Lawmakers are debating whether to delay licensing of marijuana “social clubs” in Maine, following the lead of other legalization states confronting unwanted scrutiny from federal officials or concerns about public health.

But legalization advocates warn that it’s better to have licensed, closely regulated marijuana clubs than illegal places running in the shadows.

“These clubs will pop up. They already are, and delaying isn’t going to prevent any of that activity,” said Becky DeKeuster, a consultant on cannabis issues who formerly ran medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine and California.

The legalization referendum narrowly backed by Maine voters in November contains references throughout the ballot initiative to “social clubs” where adults age 21 and over purchase and consume on shop premises. The fully accredited social clubs were pictured as places where users could lawfully assemble – similar to a bar or smoking lounge – to use marijuana in a carefully regulated and monitored setting.

Yet Maine could be the first state to allow marijuana clubs – a prospect that certainly concerned some lawmakers on the committee in charged with preparing the state for retail sales.

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