The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee of Maine’s Assembly has voted 7-2 approving the draft rules for the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state. The approved rules relax the residency requirements included with the purpose of keeping out-of-state companies from moving in and controlling the recreational market at the expense of local companies.
The committee removed language that limited out-of-state players from having majority stake in recreational marijuana companies which operate within Maine. In its place, the committee left a provision to the effect that Mainers who have resided in the state for at least four years will have 51 percent ownership of any company to be licensed to conduct business in the recreational marijuana arena. This means that the local ownership can be several individuals or entities as long as their combined stake adds up to 51 percent in the company.
Erik Gundersen, the head of the Office of Marijuana Policy, said his office wants to see the tools which will make it possible for the letter and the spirit of the law to be implemented. He added that the law should be made by Mainers, within Maine and for the benefit of Mainers.
The Maine Office of Marijuana Policy was instrumental in including language which specifically sought to lock out large corporations from using out-of-state management contracts to dominate the local recreational cannabis market in the fashion of what is happening in Massachusetts and even in the medical marijuana program of Maine.
However, not everyone was thrilled with that proposal to lock out out-of-state companies. Some people said that the provision would be counterproductive because it would hurt the interests of Mainers in the long run since the capital and technical expertise of out-of-state operators was needed to kick-start the recreational marijuana industry. They cited the example of manufacturing equipment which costs millions and would be out of reach for most local investors.
Wellness Connection of Maine, the biggest medical marijuana company in the state, had even threatened to sue the regulator if the original text of the bill was retained in the final language of the law. The company felt that the provision about out-of-state companies was targeting it since it has complex management contracts with out-of-state operators.
The time at which marijuana companies should close their doors also generated a lot of debate in the committee. The original bill stipulated that retail outlets should close at 9pm, but this was changed to 10pm to avoid sending people to black market players. Law enforcement agencies had pushed for the 9pm closing time.
The committee decided that local authorities shouldn’t have the right to set their own operating hours for cannabis businesses. However, cannabis businesses could apply to open for extended hours and the regulator would consider their request on a case-by-case basis.
Now that the bill has been cleared by the committee, advocates hope that the entire House will vote on it before the legislative session ends on June 19.
Marijuana industry analysts hope that the cannabis industry, including players like Wildflower Brands Inc. (CSE: SUN) (OTCQB: WLDFF) and VPR Brands LP (OTC: VPRB), will be happy that a robust debate was conducted and the strongest arguments won the day during the committee session.
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