Maine Municipal Law Update: Biennial Budget, Marijuana Legalization & Opportunity Agenda

Friday, April 14, 2017

Maine's Biennial Budget

Legislative work continues to steadily flow in Augusta, Maine as more bills are taken up by policy committees and many of them are meeting passage or being killed. In addition, the state’s biennial budget is slowly inching forward as the Appropriations & Financial Committee has accepted non-controversial initiatives, and will soon tackle the more contentious ones.

The Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee

In the meantime, the implementation of adult-use marijuana legalization continues to pose interesting and as-yet undecided policy questions to the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee (MLI) and the State House’s respective party caucuses.

The MLI has thus far held a series of public hearings allowing any and all members of the public to voice a range of opinions around marijuana policy, including the state’s preexisting medical program. However, only LD 243 has been taken up in MLI. This bill, after being extensively worked by the committee received a 16-1 “ought to pass as amended” vote.  It is now poised to establish a “hub and spokes” model of licensing that would be centered on the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS) with major “spokes” extending to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations (BABLO) and the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF). BABLO, an organization that exists within DAFS, would regulate packaging and retail, while DACF would regulate cultivation. 

The Committee will continue to meet regularly through the end of session and continue through the interim period between sessions.  The Committee is likely to hold several more large public hearings throughout the spring that will cluster individual bills based on their proposals and the different aspects of legalization implementation.

Opportunity Agenda

In other news, Legislative Democrats unveiled the “Opportunity Agenda” last week, a counter-proposal to the most recent LePage biennial budget. The program is touted by Democrats as providing the largest property tax cut in history, funded partially through new revenues created by adult-use marijuana legalization.