PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine's marijuana enthusiasts used a public hearing to implore the state to protect the small businesses and growers they think should make up the backbone of the state's budding cannabis industry.

The Maine Office of Marijuana Policy held a public hearing about the state's draft marijuana rules Thursday. State officials have said marijuana could be available in stores in early 2020, but the state needs to pass a legal framework first.

Speakers at the hearing also called on the state to approve a tax structure that isn't punitive for retailers and users.

Voters in Maine approved legal recreational use of marijuana in a 2016 vote. The draft rules must still be approved by the Maine Legislature before they can implemented. The rules cover issues such as licensure and taxation.

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