An hour into the state’s first public airing of its proposed rules for recreational cannabis, concerns were raised about taxes, prices and labeling requirements.

Paul McCarrier, the head of Legalize Maine, the pro-cannabis advocacy group that helped write the citizen initiative that voters approved in 2016, was the first to speak and reminded state officials conducting the hearing  that every regulation will raise prices.

As the owner of 1 Mill, a medical marijuana shop in Belfast, McCarrier said many of his customers can’t afford to shoulder the cost of unnecessary regulations. Every little increase, while seemingly insignificant on their own, adds up, he said.

“Five dollars is a make-or-break point for them,” he said.

McCarrier was among the more than 100 people who tuned out for the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy’s first public hearing on draft recreational cannabis rules Thursday. People were at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland to comment on the next step in its effort to roll out adult-use sales by the end of the year.

The hearing concluded about two hours later. Speakers raised concerns about everything from the high tax rate, which was set by law and can’t be changed, to excessive labeling and packaging requirements, which are set by the rules.

Several people who testified said excessive regulation will force higher costs on to their patients and customers. Mark Barnett, a  caregiver who runs a coffee shop in Portland, said proposed cannabis rules require excessive packaging and discriminate against outdoor grows. He encouraged policy makers to make the rules more environmentally friendly.

Greg Silverchild Gould, a medical marijuana edible maker, said it would cost a one-man shop like his $5,000 to stamp each candy with a universal cannabis symbol, forcing him to buy chocolate from Walmart instead of his local craft chocolatier.

The rules cover topics ranging from how to license growers, manufacturers and retailers, to plant and product tracking, to labeling and packaging requirements. Developed by the consulting firm of Freedman & Koski of Colorado, the rules must be approved by the Legislature.

Voters approved legalization of adult-use cannabis in November 2016. While limited home grow was allowed by January 2017, the state has struggled to launch a commercial market, having to overcome legislative rewrites, gubernatorial vetoes and contractual snafus.

National consultants estimate that Maine’s market, once launched, could hit $265 million a year and employ as many as 5,400 people. Maine expects it will start accepting recreational cannabis business license applications this year as long as draft rules are passed before lawmakers go on summer break.

This story will be updated.

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