Members of the New Hampshire legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee met on January 19, 2022. Credit: Zoom

Maine’s legislature is considering legalizing adult-use delivery, but whether or not delivery is allowed across the state remains a point of contention, particularly from municipalities that have yet to approve recreational retail in their town or city. The opposing viewpoints came through public comments made during a Jan. 19 hearing of the state legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.

“A lot of communities haven’t opted in. I think there are no communities in Washington County at all that allow retail adult-use,” said Rep. Joe Perry, who sponsored bill LD 1621. “We don’t want people to have to drive long distances or look to the illegal market.”

Kate Dufour, of the Maine Municipal Association, spoke out against the delivery bill, specifically on the grounds that it would allow delivery in communities that had not yet voted to allow adult-use retailers into town.

“This presents a process for eroding future local control. First we start with delivery, what’s next? Is it requiring municipalities to allow stores in their downtown? or cultivation operations in their agricultural zone?,” she asked. “It sets this precedence that even though there’s an opt-in, there is a level of state regulation that will supersede what the communities want”

Maine has 492 separate municipalities. Of those, only about 50 have voted to allow recreational cannabis retailers to do business. This means that a vast majority of the state does not allow local retail for adult-use cannabis customers – an especially significant consideration for the large, rural areas north of the Seacoast.

The bill would allow delivery to anywhere in the state, but it limits delivery to companies that exclusively operate adult-use retail operations, and not cultivation or manufacturing. It also limits delivery to companies that only buy flower from tier-1 cultivators, which are limited to 500 square feet of canopy or 30 plants.

“I’m not a marijuana enthusiast as many people obviously are in Maine, but I’m really excited by this new industry in the state of Maine and the young industry with so many small operators and Mainers to be a part of,” said Perry.

There was an earlier version of the bill, but it died in committee in 2020. Perry suggested that this was partially a result of a legislative slowdown due to Covid-19.

Rep. Patrick Corey, who was an active member of the legislative community that rewrote adult-use rules in 2019, noted that there were a variety of reasons for municipalities to decline to approve adult-use retail, such as wanting a local sales tax, not wanting to go through the process of writing local cannabis rules, along with moral obligations to cannabis consumption.

Matt Bayliss, who runs Gele in South Portland, argued in favor of the bill, but only if it continued to allow delivery across the state, rather than being bound to communities that have voted to allow adult-use cannabis retail in their municipality.

“I think that would just cannibalize retail licenses. You gotta open the pool up. You can’t just allow larger, better monetized firms to cannibalize sales,” he said. “Delivery is being set up in all other regulated states. I think it’s an inevitability.”

Alex McMahan, who operates both an adult-use and medical cannabis business in the state, argued that allowing recreational delivery was necessary to combat the proliferation of the illicit market.

“Delivery has been happening for as long as cannabis and cars have been around. Currently the delivery market in Maine lives on the medical market and on the illicit market. This is a fact that can only change with the passage of LD 1827,” he said. “The only way a regulated market is going to be able to compete with the illicit market is if it’s allowed to compete.”

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...