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Maine Lawmaker Files Bill To Allow Marijuana Interstate Commerce When Federal Policy Changes



A lawmaker has filed a bill to allow Maine to enter into interstate cannabis commerce agreements with other legalized states.

The legislation from Rep. Joseph Perry (D) would make Maine one of a small but growing number of states to allow for marijuana imports and exports, pending a federal policy change.

Under the proposal, the governor would be able to forge agreements with other legal cannabis states “authorizing the transportation, cultivation, manufacture, testing, purchase, sale or distribution of cannabis or cannabis products into and out of this State,” the bill text says.

But the interstate commerce activity could only proceed under one of four circumstances: if federal law changes, if congressional lawmakers restrict agency funding so that the feds won’t be able to enforce the ban on interstate commerce, if the federal Justice Department issues a memorandum tolerating the commerce or if the U.S. attorney general issues a written opinion that authorizing the marijuana imports and exports wouldn’t put the state at increased risk of enforcement action.

Those requirements are similar to the laws that have been enacted in California and Oregon, though California’s policy also gives the governor authorization to enter interstate commerce agreements if the state attorney general determines that the state would not be put at greater risk of being penalized.

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Washington State lawmakers also recently sent similar interstate marijuana commerce legislation to the governor’s desk. If signed into law, all states along the western coast of the U.S. would be set up to buy and sell marijuana across their borders if the federal policy changes.

On the East Coast, New Jersey’s Senate president filed a similar interstate proposal last year, but it has not yet been enacted.

The new bill in Maine stipulates that out-of-state marijuana businesses need to comply with the state’s regulations on “tracking, tagging, testing, identifying and destroying adulterated or misbranded cannabis products, labeling, marketing and advertising.”

Those contracting businesses would also need to “address public health and safety emergencies concerning cannabis and cannabis products and agree to assist in investigations of  noncompliance with the agreement or Maine’s laws or rules.”

Maine is a uniquely isolated state, only bordering New Hampshire. The bill says that marijuana can’t be transported through states that don’t permit it, so that may create additional regulatory complications given that New Hampshire has not yet legalized recreational cannabis.

A federal appellate court ruled last year that Maine’s law prohibiting non-residents from owning medical marijuana businesses in the state violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Some legal experts believe the same rationale invalidating the residency restrictions could come into play in challenges against state-level bans on marijuana imports and exports.

Disallowing imports and exports of medical cannabis between consenting states could be construed as similarly protectionist and unconstitutional, the thinking goes.

In November, an Oregon marijuana business filed a lawsuit in federal court, declaring that the state’s current ban on cannabis exports and imports to and from other states violates the Constitution.

Meanwhile in Maine, state cannabis regulators released a report last year finding that the launch of an adult-use cannabis market in the state has already exceeded expectations when it comes to driving down illicit sales.

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