Maine regulators urged to put small recreational marijuana businesses first

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Maine cannabis enthusiasts used a public hearing on Thursday to implore regulators to protect the small businesses and growers they think should make up the backbone of the state’s budding marijuana industry.

The Maine Office of Marijuana Policy held the public hearing about the state’s draft recreational marijuana rules, which are nearing approval after years of delay.

State officials have said adult-use marijuana could be available in stores in early 2020, or possibly even sooner, but the state first needs to pass a legal framework.

Charles Hawkins, who owns a North Windham dispensary, argued regulators need to use the rules to prevent corporate marijuana interests from overrunning the state’s small cannabis industry.

“Maine doesn’t need 10 marijuana companies with 500 employees. It needs 500 marijuana companies with 10 employees,” Hawkins said.

The proposed rules would limit licenses to state residents for the first two years.

Speakers at the hearing also called on regulators to approve a tax structure that isn’t punitive for retailers and users but will deter people from buying product in the black market.

Voters in Maine approved legal recreational use of marijuana in a 2016 vote. The draft rules must still be approved by the Maine Legislature before they can be implemented. The rules cover issues such as licensure, retailing and taxation.

The state is still taking public comment on the proposed rules until June 2, said Erik Gundersen, the director of the marijuana office. The state could then provisionally accept the rules and the legislative process could begin.

– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily