The Democratic governor of Maine, Janet Mills, signed a bill into law last week establishing the legal framework for the sale of cannabis to adults by 2020.
According to the governor's offices, the state's new Office of Marijuana Policy intends to begin accepting applications for cannabis licenses prior to the end of 2019.
Although adult-use of recreational marijuana is already legal in the state, until recently Maine's government had neglected to establish the necessary legal groundwork for commercial sales. The state had also previously voted to legalise the sale of adult-use recreational marijuana in November 2016, before the bill was hit with months of delays orchestrated by the former governor of Maine, Paul LePage.
Governor Mills has confirmed that her administration is working diligently to ensure that the voter-approved law is implemented as quickly as possible. Municipalities will be given the option of opting in or out of allowing cannabis sales, with only a small number of cities and towns having established a framework for retail cannabis sales thus far.
"Over the course of the last several months, my administration has worked quickly to implement the law regarding Maine's adult-use recreational marijuana market as Maine voters asked the state to do 2½ years ago."
– Maine Governor, Janet Mills
"The rule development demonstrates what can be accomplished when state government works with lawmakers, industry stakeholders and the public to accomplish a shared goal."
"With this law, we are one step closer to honouring the will of Maine voters," Mills said.
The Maine Office of Marijuana Policy developed the state's new adult-use regulations in conjunction with seven different state agencies, two cannabis consultancies—Freedman and Koski of Colorado and BOTEC Analysis of Los Angeles— and the legal cultivation industry.
Under the new law, residents of Maine who have lived in the state for at least four years will be able to qualify for a license if they own at least 51% of a cannabis company. The Office of Marijuana Policy will also be given the power to impose an administrative hold on licensees by the state government.
The bill will officially come into effect in September, with the Office of Marijuana Policy receiving a subsequent 60 days to finalise regulations. Following this, the state will begin accepting applications for licenses within 30 days. In the lead-up, the state government will be developing a new public health and safety campaign, along with figuring out how to track, trace and license the new industry.
The Director of the Office of Marijuana Policy, Erik Gundersen, stated that "the Office of Marijuana Policy has set several ambitious timelines since being established in February, and we are proud to have been able to meet all of them."
"We have drafted these rules with a view toward keeping the public's health and safety at the forefront."
"We are working incredibly hard to get this thing rolled out. There are people in my office that are working, no lie, seven days a week to make sure we can get this adult-use industry rolled out in 2019," Gundersen said.