AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill Thursday setting up a legal framework for the sale of cannabis to adults as early as next year.
Her office said Thursday that the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy plans to accept applications for licenses by the end of 2019. The Democratic governor said her administration has worked quickly to implement the voter-approved law since she took office earlier this year.
The state’s voters chose to legalize both the use and sale of adult-use cannabis in November 2016, but months of delays by then-Gov. Paul LePage, a noted legalization opponent, and political squabbles slowed the opening of a commercial industry. The state now has a legal road map for cannabis to arrive in stores as soon as early 2020.
Applications By Jan. 2020
The new law becomes effective in September. At that point, the Office of Marijuana Policy has 60 days to finalize regulations. Then, the state must start accepting applications within 30 days.
In the meantime, Mills’ administration is working on a public health and safety education campaign, and figuring out how the state will track, trace and license cannabis.
“We have drafted these rules with a view toward keeping the public’s health and safety at the forefront,” said Office of Marijuana Policy Director Erik Gundersen.
The new framework makes several changes to state law ahead of sales.
Cities Can Opt Out
Municipalities could opt in or out of allowing cannabis sales. Only a handful of cities and towns have laid the groundwork for retail sales.
Currently, state law defines poisonous or harmful substances as “adulterated.” The new law says Maine would not consider edibles produced with cannabis adulterated.
Under the new law, Maine residents who have lived in the state for at least four years would have to claim at least 51% ownership of a cannabis company to qualify for a license. The state would also authorize the department to impose an administrative hold on a licensee.
Cannabis is legal for adult recreational use in 10 states and the District of Columbia. It will become legal for adults in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020. Some states, like Maine and Vermont, legalized without initially allowing commercial sales.
Medical marijuana was already legal in Maine. Under the 2016 adult-use legalization law, adults 21 and older can possess up to 2.5 ounces (70.9 grams) of cannabis without penalty.