Everything You Need to Know About Recreational Marijuana in Maine

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    On Jan. 30, 2017, Maine became just the second state in New England to legalize marijuana for adult use.

    Maine was also one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana, all the way back in November of 1999. Portland, Maine actually became the first east coast city to legalize possession of marijuana (up to 2.5 ounces) in 2012, but now the entire state will be able to possess, grow, and consume cannabis flower, edibles, and extracts.

    Maine’s ‘Question 1’ initiative narrowly passed on Nov. 8, 2016 by 3,995 votes. The slim margin of victory left some doubt in the minds of the opposition as representatives from ‘No on 1’ quickly filed a request for an official recount. The recount proved unsuccessful for the opposition, as it generated very similar results to the initial tally.

    After a concession of defeat from ‘No on 1’ on Dec. 17, Governor Paul LePage signed ‘Question 1’ into law on December 31, effectively legalizing recreational marijuana in Maine thirty days from the date of signature.

    Governor LePage had been vehemently against legalization in the state, even stating at one point that marijuana “could lead to more deaths” among Mainers. According to WMTW, LePage included in his signed proclamation that he “maintains strong concerns regarding the integrity of Maine’s ballot and accuracy of Maine’s election results and cannot attest to the accuracy of the tabulation certified by the Secretary of State.”

    LePage’s last-minute changes

    As last week came to a close, there was wide speculation that lawmakers in Maine could implement significant delays to certain components of marijuana legalization in the state. Opposition to the new law was concerned about a number of factors, including a loophole that would have allowed minors under the age of 21 to possess marijuana lawfully without a doctor’s recommendation.

    While members of Maine’s House and Senate called for a delay to the bill so that uncertainties about the retail aspects of the law could be hammered out, Governor LePage maintained all week that he would sign no such delay legislation until certain demands were met. LePage was adamant that funds be found in the state’s budget to cover marijuana regulation costs and the responsibility for oversight be transferred from Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry to the state’s Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.

    As the deadline neared, LePage eventually caved and signed the bill amending Maine’s legalization bill. The Governor did assign the state’s marijuana regulation to BABLO via executive order, but it remains to be seen where the funds to cover industry oversight will be sourced.

    “Because I do not trust Speaker Gideon will approve my language in the bill she submitted in her own name, I will issue an executive order delegating oversight of marijuana from ACF to BABLO,” LePage said in a statement on his public Facebook page. “However, no rules will be promulgated until the Legislature allocates money to fund the rulemaking process. I sign this bill today to protect Maine children from the dangers of marijuana.”

    Many components of ‘Question 1’ became law today, save for the changes added late Friday night. The amendment add language that clearly prohibits possession by minors and driving while consuming marijuana products. The new legislation also delays any retail operations and marijuana sales until February 1, 2018, something other freshly-legalized states are doing to prepare fully.

    Now that Maine has legalized marijuana for adults, what does that mean?

    After January 30, 2017, Maine will have some of the most progressive cannabis laws in the country, especially regarding possession, cultivation, employment, and parental rights. Here are the main components of adult-use legalization in Maine:

    • Maine will permit adults over the age of 21 to carry up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana on their person in public. Many other adult-use states only protect those carrying up to one ounce.
    • Adults in Maine will be able to transfer cannabis to one another legally “without remuneration,” meaning neither party may profit from the transaction.
    • Mainers of legal age will also be permitted to cultivate marijuana in their residence. Maine will allow residents over 21 to have six flowering plants, up to twelve immature plants, and an unlimited amount of seedlings. The law spells out protections for possession of all of the resulting “marijuana produced by the plants at the adult’s residence,” an important and progressive stipulation.
      • There are two important qualifications for home cultivation that should be noted:

        A. A person may cultivate up to 6 flowering marijuana plants at that person’s place of residence, on property owned by that person or on another person’s property with written permission of the owner of the property.
        B. A person who elects to cultivate marijuana shall ensure the marijuana is not visible from a public way without the use of binoculars, aircraft or other optical aids and shall take reasonable precautions to prevent unauthorized access by a person under 21 years of age.

    • The law authorizes the purchase of up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana in a retail shop, as well as any marijuana paraphernalia. (Delayed by new amendment)
    • Adults will also be able to purchase up to twelve seedlings at a licensed retail grow facility. As far as growing or purchasing plants, the law states: “A person 21 years of age or older must have a legible tag on each marijuana plant. The tag must include at least the person’s name and Maine driver’s license number or Maine identification number.” (Delayed by new amendment)
    • Anyone of age may consume cannabis products, so long as they are not in a public space or on federal property. Smoking in public will still net you a $100 ticket, and any rules that already prohibit smoking of tobacco products at a given location would also apply to marijuana.
    • There are protections against discrimination based on marijuana use, whether at school, work, or home. The law states, “A school, employer or landlord may not refuse to enroll or employ or lease to or otherwise penalize a person 21 years of age or older solely for that person’s consuming marijuana outside of the school’s, employer’s or landlord’s property.”
    • Maine mothers and fathers won’t lose custody or parental rights of their children for marijuana use alone, save for a situation where “the person’s conduct is contrary to the best interest of the minor child.”
    • There will be a 10% sales tax on retail cannabis products, though there are exemptions in place for Maine’s medical marijuana patients and caregivers. (Delayed by new amendment)
    • Maine’s new law implements a licensing process for retail cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing labs, and retail shops. There’s even licenses available for social clubs where purchased cannabis products could be consumed on-site, something most states haven’t touched. (Delayed by new amendment)
    • All regulations will be overseen by the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations. (Originally assigned to the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, reassigned via executive order by Gov. LePage).
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