By Lori Valigra
The Maine Legislature approved amended rules for adult-use marijuana sales and oversight just hours before it broke for summer recess Thursday morning.
The rules, which are required by law, now go to the governor's desk.
Among other things, the amended rules ease the requirements on certain foods containing marijuana and on state residency requirements for operating a recreational marijuana businesses.
The Maine Senate approved the rules by a vote of 26-9. The Maine House approved them without a roll call.
With the governor's stamp, they would go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourned. That's almost three years after Maine voters approved recreational marijuana retail sales.
The amended rules delete wording that might have limited out-of-state ownership of companies involved in recreational marijuana.
The rule changes represented a major step forward for Wellness Connection of Maine, the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the state, which has plans to expand into the recreational market.
The company had told a legislative committee reviewing the rules that it and one of its out-of-state investors might sue the state if the provisionally adopted rules were not changed.
At the time, CEO Patricia Rosi told the committee that the residency requirement for investors could "threaten our very existence."
Dan Walker, an attorney with Preti Flaherty who represents Wellness Connection, recently told the Bangor Daily News that the company can work with the changes that were made and it no longer feels the need to bring a lawsuit.
The rules also amend the Maine Food Law so foods containing adult-use marijuana are not considered adulterated if they are prepared in a licensed food establishment that also is a licensed adult-use marijuana products manufacturing facility.
Another rule amendment authorizes the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which oversees the Office of Marijuana Policy, to check to see if a conditionally licensed applicant continues to meet the requirements for conditional licensure. If not, the department can refuse to issue an active license.
Separately, a bill on taxing recreational marijuana, LD 335, remains pending. It would impose a 12 percent tax on recreational marijuana retail sales and on the excise tax revenue from sales by a cultivation facility to a retail store.
The so-called the Local Government Revenue Fund money will go to municipalities with marijuana facilities to help offset the negative effects of local regulation and law enforcement.
The original recommendation was to set the tax at 25 percent.
(c)2019 the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine)