In 2016, Maine legalized marijuana. However, the state never set firm guidelines, creating a rather gray area when it came to policy. This week, Maine finally got around to establishing rules pertaining to licensing and other specific areas of the quickly growing cannabis industry.

The following is a re-post of an article written by the Associated Press and published on Leafly

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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine released its long-awaited draft rules about its adult-use cannabis program late Monday, revealing a plan that would limit licenses to residents of the state for the first two years. The draft stated Maine would give licenses to grow and sell marijuana only to people who have lived in the Pine Tree State and filed income tax returns there for four years, and that standard would apply until June 2021.

Residents voted in favor of legalizing marijuana in 2016, but crafting the rules has been a long and sometimes contentious process. Proponents of legalization said the emergence of a legal framework for sales and production of marijuana is a major step forward. The proposed rules will be subject to public comment and must survive legislative approval before they can go into effect.

It’s still hard to say exactly when marijuana could be available in stores, but the time is coming, said Democratic Rep. Teresa Pierce, a member of the state Marijuana Advisory Commission.

“I am most anxious to get these rules passed, because we need to get the adult market up and running because the diversion market is exploding,” Pierce said. “The longer we wait without passing rules, the greater the black market becomes.”

Maine already has a long-established medical marijuana program. It’s also currently legal to grow marijuana for personal recreational use in the state. Other states that have launched recreational marijuana markets have also prioritized state residents for licenses, said David Heidrich, director of engagement and community outreach for the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy.

Putting state residents first would allow the state to develop a “craft cannabis” market, said David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbied for legalization.

“The draft rules allow for Maine’s existing businesses to operate and give the little guy a shot,” Boyer said. “The market will grow, just as it has with craft brewing.”

Legalization of recreational marijuana in Maine has faced numerous delays in the nearly 2½ years since voters approved the idea in a statewide vote. Former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, was an opponent of legalization, which made implementing laws difficult until his term ended last year. His successor, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, has been more supportive of implementing legalization.

More recently, the state ran into trouble approving a contract with a consultant to help write the rules. The contract ultimately went to Freedman & Koski of Colorado, while another firm, BOTEC Analysis of Los Angeles, was hired to analyze the proposed regulations.

A final version of the draft rules is expected within about two weeks. Scott Gagnon, a member of the state marijuana commission, said he would like to see the rules about advertising and packaging tightened.

Gagnon was director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which fought against the legalization drive. He said the draft rules for the most part ensured “the hard work we did advocating for public health was still there.”

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