State lawmakers want to get rid of Maine’s prohibition on the delivery of recreational marijuana.

The legislative committee that oversees adult-use cannabis voted 7-3 in favor of a bill that would give the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy the authority to create an adult-use marijuana delivery license. The bill would leave the timing of when to move ahead with delivery licensing up to state regulators.

That’s unlikely to happen any time soon, even if the bill, L.D. 1621, were to become law.

State regulators opposed the initial version of the bill crafted by Senate President Troy Jackson requiring the immediate creation of a delivery license category, arguing it would require the agency to rework all of its licensing regulations and delay the long-awaited launch of the recreational market.

“A select few other states, with markets significantly more mature, provide for delivery of marijuana and marijuana products direct to consumers,” said Gabrielle Pierce, policy director for the Office of Marijuana Policy. “Maine is not at that point.”

At least not yet.

“It is likely that we would support a change of this magnitude once the Adult Use Marijuana Program has matured to the point of consistent compliance by licensees and (documented) a marked reduction in black-market sales,” Pierce said.

But Monday’s committee vote signals a major political shift on cannabis delivery. During an extensive 18-month rewrite of the 2016 legalization ballot initiative, lawmakers banned selling adult-use marijuana by vending machine, drive-through window, online sales platform or delivery service.

Meanwhile, medical cannabis providers have always been allowed to deliver their products. Until two years ago, delivery was the only legal way for most medical marijuana caregivers to get their products to consumers, said Catherine Lewis, director of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine.

The state’s medical law doesn’t explicitly authorize or prohibit delivery of medical marijuana, said David Heidrich, spokesman for the Office of Marijuana Policy. And in Maine, when the law is silent, the activity is allowed. That is why state lawmakers added a list of prohibited activities to the 2018 recreational marijuana law.

Sen. Scott Cyrway, R-Kennebec, fell two votes shy of quashing Jackson’s delivery bill on Monday. He said voters are worried drug dealers may knock on the door trying to sell marijuana out of a suitcase. Children who answer the door could be at risk, he warned. Empty houses could be burglarized.

Although they fought back Cyrway’s attack, bill supporters initially failed to win committee support – until they negotiated a compromise during one of the committee’s many breaks on an amendment to ban home deliveries after 7 p.m. Eventually, the bill passed out of committee with a 7-3 favorable vote.

The committee also voted in favor of a bill to deal with the lack of marijuana testing labs that will be ready to conduct safety and potency tests on adult-use marijuana when the market launches this spring. The bill, L.D. 1545, is intended to help the first labs focus on testing rather than collecting samples.

Under current state law, marijuana testing labs must collect samples at the cultivation site, processing facility or kitchen where the plant is grown, or the edible, tincture, lotion or oil is made. Having the labs collect the samples would prevent businesses from skewing test results in their favor.

Members of the industry complained that lab sampling would drive the already high cost of testing up even more and lead to long delays, especially for those businesses that are growing or manufacturing cannabis products in the far-flung corners of the state, hours from the first lab likely to be licensed.

As a compromise, the testing bill would allow businesses to submit their own test samples to the licensed testing lab through October 2021. The bill would allow the state to audit those businesses that collect their own samples. Inconsistent results would lead to revocation of their license and fines of up to $100,000.

Businesses that didn’t want to run that risk could pay a licensed third-party vendor to collect their samples and deliver them to the testing lab. These collectors would let the five testing labs that the Office of Marijuana Policy expects to be licensed by 2021 focus on testing rather than sampling.

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