Now that the voters of Maine legalized the growing, possession and use of recreational marijuana, we are all set, right?

Well, not exactly! Flipping the switch to making something legal is just the beginning. There are dozens of other considerations from regulations to taxes to packaging to think about. So let’s start with what we know, what we don’t know, and how we are going to bridge the two.

Here’s what we know: Twenty-eight pages of proposed statute were condensed in a 46-word ballot question that legalized possession of marijuana as well as the ability to grow small amounts for personal use.

Here’s what we don’t know: How are we going to make this work here in Maine?


• Since adult possession is now completely legal, is there a continuing need for a separate medical marijuana system?

• How do we ensure that patients will continue to have access to the strains and tinctures they need?


• Although the referendum legalized use and possession for those 21 and older, should we take a second look at the legal age? Medical literature increasingly suggests that the brain is not fully developed until age 26 and can be damaged by regular marijuana use.

• How can we best assure that we are not increasing the risk on our state highdways? Is there now an accurate test for marijuana impairment? Should we be training more drug impairment recognition officers?


• How should we license and oversee a whole new industry – from commercial growers to production facilities to retail sellers? Should we just start out with a limited number of each or should we be wide open and let the free market sort things out?

• How should we regulate the production of edibles to keep these out of the hands of our children and the mouths of our pets? Should we ban edibles that look too much like kids’ snacks?

• What labeling requirements should we impose so consumers will know the content and potency of what they are about to buy?

• Should we set up the system to encourage and favor Maine small business?

• How will legalization affect the employer-employee relationship?


• To what extent should we look to this new industry as a source of tax revenue to help fund important public policy priorities such as education or transportation? If we tax too much, will we drive consumers back to the black market?

• How should we set licensing fees at a sufficient level to fund our ability to oversee and regulate this new industry going forward?


• How should we structure our system given that federal laws still criminalize the use and possession of marijuana?

• How can we set up a system best positioned to allow banks and credit unions to participate consistent with federal law?

We have a big task ahead. But the good news is that we can look at the experience of other states that have previously legalized recreational marijuana, such as Colorado, Oregon and the state of Washington. And we have a brand-new Joint (no jokes, please) Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization Implementation to draft recommendations for the whole Legislature to consider. I am proud to be the Senate chair, and along with House Chair Teresa Pierce and 15 of our colleagues, we are ready to get to work.

Throughout our inquiry, we will look for input from interested parties and ordinary citizens alike. Your first opportunity to weigh in will be a public comment session Tuesday at 1 p.m. in Room 216 of the Cross Office Building. Please come and share your thoughts with us: How do you think we should answer some of the challenges set out above? Are there other issues we should be considering?

We will do our best to learn and come up with the best possible result – a regulatory plan that serves our state well.

One last thing: For those of you who think we can get this work done quickly, I have some advice – take a deep breath and be patient. Getting this done quickly is not as important as getting it done right. That’s what we intend to do.

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