AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Governor Janet Mills signed a bill Thursday setting up a legal framework for the sale of recreational marijuana to adults as early as next year.
Her office said Thursday that the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy plans to accept applications for licenses by the end of 2019. The Democratic governor said her administration has worked quickly to implement the voter-approved law since she took office earlier this year.
The state’s voters chose to legalize both the use and sale of recreational marijuana among adults in November 2016, but months of delays and political squabbles have slowed the implementation of a commercial industry. The state now has a legal road map for marijuana to arrive in stores as soon as early 2020.
State officials say retail adult use marijuana could arrive in stores as soon as early 2020. Maine already has legal medical marijuana.
The law becomes effective in September. At that point, the Office of Marijuana Policy has 60 days to finalize regulations. Then, the state must start accepting applications within 30 days.
In the meantime, Mills’ administration is working on a public health and safety education campaign, and figuring out how the state will track, trace, and license marijuana.
‘‘We have drafted these rules with a view toward keeping the public’s health and safety at the forefront,’’ said Office of Marijuana Policy Director Erik Gundersen.
The new framework makes several changes to state law ahead of sales.
Municipalities could opt in or out of allowing marijuana sales. Only a handful of cities and towns have laid the groundwork for retail sales.
Currently, state law defines poisonous or harmful substances as ‘‘adulterated.’’ The new law says Maine would not consider edibles produced with recreational marijuana adulterated.
Under the new law, Maine residents who have lived in the state for at least four years would have to claim at least 51 percent ownership of a cannabis company to qualify for a license. The state would also authorize the department to impose an administrative hold on a licensee.
Marijuana is legal for adult recreational use in 10 states and the District of Columbia, though some, like Maine, have yet to set up commercial sales. Medical marijuana was already legal in Maine, and under the 2016 law, adults over 21 can possess up to 2.5 ounces (70.9 grams) of marijuana without penalty.