The agency regulating the sale of adult-use cannabis in Maine is proposing a new set of rules designed to increase consumer access.
The changes, which come amid record-breaking sales, are primarily based on two bills passed in the Legislature this year: one intended to reduce the stigma around cannabis and another to correct an oversight in a bill passed last year allowing cannabis to be sold at events such as concerts and festivals.
The proposed rules are also a nearly complete overhaul and rewrite or a “repeal and replace” of the original guidelines, which Maine Office of Cannabis Policy policy director Gabi Pierce said is intended to make the roughly 100-page rule that regulates adult-use cannabis in Maine more user friendly with updated formatting, organization and language. A public hearing on the changes is scheduled next week.
Last year, the Legislature authorized cannabis delivery from retail stores to customers, and this year expanded it so small cultivators and manufacturers could provide the same service. Currently, cultivators and manufacturers cannot sell directly to consumers.
Among other changes, the bill would also permit stores, manufacturers and cultivators to cater directly to tourists by delivering to hotels and businesses, provided the hotel or business has given written consent for such deliveries.
In introducing the bill, Rep. Laura Supica, D-Bangor, noted that both medical and illicit cannabis are already delivered to these locations.
“If we are serious about using a regulated adult-use market to eliminate the illicit market, then this change in delivery market regulations should help,” she said.
The bill also doubles the allowable potency a product can have, from 100 mg of THC per package to 200 mg, and doubles the amount of cannabis concentrate a person can purchase at a time from 5 grams to 10 grams. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana that provides a user’s high.
Supica said many of the current limits are based on the stigma surrounding the drug and that in this case, it should be regulated more like alcohol.
“When you go to a liquor store, you can purchase as much as you can afford. … You can also purchase 150 [proof] spirits,” she said. “We need to change the culture of how we treat cannabis.”
Last year, legislators passed a controversial bill allowing off-premises sales of non-smokeable cannabis. So, in theory, cannabis products such as edibles could be sold at farmers markets, concerts, festivals and fairs, among other locations. The law allowed the sales of certain cannabis products but prohibited their consumption in any public places.
But Gov. Janet Mills chose not to sign the bill, according to draft veto language posted to but later deleted from the governor’s website, over concerns that the language was too vague, that the provisions for municipal oversight were “ripe for inconsistent interpretation,” and that off-premises sales could lead to public use, posing serious safety risks. The bill also lacked the necessary statutory guardrails for that office to do so effectively and responsibly, Mills wrote in the draft language.
Mills eventually chose not to veto the bill, which became law without her signature, and the drafted language explaining her concerns was later removed from her website.
The updated version of the bill, passed this year, allows sales of smokeable cannabis and attempts to correct the statutory concerns by providing clearer guidance for both state and municipal regulators.
Maine’s adult-use retailers in 2022 sold $158.9 million worth of products and are on track to surpass that this year, with $118.3 million sold through July.
July was the market’s best month on record, with nearly $21 million in sales. Revenue continues to increase, despite the average price of a gram of cannabis flower dropping to $7.88, nearly half of what it sold for in 2020. The number of sales to date in 2023 – about 2 million – has nearly doubled the number of transactions in all of 2021.
There are 287 state-licensed adult-use cannabis businesses in Maine, including cultivators, store owners, manufacturers and testing labs, with another 198 businesses in various stages of the approval process.
The proposed rules will be discussed at a public hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the state’s offices in Augusta. The Maine Office of Cannabis Policy is accepting public comment through Sept. 17. The rules are expected to take effect in January.
Correction: This story was updated at 1:49 p.m. on Sept. 4, 2023, to correct information details about Gov. Janet Mills’ actions pertaining to a bill regarding non-smokeable cannabis laws. The governor’s website posted veto language explaining her concerns about the bill, but Mills eventually chose not to veto the bill, and the language was removed from her website. The bill became law without her signature.
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