Unintended consequences such as these highlight the importance of slowing the process down so we can take enough time to be thorough before the retail sales portion of this new law takes effect. We need to be sure that the new industry doesn’t pose a risk to public safety, that the products are safe and consumers are protected and that the industry will be self-sufficient. 

If you would like to have your voice heard, I would encourage you to provide your input to the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee at this time by sending your comments to Marianne.MacMaster@legislature.maine.gov. The language of LR 2395 is available online here.

A public hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, September 26, beginning at 9:00 a.m. in the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee Room, State House, Room 228. Following the public hearing, the committee will reconvene to hopefully finalize the draft on September 27 and 28.

Assuming that all goes well, the full Legislature will likely convene for a special session sometime late next month to vote on this legislation, along with a few other matters of unfinished business. Once the bill becomes law, the departments of jurisdiction will then begin their rule-making process.

If you would like to contact me about LR 2395, or any other legislative issue, please call (207) 287-1505 or email me at senjoyce.a.maker@gmail.com or find me on Facebook as Senator Joyce Maker.