Implementation of Maine’s adult-use program begins
Last update: August 29, 2017
In January, the Maine Legislature passed LD 88, an emergency bill to clarify that marijuana is only for adults 21 and over, set a personal possession limit of five grams of concentrated marijuana, and push back the rulemaking deadline to February 2018.
The next act of the legislature was establishing a Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Implementation, which has met a handful of times already. This group of legislators will craft the regulatory structure of Maine’s adult-use marijuana program.
The first bill passed by Maine’s House and Senate is LD 243, which would transfer the authority to oversee adult-use marijuana from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations within the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS). The Bureau would be responsible for licensing adult-use marijuana businesses and creating and enforcing regulations. LD 243 also allocates $200,000 to the Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization Implementation and $1.4 million to DAFS to implement Question 1. The bill is now sitting on the Appropriations table and once appropriated it will go to the governor’s desk for his signature.
The Joint Select Committee will continue to meet in the summer and fall, after the legislature adjourns. We will be working closely with the committee to make sure Maine’s adult-use marijuana is set up swiftly and responsibly.
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Current marijuana laws in Maine
Possession of small amounts and limited home cultivation are legal: Possession of two and a half ounces or less of marijuana is legal for adults 21 and older. Adults may also cultivate up to six mature marijuana plants at their residence or on another adult’s property with the owner’s permission.
Retail marijuana stores will hopefully be operational by summer 2018: State lawmakers and regulatory officials are currently laying the foundation for a regulated marijuana market. Sen. Roger Katz, chair of the Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization Implementation, and other lawmakers have said publicly that retail marijuana stores will hopefully open by the summer of next year.
Medical marijuana permitted: An individual may register as a medical marijuana patient if his or her doctor certifies that the individual suffers from one or more of the following conditions:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Chronic pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Hepatitis C
- HIV or AIDS
- Huntington’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Nail patella syndrome
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Patients can purchase marijuana from registered marijuana dispensaries, a registered caregiver, or grow their own.
Historic victory in 2016: The Yes on 1 Campaign
The Marijuana Policy Project has been involved in crafting sensible marijuana policies in Maine since 2009. MPP helped draft and finance the 2009 ballot initiative that improved and expanded Maine’s medical marijuana program. In 2013 and 2014, we ran winning campaigns in Portland and South Portland to make small amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 and over. These initiatives paved the way for a 2016 statewide initiative to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.
To lay the ground work for statewide legalization, MPP hired David Boyer in January 2013. The local initiatives in 2013 and 2014 generated enormous earned media and allowed the campaign to educate voters about marijuana. We promoted the idea that marijuana prohibition has been a total failure, and it is illogical to punish an adult for using a substance safer than alcohol.
Beginning in 2015, MPP formed a roundtable of advocates, members of the cannabis industry, lawyers, and lawmakers to draft the statewide initiative to legalize marijuana for adults in Maine, “An Act to Regulate and Tax Marijuana.” Another group, Legalize Maine, also launched a ballot initiative campaign, and both groups began collecting signatures in spring 2015. Urged by advocates and campaign volunteers on both sides, the two groups came to an agreement to work together: MPP would run the campaign using Legalize Maine’s initiative language.
With the campaigns united, over 100,000 signatures were submitted to the Maine Secretary of State’s office on February 1, 2016. The campaign received bad news a month later when the Secretary of State’s office announced it did not qualify for the November ballot. The state disqualified almost 30,000 signatures because a notary’s signature did not exactly match the notary’s signature on file — a handwriting technicality.
The campaign immediately announced its intention to appeal the decision and filed a lawsuit in March 2016. After making the case to the court, the judge ruled in favor and ordered the Secretary of State to re-review the signatures. In late April, the state announced that our campaign did collect enough signatures, and we qualified for the ballot! In Maine, ballot question order is random, and our campaign was lucky enough to win the coveted first question, thus becoming “Yes on 1: Regulate & Tax Marijuana.”
The campaign aired several different television ads. One of the most memorable ads featured former Cumberland County Sheriff Mark Dion voicing his support of Question 1. Ending marijuana prohibition to free up law enforcement resources was a central message of the campaign. Another key message was the millions in tax revenue that could be generated by taxing and regulation marijuana. And, there was an ad focused on pro-legalization Mainers who had been misled about the details of the initiative.
“It’s About Time” Mark Dion
“Get the Facts”
MPP’s Matthew Schweich and David Boyer managed the Yes on 1 Campaign. The Portland Press Herald, the ACLU of Maine, NORML, and numerous elected officials across Maine endorsed it. The campaign was a combination of effective TV and online advertising bolstered by on-the-ground campaigning. Volunteers across the state made phone calls, went door-to-door, and submitted letters-to-the editor in support of Question 1.
Question 1 turned out to be a real nail-biter, passing with 50.26% of the vote! Opponents went on to request a recount, which took place for two weeks in December. Ultimately, the Maine Secretary of State certificated Question 1’s victory by a margin of 3,995 votes — truly, every vote counts!
Timeline of marijuana policy reform in Maine
1976 – Maine’s legislature decriminalized small amounts of marijuana
1999 – Voters approved a ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana for patients suffering from serious health issues
2009 – Voters approved a ballot initiative expanding the state’s existing medical marijuana program
2013 – Portland voters approved a local initiative legalizing small amounts of marijuana
2014 – South Portland voters approved a local initiative legalizing small amounts of marijuana
2016 – Voters approved a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana for adults and establishing a regulated marijuana market like alcohol
Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project. To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Maine, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service.