Maine has cut a deal with the losing bidder for the state’s marijuana consulting contract, agreeing to pay it $10,000 to drop its administrative appeal and analyze the winning bidder’s proposed recreational marijuana regulations.

The deal with BOTEC Analysis of Los Angeles, which wrote Washington State’s marijuana regulations, was cut on April 8, three days before Maine received draft rules from Freedman & Koski of Colorado, whose principals launched Colorado’s adult-use cannabis market. Freedman & Koski were hired to help the state craft regulations for Maine’s recreational and medical marijuana markets.

The Office of Marijuana Policy has so far refused to release the draft rules to the public, which prompted a freedom of access request from the Press Herald. In an email sent late Friday, OMP said it would release the draft next week.

The contract is not a settlement, said David Heidrich, an OMP policy analyst and the spokesman for the office’s parent agency, Department of Administrative and Financial Services. The state has admitted its past contracting mistakes, but had been prepared to defend itself from the BOTEC appeal, he said.

“The contract with BOTEC simply represents an opportunity for the Office of Marijuana Policy to have another set of eyes on the rules we’re developing and for Maine to benefit from the work of the two best consulting firms available,” Heidrich said Friday after announcing the contract.

The two nationally known marijuana consulting firms have been angling for the Maine contract for more than a year, submitting information packages to help Maine regulators rework the legalization referendum question and then fighting over the rule-making contract itself.

In December, Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services announced it was giving the contract to BOTEC, but pulled out after Freedman & Koski claimed its application was unfairly scored. In March, after soliciting new proposals, DAFS tapped Freedman & Koski instead.

That prompted an appeal from BOTEC, which raised concerns about failure to disclose a conflict of interest, but the state, facing a tight deadline to deliver draft recreational rules by June, moved ahead with Freedman & Koski anyway, rendering the appeal practically irrelevant.

Maine is paying Freedman & Koski $189,300 to write draft medical and adult-use rules, which will cover topics ranging from licensing to record keeping, and $10,000 to BOTEC to analyze Freedman & Koski’s recreational rule work. Most of the adult-use rules require legislative approval.

Maine voters approved recreational marijuana legalization at referendum in November 2016, but the path to commercial licensing and sales has faced a number of legislative and gubernatorial hurdles, including a legislative overhaul and two vetoes by Gov. Paul LePage, an opponent of legalization.

Under new Gov. Janet Mills, DAFS  Commissioner Kirsten Figueroa hired Erik Gundersen to head up a newly created Office of Marijuana Policy and oversee a timely rollout of the market, which Gundersen said will happen in 2019, but so far, the state has awarded and subsequently pulled out of two cannabis contracts.

The $189,000 contract is pocket change for the consulting firms, who are big players in the North American cannabis market. But inking a modest deal with Maine can help them land the next state job in a more lucrative emerging cannabis market, like New York, New Jersey or Illinois.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: PLOvertonPPH

 

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