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Recreational Marijuana Opponents Urge Tough Regulations

Mal Leary
Maine Public
Scott Gagnon, of the group Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities, urges tough regulations on recreational marijuana at a press event Tuesday.

Opponents of the citizen initiative approved by voters in November to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Maine are calling for tough restrictions as the law is implemented.

At a State House news conference Scott Gagnon of the No on One coalition cited the close margin of victory for supporters, and pointed to provisions in the law that need to be addressed.

“First and foremost, the loophole that allows the lawful possession of marijuana by youth must be closed immediately,” he says. “We believe this was a mistake in drafting, however, the campaign is over now and it’s time to acknowledge and very quickly address this very critical hole.”

Gagnon says the Legislature should ban virtually all advertising by pot retailers, and prohibit the sale of certain edibles such as gummy bears, citing the experience of Colorado after passage of its marijuana law.

“Frankly we would propose looking at banning certain types of edibles that are inherently appealing to youth. These products will pose one of the biggest risks to youth because of their innate appeal to children,” he says.

David Boyer, who headed the campaign in support of Question 1, acknowledges the edibles issue as it relates to minors. Colorado, he says, acted this summer to address the issue.

“They banned edibles that were in the shape or color that would be attractive towards minors and we agree with that. What we don’t agree with is the outright ban on edibles. We don’t think that makes sense and would just encourage a black market,” he says.

Boyer says his group would agree to any fair changes needed to implement the law.

“So long as the will of the voters remains intact, that we are making marijuana legal for adults and giving them a safe legal place to purchase marijuana. So with this issue, I am sure legislators will put something quickly in place if there is an issue,” he says.

The initiated measure would have the Department of Agriculture develop the rules to oversee the sale of marijuana in the state. Gov. Paul LePage, in his weekly radio appearance on Bangor radio station WVOM, says that makes little sense.

LePage says the Legislature needs to decide how to regulate the industry and give the Executive Branch the money and authority to do the job. He suggests the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, or BABLO, as a better place to establish oversight.

“It’s going to be $5 million or $6 million or they can send it over to BABLO and maybe we can get away with just hiring more people, because the infrastructure is already there, but short of them giving me money, I don’t do anything,” he says.

Attorney General Janet Mills says lawmakers have to act quickly to correct any immediate problems created by the initiative, including any loopholes affecting the possession or use of marijuana by minors.

“People need to sit down and fix those provisions and make sure it is regulated like alcohol. For instance, if you are running a social club or a distributorship of some sort and you sell to a minor, what is the intent there? There is just no penalty in the bill,” she says.

Mills says she has often seen citizen-initiated bills based on language crafted in other states with different laws.

“There are problems with this bill. It’s quite different than the law that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts just passed, it’s quite different than the law in Alaska, it’s quite different than the law in Colorado,” she says.

Mills says she has drafted legislation that would establish a Cannabis Commission to advise the Legislature on implementation issues. She says all sides would be represented on the panel, which would make recommendations to the Legislature on how to address both known and emerging issues.

Legislative leaders say there are several bills being drafted for the session that begins in January in response to Question 1.