Maine Lawmakers Prepare For Recreational Marijuana Sales-And The Pungent Cash Problem It May Create

Oct 6, 2019

Mainers will not be able to buy recreational marijuana until sometime next year, when the state is expected to put in place all the rules and regulations governing its sale. The state also needs to build specialized facilities to handle the cash flow.

Lawmakers approved a set of rules for retail marijuana sales before adjourning in June, but Erik Gundersen, director of the state Office of Marijuana Policy, says lawmakers will need to make some tweaks when they return in January. He says his agency still has a lot of work to do to implement the voter approved law.

“Making sure that we have all of the applications put together, making sure we have the correct channels of communications to be able to get the information that we need from different agencies within state government that we need for the application process,” Gundersen says.

Maine and other states that permit recreational marijuana sales run into one significant snag, he says — federal law prohibits banks from handling money from those transactions. Jerome Gerard, Executive Director of Maine Revenue Services, says the agency will need to renovate part of its building to include a facility to handle the tax payments that are made in cash. The agency already has several security measures in place, including screening everyone who visits the building.

“We’ve got cameras all around the outside perimeter of the building,” says Gerard. “Places we are vulnerable like where electricity entrances, we’ve placed jersey barriers.”

Additionally, Gerard says all packages coming into the building will need to be x-rayed, and the guards will carry weapons. And Gerard says that the agency is working to address another problem with marijuana — it has a strong smell that gets absorbed by the paper cash, which he says some state workers refuse to handle.

“Smells are an issue,” he says. “Some employees want nothing to do with it for moral reasons and/or the smells. What we are doing in the special cash room is, we made sure we have the strongest air exchange possible.”

Gerard says the agency will also use electronic cash-counting machines to minimize the contact with staff. He says the facility will easily handle the $3 to $4 million in tax revenue that the new law is expected to generate in its first year, and it can be expanded to handle more in later years.

Originally published 4:33 p.m. Oct. 4, 2019.