Almost every state that launches a recreational cannabis market looks for guidance from Colorado, the first state in the nation to legalize pot.

On Sunday, four Maine lawmakers who are leading the state’s effort to regulate the new adult-use marijuana industry will travel to Denver for a two-day visit to see what’s worked and what hasn’t. One advantage of not being the first state to legalize recreational marijuana is that you can learn from others’ experiences, said Rep. Teresa Pierce of Falmouth, a co-chair of the marijuana committee.

“There are definite advantages to seeing something already up and running, with your own eyes, rather than talking about something in theory while sitting around a table in a committee room,” Pierce said. “We’re not the same. For example, they’re bigger. Three times our population, I think. Not everything that works in Colorado will work here, but there are lessons to be learned.”

FRAMEWORK UNDERWAY

The Maine marijuana committee is nearing completion of an omnibus bill that will establish a regulatory framework for the adult-use industry.

It hasn’t voted on specifics yet, but it has been holding straw polls to establish consensus around policies, like a 20 percent tax rate, home grow limits and commercial cultivation caps.

A final committee bill is likely to go to the full Legislature this fall.

Pierce, a Democrat, will join Republican Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta, the co-chairman of the marijuana committee, and two ranking members, Democratic Sen. Mark Dion of Cumberland and Republican Rep. Donald Marean of Hollis on the trip.

They fly out Sunday night, will meet with state officials and lawmakers and tour retail shops on Monday and Tuesday, and will return Tuesday night.

They will address enforcement efforts, tracking systems, cultivation measuring systems, among other topics, and get a firsthand review of how Colorado retail shops look and operate, Katz and Pierce said. Katz predicts the visit will prompt a few tweaks of the Maine committee’s bill, but not any huge changes.

That is because the committee has been looking to Colorado and the other states that have already legalized recreational cannabis during the deliberation process. The committee’s analysts usually provide members with a state-by-state report on how others are handling major regulatory topics, ranging from marketing to packaging to licensing, Katz said.

PRACTICAL CHALLENGES AWAIT

Earlier this month, for example, the committee heard from Andrew Freedman, who stepped down this year as Colorado’s director of marijuana coordination.

He talked about the practical challenges that Colorado has faced that Maine should prepare for or avoid altogether, such as how to regulate safe home grows, dealing with a cash-based industry and regulating pesticide use.

Katz said he had wanted the committee to travel to Colorado earlier in the process, but several members, including himself, were involved in crafting the state budget, and couldn’t afford to take the time needed to travel out of state during the session. The final cost of the four-member visit has not yet been tallied, he said, but it will be paid out of the committee’s $200,000 consultant funding.

INPUT AWAITED

Committee members say they are looking forward to hearing about the trip on Aug. 4, when the committee next meets.

Rep. Erik Jorgensen, a Portland Democrat, says he was surprised at how much this new industry has become a part of the everyday life of residents in Denver during a trip there last fall.

It appeared to be a real economic driver, Jorgensen said. He wants to learn more about that.

“Clearly this has had a major economic impact on Colorado, and I hope that our members can really study how the industry has developed in that state and how cannabis businesses fit into communities there,” Jorgensen said.

“I was there last year and I was impressed with how settled and inconspicuous these businesses were. The retail outlets I saw seemed more like craft coffee shops than the ‘head shops’ of old. I hope that on this tour, our members have a chance to see how different municipalities are reacting to and benefiting from these businesses, and what lessons have been learned.”

Penelope Overton can be contacted at 791-6463 or at:

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