A new organization billing itself as a coalition of Maine business leaders has formed to advocate for stronger regulation of the burgeoning marijuana industry ahead of a statewide vote on whether to legalize the drug.
The organization, Maine Professionals for Regulating Marijuana, does not plan to take a stand on the legalization proposal appearing as Question 1 on this Novembers ballot. But organizers said Maine should take steps to improve regulation of the existing medical marijuana industry while looking to states such as Colorado and Washington for examples of what to do and not to do if voters legalize recreational marijuana use this fall.
Some people are for Question 1 and some people are opposed to Question 1, said Toby McGrath, a political consultant and spokesman for Maine Professionals for Regulating Marijuana. But even if Question 1 doesnt pass, this industry is here and needs to have more robust regulation and enforcement.
Maine first legalized marijuana for medicinal use in 1999 and currently has one of the nations most tightly regulated systems for dispensing the drug. On Nov. 8, Maine voters will decide whether to join the handful of states to also legalize recreational use of pot, and the referendum already is fueling a lively debate among law enforcement, medical marijuana users and critics of federal drug policies.
Maine Professionals for Regulating Marijuana declined to release a list of its members Monday but said they include financial institutions, accountants, lawyers, Realtors and elected officials. McGrath said the organization plans to participate in policy and regulatory discussions in Augusta, including before the Legislature.
McGrath previously worked for Sen. Angus King as a deputy chief of staff and for Democratic lawmakers.
While the groups official platform is to advocate for a quality, safe and transparent marketplace for marijuana whether for medicinal or recreational use some members come at the issue from a financial standpoint.
Pete Dufour, a Portland accountant, said he was interested in joining the organization because he has experienced firsthand the challenge of helping clients in the medical marijuana industry navigate the complex legal and regulatory environment.
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, so medical marijuana businesses operating legally under state laws in Maine as well as other states often have difficulty finding banks willing to accept them as clients because of the threat of federal penalties. The result is that many medical marijuana businesses in Maine operate largely on a cash basis, raising concerns about security and accountability.
There seems to be a big need out there for accountants and other professionals to work with these people, Dufour said. The laws are complex and they are in a state of flux, so they do need help navigating the process.
A recent analysis of legal marijuana markets by ArcView Market Research and New Frontier estimated the value of Maines industry could jump from roughly $50 million today with medical marijuana to more than $200 million by 2020 if voters legalize it for recreational use. By comparison, the Colorado Department of Revenue estimates the combined value of medical and recreational marijuana in that state this year will be roughly $1.2 billion.
Maine Professionals for Regulating Marijuana says Maine should ensure the safety and quality of marijuana by requiring safety testing of products for THC content (the psychoactive component in marijuana) as well as pesticides or other harmful residues. The organization also is calling for mandatory labeling standards, childproof packaging and a ban on advertising.
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Full Article: Maine Business Group Urges Robust Regulation Of Legal Marijuana Market
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