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Retail pot regulations won't be implemented by February deadline

Mainers will have to wait a little longer than expected to buy and sell retail marijuana, as lawmakers say regulations won't be in place for the original February 2018 deadline.

AUGUSTA (WGME) -- Mainers will have to wait a little longer than expected to buy and sell retail marijuana, as lawmakers say regulations won't be in place for the original February 2018 deadline.

A special legislative committee tasked with implementing legalization has continued working through the summer. Committee Chair, Sen. Roger Katz, (R) Augusta, said it's a big task and one they'd rather get right, than rush to get done.

Katz said they have to build an entirely new structure to regulate and oversee what's been an illegal industry up until now.

"Either way, people are going to be out there buying it and we want to make sure they can do it in a safe way, a way that protects kids from getting their hands on it and a way that allows us to tax it appropriately, too," Katz said.

Katz said the general consensus on that tax is 20 percent, what many feel is a fair balance.

"Maximize the revenue, but we keep people in the legal market," he said.

The committee has had to look at everything from licensing and labeling, to public safety and rules about growing at home. Marijuana advocates said social clubs have been among the most controversial issues.

"We do have concerns," said David Boyer with the Marijuana Policy Project. "They want to put a moratorium on social clubs and even outright prohibition on on-site consumption."

"All of these things are very thorny issues and just take a lot of time, thought and discussion," said Katz.

The committee is working on drafting a bill for a public hearing at the end of September and then hoping to present it to the full legislature in October, if lawmakers agree to come back for a special session.

"It's probably going to be next summer before actual retail stores get open with legal product," Katz said.

"It'll be over a year soon (since) marijuana has been legal in Maine and we're still going to the same old places and that needs to change," said Boyer.

The bill will be labeled emergency legislation so it can take effect right away, meaning it will need a 2/3 majority vote to pass.

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