A group of cannabis industry professionals who met in Portland on Tuesday night learned that the rules governing Maine’s adult-use marijuana law likely will be fully implemented by next fall, paving the way for businesses to sell pot and consumers to buy it.

About 40 industry professionals gathered at the Press Hotel in downtown Portland for the Northeast Quarterly Cannibas Caucus, an event organized by the National Cannabis Industry Association in Washington, D.C. The caucus is an educational and networking event designed to update cannabis professionals on the latest in policy and industry developments.

Maine voters approved an initiative to legalize adult marijuana use in November 2016, but the measure has still not been fully implemented.

“Since then we’ve had a real battle with the Legislature and the governor over adult-use marijuana,” David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told the gathering.

In May, the Legislature overturned a veto by Gov. Paul LePage that would have again stalled the legal sale of recreational marijuana. That set in motion the writing of the rules that will create the framework for Maine’s retail marijuana industry.

In July, the Legislature voted overwhelmingly to override LePage’s veto , which led to a sweeping medical marijuana reform bill. The reform bill will allow patients to use marijuana if a doctor deems it medically beneficial; grants six new medical dispensary licenses; permits caregivers to expand their business operations; and gives the state and municipalities more power to regulate them.

“We have a new governor coming in,” Boyer said of the Nov. 6 election, predicting that with new leadership in Augusta and the rules being formulated, “everything should be up and running” by fall 2019. Democrat Janet Mills, Republican Shawn Moody and independents Terry Hayes and Alan Caron are vying to replace LePage in the Blaine House.

Boyer also is the campaign political director for state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, who is bidding for Angus King’s U.S. Senate seat.

Brakey, who is chairman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, spoke to the trade association about changes in Maine law affecting the use of medical marijuana that will become effective in December.

Last month, the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services issued a request for proposals for a consultant to write the rules and regulations needed to license and regulate adult-use cannabis businesses and to implement the new medical marijuana law that will add new dispensaries and allow caregivers to open retail stores.

Proposals must be submitted by Nov. 1. Maine has set an April 30 deadline for the chosen consultant to come up with the rules needed to begin recreational marijuana sales.

Some of the rules will require lawmakers’ approval, including the development of a seed-to-sale tracking system, a licensing standards and fee schedule, a criminal background check system for applicants and their employees, and a list of penalties and fines for unauthorized conduct.

Michael Correia, director of government relations for the National Cannabis Industry Association, in an interview before Tuesday’s event accused LePage of “slow playing” the implementation of Maine’s new marijuana laws. LePage has opposed legalization.

But Correia said all the bumps in the road that Maine has faced are nearing an end.

“What I care about is that they do it right. It takes time to implement these laws,” Correia said.

The association said voters in Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and Utah are expected to vote Nov. 6 on marijuana reform initiatives involving adult use of cannabis or allowing patients with certain qualifying medical conditions to use medical cannabis under the supervision of a doctor.

The National Cannabis Industry Association bills itself as the largest cannabis trade association in the United States, with more than 1,700 members.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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