AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Before Maine's commercial adult-use cannabis market becomes legal, the legislation regulating it must gain the support of enough lawmakers to pass.
Senator Roger Katz, Senate Chair of the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee, has submitted legislation to extend the moratorium past its February 1st expiration date.
"There's a school of thought that if come February 2nd, it doesn't really make any difference if the moratorium is expired because there's been no process out in place for licensing, and so even though the moratorium may have expired, there can't be any legal commercial activity anyway," said Katz, (R).
His bill, which the public can weigh in on at a hearing next Friday, would extend the ban on recreational cannabis sales to May 1st.
"There are concerns that if the moratorium expires without further action that it might potentially open up the state or local municipalities to lawsuits by people saying, 'you know what, there's no moratorium. You've got to give me a license,'" said Katz.
From the tax structure to commercial licensing fees to product labeling, the committee will continue their discussions next week on a number of regulatory provisions, one of which would prohibit anyone under 21 from all areas of a marijuana establishment.
"I don't know if the committee just even wants to have a conversation about why we prohibit anyone from 18-21 working in a licensed cannabis business," said Rep. Craig Hickman, (D) Winthrop.
"21 years and over was an issue. We want to make sure that we keep people that are under 21 outside of these facilities. We clarified language around local opt-in options, so local control. We wanted to make sure that we understood that communities have the absolute right to decide what goes on in their community and when," said Rep. Teresa Pierce, (D) House Chair, Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee.
Maine's top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Halsey Frank, recently stated his office will not make prosecuting marijuana users a priority following the U.S. Attorney General's announced crackdown of federal marijuana enforcement.
But Frank's comments regarding prosecuting cannabis growers and users on a 'case-by-case basis' is still too vague to eliminate the uncertainty surrounding the future of marijuana in Maine.
"His memo didn't really give us a great deal of guidance, so we're, I think as a committee, we're committed to full speed ahead and getting our work done," said Katz.