Maine is relaxing packaging and residency requirements in its latest version of proposed marijuana rules.

The changes come in response to industry complaints about the excessive cost and environmental impact of proposed packaging rules and residency restrictions that threatened to shut off the flow of out-of-state investment and expertise into Maine’s burgeoning adult-use market.

“The rules are the result of a collaborative effort between the state of Maine, our rulemaking consultants, the public, and the many stakeholders that participated,” said Erik Gundersen, the director of the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy. “The goal has been to put forth the best rules and regulations possible.”

The state office, created just four months ago, submitted its proposed adult-use cannabis regulations to state legislative offices Wednesday, transferring control of the circuitous 31-month adult-use legalization process back to lawmakers in hopes of launching the new market by the end of 2019.

The proposed rules require legislative approval before Maine can issue recreational cultivation, retail and manufacturing licenses. The Office of Marijuana Policy hopes to get approval before the Legislature breaks for the summer on June 19. If it does, it could start accepting license applications in November.

Residency requirements in the proposed rules have been simplified to reflect what state lawmakers who overhauled the 2016 citizen initiative intended and to clarify the rules that govern majority ownership of marijuana companies, and how local businesses can be funded.

Some medical marijuana caregivers advocated for looser investment rules, saying Maine doesn’t have the deep pockets needed to give them the boost they need. Out-of-state companies that have financial interests in Maine medical companies and want to jump into the adult-use market complained, too.

One of those companies is Acreage Holdings Inc., which has controlling interest in Wellness Connection, Maine’s biggest medical marijuana operator. Acreage claimed the initially proposed investor rules would have shut it out of the market.

“The residency requirements in the proposed rules are far more restrictive and appear to be designed, even more than the underlying statute, to prevent companies like Acreage from participating in Maine’s adult use market,” it said of the first proposed rules. ‘This is discriminatory, protectionist and unconstitutional.”

Acreage threatened to sue if the rules were not amended.

The department agreed to change that part of the rules, in part, but insisted that it maintained the right to do whatever is necessary to “pierce the corporate veil” to make sure that out-of-state interests don’t control Maine’s recreational marijuana businesses.

More details were not available Wednesday night from the Office of Marijuana Policy, which issued a news release about its submitted rules Wednesday afternoon.

OMP also scaled back packaging requirements for marijuana products after would-be business owners at last month’s public hearing complained they would add undue costs to future licensees and add to plastic waste at a time when most businesses are trying to cut back on packaging and environmental impacts.

In addition, under the new proposed rules, testing facilities may now be located next to other marijuana businesses, provided they have separate entrances accessible from public rights of way. Originally, OMP had wanted to keep testing labs far away from other marijuana businesses to ensure their neutrality.

The rules now go to the Office of Policy and Legal Analysis for review, the Legislative Council for official acceptance beyond the usual deadline and Revisor of Statutes for language review. The rules then go to a legislative committee for consideration, and a second public hearing, before a vote by the full Legislature.

 

 


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