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Lawmakers hold public hearing on recreational marijuana legalization proposal

The legislature's General Law Committee has held a public hearing on a new bill legalizing the retail sale of recreational marijuana.  The bill would allow people 21 and older to purchase marijuana from a retailer or for use at a marijuana lounge.  It would also allow those 21 and older to grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use.  The proposal would also create a marijuana control commission, similar to the liquor control commission.  Towns and municipalities could bar marijuana establishments through an ordinance or with a town meeting. 


Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle Seagull says the agency is not taking a position on whether the state should adopt the bill.


Seagull says they would be tasked with collecting licensing fees for and regulating lounges, manufacturers, retailers, cultivators, and laboratories.


Seagull is concerned about the cost and complexity of regulating the program.  She says DCP would have to create a whole separate division because of the significant investigation, background check and enforcement components.


Seagull says the medical marijuana program is the best in the country, which produces highly regulated medicine.  She says there's a cost to that because it's pharmaceutical grade product.  


Since insurance doesn't cover medical marijuana, Seagull is concerned that a recreational program would cause some patients to leave the established program.  That could have unintended consequences like patients having less precise medication, raising the cost for people who remain in the medical marijuana program and disincentivizing research.  Seagull notes that there are over 24-thousand patients, with well over 100 physicians and APRNs, participating in the program.

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