Failure to support the proposal will allow flawed aspects of the original referendum to take effect, says Falmouth Rep. Teresa Pierce.
Last November, Maine citizens narrowly passed a referendum to legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana.
Once that referendum was passed, the Legislature was tasked with the critical, and considerable, responsibility of implementing the law.
Seventeen lawmakers from both parties, including myself, agreed to help shape Maine’s adult-use marijuana industry as members of the Joint Select Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee for the 128th Legislature.
From the start our committee, which was comprised both of those in favor of the referendum and those who were not, was committed to making sure that the implementation of the referendum that passed last November not only respected the will of voters, but also reflected the close nature of the vote.
We did our best to establish a strictly regulated adult-use marijuana industry while also providing a system that embraces local control and personal rights and protects our youth and communities.
Since January, we have listened to public input on every aspect relating to marijuana use. We conducted detailed work sessions, welcomed experts from Colorado and examined laws from around the country to shape our response to the complicated aspects of Maine’s new law.
It was important to me that we learned from what had been done well in other states and heard what lessons were learned, in order to craft legislation that provided Maine solutions to problems that could arise in the creation of this new industry.
It was also crucial that we protected the right of communities to make their own choices about the sale and growth of marijuana.
We took a step forward earlier this month in our efforts to implement the referendum by reporting out our committee recommendations.
The draft bill, known as LR 2395, An Act to Amend the Marijuana Legalization Act, makes critical changes to the original referendum while protecting the core tenets of the law as passed by Maine voters.
LR 2395 prioritizes local control by allowing municipalities to decide for themselves whether or not they will participate in growing or retail sales of marijuana. If they choose to participate, a portion of the revenue generated in their communities will go back to their towns to help cover some of the associated costs.
The bill also includes provisions to tax recreational marijuana at close to an effective rate of 20 percent – double the referendum’s 10 percent, which would have been the lowest rate of the states that have legalized marijuana. Maine will have a 10 percent sales tax on point of final purchase at retail facilities and an excise tax, of effectively 10 percent, at the point of sale from cultivation facility to manufacturing or retail facility.
In addition, portions of total revenue will be dedicated to an Adult Use Marijuana Public Health and Safety Fund. The fund will focus on youth prevention programs and public health and safety awareness programs while also providing funding for enhanced law enforcement training programs across our state on an ongoing basis.
In another matter of public safety, we have proposed a moratorium on social clubs until 2019 and have prohibited drive-thrus and internet sales, all which would be theoretically permissible under current law starting February 2019.
These are just a few details from the 70-page draft bill. The Legislature will convene for a special session Monday, and our recommendations will be a focal point for full discussion by the House and Senate.
Despite some misconceptions, failure to support this bipartisan bill will not result in the repeal of recreational marijuana legalization in Maine. Failing to pass this bill will result in confusion and allow flawed aspects of the original referendum to take effect despite our unified efforts to make this new industry, our communities and our state safer.
I’m proud of the work the committee has done to ensure marijuana legalization for adults moves forward while providing local control and protecting the youth and safety of our communities.
I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and Gov. Le-Page to work together to honor the results of the referendum vote and craft responsible legislation to ensure safe implementation of adult-use recreational marijuana as passed by voters.
This bipartisan legislation, crafted by pro-legalization and anti-legalization lawmakers, stakeholders and the public, creates a comprehensive regulatory framework that provides for safeguards against minor access while promoting youth prevention. It also has clear guidance for municipalities and a thoughtful distribution of tax revenues.
We have one opportunity to comprehensively and thoughtfully lay the groundwork for the marijuana industry to begin in Maine. LR 2395 does this in a responsible and professional manner.
BY TERESA PIERCE –SPECIAL TO THE PRESS HERALD