Mainers Weigh in on Modified Recreational Marijuana Law

Published: Sep. 26, 2017 at 4:09 PM EDT
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The Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization Implementation hopes to vote on Thursday whether to recommend the bill that modifies the voter-approved recreational marijuana law.

They held a public hearing to receive feedback on Tuesday in Augusta.

The hefty bill contains an extensive list of rules and regulations to bring consistency, oversight, and transparency to the state's recreational cannabis market.

"Please try and keep this a cottage industry- let everyone have the same opportunity because as Maine residents we deserve it. You guys all work for us, the Maine residents. Please listen to what the Maine residents have voted on," said Jason Smith, a medical marijuana caregiver from Durham.

The bill does contain a six-month Maine residency requirement for growers and sellers in an attempt to dissuade out-of-state companies from taking over. Legalize Maine, the organization behind the referendum, suggested extending the residency requirement initially, and then eliminating the requirement altogether after a few years.

"But coming right out of the gate, we have to give the most opportunity to Maine people and we should not allow a large capitalized interest to come in and dominate any sector of this industry," said Paul McCarrier, President of Legalize Maine.

Medical marijuana patients voiced their concern over the potential of over-commercialization of cannabis as well as the newly approved definition of a mature plant.

"This is basically going to make criminals out of people who have followed the law since 1999. It needs to be removed. It's not sure why that was put in there in the first place. Basically anything that's going to affect the medical marijuana program as it is now, which is running really well, should not be in this bill," said Robin Crawley, a medical marijuana patient.

A Sumner man told the committee the legislature has ultimately failed by not upholding the will of the people by adding regulations, he claims, to benefit out-of-state corporations rather than restricting their influence.

"But you didn't. So I wonder is it that you're terrible at your jobs or are you really good at tailoring legislation to corporations? I believe the latter to be true," said Thomas Obear of Legalize Maine.

Residents from Cornish and Sullivan spoke out about marijuana social clubs popping up in their small towns despite their existence not being legal until 2019. A Farmington woman stated that she'd like them to be stripped from the bill altogether.

"No marijuana state has approved social clubs, none of them. And I really hope that you take that into consideration," said Cheryl Best.

Others shared concern over the proposal to double the initial recommended sales tax on marijuana from 10 to 20%. Those in opposition of the increase say it will push more consumers to the black market.

The committee hopes to convene a special session to vote on the bill in October.