Friday, October 6, 2017

Marijuana regulations on deck for Legislature this autumn by Senator Bill Diamond

Nearly a year ago, a majority of voters in Maine favored a referendum to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults over 21 years old, the same threshold used for alcohol.

The law passed at the ballot box directed state government to develop the nitty-gritty details of how
legalization would be implemented. Those include important questions about taxation, retail sales and “social clubs” — businesses where customers could consume marijuana, the same way patrons consume alcohol at bars.
Now, after hours of painstaking work by a special committee assembled to tackle the issue of legalization, the Legislature is preparing for initial votes on a bill that would establish the regulatory framework for the newly legal marijuana industry in our state. I expect we’ll consider this bill during a special legislative session called by the governor sometime this autumn.

The bill we’ll consider contemplates a 10 percent sales tax and 10 percent excise tax on marijuana; with 5 percent of the tax going to the community that hosts the retail store or grow operation. Towns that host marijuana businesses would also receive 1 percent of all statewide marijuana taxes. In an effort to reduce outsized out-of-state interests, it would also give Maine residents a two-year head start in applying for recreational marijuana business licenses. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it would prohibit marijuana facilities from being located within 1,000 feet of a school.

The committee that crafted this bill, comprised of Democrats and Republicans alike, has strived to strike a responsible balance with regulations that respect the newly legal nature of marijuana and the need for restrictions and regulations that make sense for this intoxicating substance.

I’m most interested in ensuring that local control is preserved in whatever regulations are ultimately enacted. Communities that do not want marijuana sales or social clubs must be able to decide for themselves to prohibit those businesses. Communities that do want to allow this industry within their borders should be able to do so under the auspices of a commonsense regulatory framework at the state level.

Whatever regulations are approved by the Legislature, the executive branch will be responsible for establishing and enforcing them. That means not only enforcing restrictions, but taking the steps necessary to make business applications available, and processing them in a timely manner. Some questions have been raised about whether the governor will support the law, in part because he has remained uncharacteristically silent on the issue. However, I’m confident that he will make sure his agencies do their duties.

All of that will be determined at a later date. What’s most needed right now is you. I hope you’ll get in touch to let me know what you think is a priority as the Legislature contemplates implementation of the Marijuana Legalization Law. When I vote in the Senate, I’m representing not only my best judgment, but the wishes of people in our community. The legalization of recreational marijuana is a matter of tremendous consequence, and I need to hear from you.

Feel free to contact me at or (207) 287-1515, with any questions or concerns about this or any other important issue facing our state.

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