Jan. 20—Marijuana users across Maine may soon be able to have cannabis delivered right to their doors.
Legislators on the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs on Wednesday heard comments on a bill that would allow retail marijuana stores to deliver marijuana and other products anywhere in the state, regardless of whether the town has "opted in" to the state's recreational program.
According to Rep. Joe Perry, D-Bangor, who drafted L.D. 1827, there are many areas in Maine that have very limited access to adult-use cannabis because the majority of towns have not opted-in.
Washington County, for example, has no towns that permit recreational marijuana stores, he said, but that doesn't prohibit residents from using it.
Allowing delivery would support businesses, keep people from having to drive long distances, and potentially using marijuana while driving, and could keep people from turning to the illegal market, he said.
Alex McMahan, CEO of The Healing Community MEDCo, a Lewiston-based retail cannabis company, and a member of the Maine Cannabis Industry Association Legislative Committee, said delivery would also increase access for elderly and disabled residents and those who might not feel comfortable with or have interest in getting a medical card.
Other bill supporters noted that it would be important to allow delivery across the entire state, not just the roughly 10 percent of Maine's nearly 500 municipalities that opted to allow adult-use marijuana sales.
But Kate Dufour, legislative advocate for the Maine Municipal Association, said the bill's passage would be the "first step in eroding the local control granted to municipal officials."
It's a dangerous precedent, she said, adding that the "restriction the bill places on municipalities (to ban retail marijuana) is a limit on the will and desire of Maine residents," who only narrowly voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016.
Other opponents of the bill expressed concerns that delivery would increase the chance of marijuana being over-used, could increase the risk of exposure to children, and would be difficult to regulate and enforce correctly.
Legislators banned selling adult-use marijuana by vending machine, drive-through window, online sales platform or delivery service during the 2018 rewrite of the 2016 ballot initiative.
Medical cannabis providers have always been allowed to deliver their products.
The state's medical law doesn't explicitly authorize or prohibit delivery of medical marijuana, and in Maine, when the law is silent, the activity is allowed. That is why state lawmakers added a list of prohibited activities to the 2018 recreational marijuana law.
But supporters of the bill say that allowing delivery for the recreational market is the only way to allow participants to compete with the medical and illicit markets.
"Cannabis delivery has been happening in Maine for as long as cannabis and cars have been around," McMahan said. The only way a regulated market can compete with the black market is if it is allowed to, he said.
This is not the first time legislators have considered allowing cannabis delivery.
Senate President Troy Jackson proposed a similar bill in early 2020, months before Maine's adult-use market was set to launch.
The bill, which ultimately failed, would have allowed licensed adult-use retail shops to employ drivers with clean driving and criminal records to deliver marijuana to adults only if the community where the delivery business is located, the one being delivered to and the state agreed to it.
A previous version of the bill, which more closely mirrored Perry's current proposal, would have allowed deliveries to towns that have not authorized recreational sales.
Jackson ultimately cut that from his bill because most Maine communities don't support marijuana sales in any form within their borders.
The veterans committee also heard comments on two other marijuana-related bills Wednesday.
One, L.D. 1846, would loosen some of the strict testing requirements for edibles, allowing for some degree of variance in potency.
Currently, manufactured edible products are not allowed to contain more than 10 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, per serving or 100 milligrams per item.
Even a product testing at 100.01 mg would not pass and cannot be sold.
Matt Hawes, the owner of THC-infused drink company Novel Beverage Company in Scarborough, likened it to having to throw out an entire batch of brownies for having a few extra grains of salt.
The bill, if passed, would allow the products to be 10 percent above or below the 10 mg or 100 mg threshold.
This would likely allow more manufacturers to make their products closer to the 10 mg standard.
Perry, who proposed the bill, said most manufacturers aim for potency significantly below 10 milligrams per serving because they cannot afford to go over.
The other bill, L.D. 1817, sponsored by Rep. Laura Supica, D-Bangor, would allow growers to track plants by group instead of individually.
The current system requires a plastic tag and tracking number to be placed on each plant and item, which Supica said can be costly, take up a lot of time and create a lot of plastic waste.
Tracking by group instead of individually is an opportunity to refine the program and make it more cost-effective for participants while not making regulation less effective, Supica said.
Cultivators called the existing requirements "cumbersome" and "ineffective."
Matt Bayliss, a small South Portland-based cultivator, said tagging and logging the information into METRC, the "seed-to-sale" system the state uses for tracking plants, takes between 10 and 20 percent of his staff's time.
Gabi Berube Pierce, policy director for the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy, though, said the bill as written would "dramatically impact the functionality of the state's inventory tracking system, including reducing transparency in the adult-use market."
The learning curve can be "steep and at times bumpy," she said, but added that the current system is designed to prevent product from getting into the illegal market.
Legislators will take up the discussion at a yet-to-be-scheduled work session.
Following years of delays, Maine's recreational program finally launched in October 2020.
Last year, the market brought in roughly $81 million.
According to the office of marijuana policy, there are 74 stores licensed to sell in the state, as well as three testing labs, 55 cultivation sites and 32 manufacturing sites.
There are 263 more stores, two testing labs, 153 cultivation sites and 84 manufacturing sites in various stages of the approval process.
Lawmakers will hear comments on another marijuana-related bill similar to the delivery proposal, to "authorize certain off-premises sales of adult use marijuana," on Jan. 31.