AUGUSTA – Supporters of Maine’s marijuana legalization initiative vowed Wednesday to fight a proposal to delay retail sales of pot until at least February 2018.
Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, as well as Ellsworth Democratic Rep. Louis Luchini have introduced legislation that would give policy makers three additional months to develop and implement rules regulating the sale of marijuana for recreational use. The ballot initiative passed by a slim majority of Maine voters last November allowed nine months for the rulemaking process, but the proposal would extend that window until Feb. 1, 2018.
Marijuana possession and use is slated to become legal for adults age 21 and over on Jan. 30. Thibodeau’s and Luchini’s proposal would not alter that fact.
Thibodeau also said Wednesday that a special legislative committee formed specifically to review the proposal and a slew of other marijuana-related bills will begin meeting next week.
“This gives us an opportunity to work through the summer on some of these tougher issues,” Thibodeau said.
The bill to delay implementation would also clarify that recreational marijuana will remain illegal for Mainers under age 21 – seeking to close an inadvertent loophole in the ballot initiative – and would prohibit the possession of edible marijuana for recreational purposes until February 2018. The bill would not change Maine’s medical marijuana laws, which allow possession by patients under age 21 and the use of edibles.
But David Boyer, who led the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana use, Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said it was unnecessary for lawmakers to seek a delay before work had even started on the rules. Boyer pointed out that retail sales began in Colorado within roughly nine months and Maine has the benefit of learning from those and other experiences in the handful of states that have legalized marijuana.
“It’s being submitted as emergency legislation so that means they will need two-thirds of the House and Senate to pass this,” Boyer said. “We are cautiously optimistic we will be able to bring together a coalition of progressive Democrats and libertarian Republicans to put the brakes on this.”
The ballot initiative passed by Maine voters will allow Mainers age 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for personal use as well as up to six adult plants. The initiative also directs the state to set up a system for regulating retail sales of marijuana as well as social clubs where pot can be used.
This story will be updated.