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Maine Lawmakers Consider Switching Oversight of Retail Pot Sales to Alcohol Agency

AUGUSTA, Maine - The legislative committee implementing Maine's new recreational marijuana are considering switching the oversight of retail sales from the state agriculture agency to the one that regulates alcohol.

The legalization law approved by voters in November originally tasked the Agriculture Department with the licensing and testing of retail pot. But Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon and Gov. Paul LePage believe the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations is a better fit.

Gideon's bill also directs $1.6 million to the agency for consultants and rulemaking. The bill is supported by legalization advocates, including Alysia Melnick, who helped lead last year's ballot campaign.

"We should try to create a system that reflects Maine's values, Maine's demographics and Maine's experience," Melnick said.

Some licensed caregivers in Maine's medical marijuana program oppose it.

Others who testified during the public hearing said they also support moving oversight of the medical marijuana program from the Department of Health and Human Services to the liquor agency.

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Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.