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Proposal to allow on-site cannabis use gets pushback from some Maine agencies

In this Oct. 2, 2019 photo a customer smokes a joint while having a salad at Lowell's Original Cannabis Cafe in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Richard Vogel
/
AP
In this Oct. 2, 2019 photo a customer smokes a joint while having a salad at Lowell's Original Cannabis Cafe in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

An effort to allow cannabis to be consumed at the same place it's sold is running into opposition from Maine's Attorney General and highway safety bureau.

State lawmakers have wrestled with allowing on-site consumption of cannabis ever since Maine voters legalized adult use of the drug in 2016.

That citizen initiated law allowed for so-called social clubs where cannabis could be consumed, but the provision was struck from the law when the legislature finally implemented it several years later.

A proposal by Democratic Rep. Lynne Williams, of Bar Harbor, and sponsored by several Republicans and Democrats, reintroduces the concept and would allow for cannabis consumption in an area separate from a cannabis retail store.

But the proposal is running into opposition from Attorney General Aaron Frey, who said in written testimony to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee that the proposal is in direct conflict with Maine's 14 year-old ban on public smoking.

The proposal also received a tepid reception from John Hudak, director of the Office of Cannabis Policy.

"We want to be supportive of the economic development opportunities presented by this expansion of the adult-use cannabis program, but this bill as written is entirely inadequate to serve as the basis for establishing on-premise public consumption sites," he said.

Hudak told lawmakers that the bill doesn't specify whether alcohol sales would be prohibited, establish labeling criteria or even whether on-consumption sites should be licensed separately from cannabis retail stores.

He recommended that the committee work with his office to draft an alternative proposal.

Maine would become one of roughly a dozen states allowing on-site consumption of cannabis should lawmakers ultimately pass a bill.

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