Recreational marijuana sales don’t start until 2018, but industry funds are already coming into the Maine State House. Businesses are attempting to influence policies governing the industry. Lawmakers haven’t gotten through the 50 submitted bills regarding marijuana yet.
Lobbyists were paid over $140,000 between December 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017 to represent clients regarding marijuana issues, according to Portland Press Herald. Ranking in the Top 10 in funds spent for lobbying efforts are Maine Professionals for Regulating Marijuana, spending $54,338 on lobbying, and two of the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries.
Companies outside the industry are also spending money on marijuana-related lobbying.
Representative Erik Jorgensen said, “It strikes me that we are building a regulatory structure from the ground up so people were very concerned about how it gets done. I do think when you are starting a whole new industry, you expect to see that.”
Lawmakers and officials are still hashing out the licensing process along with the regulatory framework for the new industry. Enforcement infrastructure still needs to be put in place too. Maine’s Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee meets bi-weekly to work on the processes, rules and regulations for the new industry.
Lobbyists are hired for a variety of reasons, from representation in Legislative matters to filing paperwork with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. Over $2-million in total was spent lobbying on marijuana-related issues between December 2016 and March 31, 2017. The $142,141 lobbyists were paid is a significant portion of that spending.
Wellness Connection of Maine reportedly paid lobbyist Dan Walker $23,250. Walker had a team of four other lobbyists working the account with him.
Remedy Compassion in Auburn says it paid Edward Roy Dugay for representation but did not disclose an amount.
CEO of Wellness Connection of Maine, Patricia Rosi, says that their involvement in the policy-making process is due to feeling “a responsibility to the thousands of people we serve every day”. Rosi says that the dispensary is well-positioned for the recreational market.
She said, “Yes, we are here every week and lobbying is a priority because our voices must be heard. All of use dispensaries have a vested interest in participating in the discussions.”