The first appointments to Maine’s Marijuana Advisory Commission are lobbyists with ties to the state’s largest medical cannabis dispensary and the Yes on One campaign.

The 15-member panel was created to review state recreational and medical marijuana laws and recommend changes needed to preserve the public’s health and safety, preserve the intent of the 2016 citizen initiative that legalized adult-use marijuana, and integrate the state’s adult-use and medical cannabis laws, rules and programs. The commission will make recommendations to the Legislature but hold no direct regulatory power.

“We did a lot of work, but there’s still a lot left to do,” said Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, one of the lawmakers who will serve on the commission. “First of all, I think we need to get the market up and running. Canada is on line. Massachusetts has opened its first couple stores. New Hampshire is thinking about it. It is time for us to implement the will of the people here in Maine.”

Others to be named to the commission include:

Attorney Dan Walker of Preti Flaherty in Portland, a lobbyist for the Wellness Connection, Maine’s biggest medical dispensary, will represent the medical industry.

Attorney Hannah King of Drummond Woodsum in Portland, a lobbyist for Maine Professionals for Regulating Marijuana, will represent the adult-use industry.

Alysia Melnick, a lawyer who served as the political director of the Yes on One legalization campaign, will hold one of two seats reserved for the public.

Pierce, former co-chairwoman of the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee, which overhauled the legalization law.

Rep. Donald Marean, R-Hollis, a former implementation committee member who voted against the citizen initiative in 2016 but supported the 2018 legislation.

King, Melnick, Pierce and Marean were named by House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, who claimed a second term as House leader last month. She will appoint a public health policy expert to the board later this week, said Erik Gunderson, a policy adviser to Gideon. Walker was chosen by outgoing Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport. His other picks – a state prosecutor, a member of the public and two state lawmakers – remain unknown.

The final members are the commissioners of state agencies, including administrative and financial services, which has regulatory authority over medical and adult use marijuana; agriculture, which will consult on cultivation laws and enforcement; health and human services, which used to oversee medical cannabis; and labor and public safety, which will consult on how marijuana legalization and overconsumption affects the workplace and the state highways.

Gov.-elect Janet Mills has yet to name any successors to the commissioners appointed by Gov. Paul LePage, so the identities of these final appointments will not be known until she has picked her Cabinet. The new commissioners will have the power to designate proxies to attend the advisory commission meetings in their place, so it could be weeks before the committee is fully formed.

The commission does not have a date for its first meeting, but Pierce said it is likely to be sometime at the start of the legislative session. There will be a lot for the members to do as the Legislature considers ways to tweak the law enacted last May – over a veto by LePage, a staunch marijuana opponent – and looks at rules that will be written to implement the state licensing system by a new marijuana consultant the state expects to hire this month.

The commission will hold annual hearings to solicit comment on how the new marijuana laws are affecting the way the police and public interact, collect data on how legalization is impacting Maine, and tackle big-picture issues that the legislative panel did not have time to address last year, such as whether Maine needs to build its own cannabis enforcement department or bureau within the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, Pierce said.

Penelope Overton can be contacted at 791-6463 or at:

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