In May, Maine’s Legislature utilized a two-thirds vote to override Governor Paul LePage’s second veto of a bill to regulate the state’s adult use cannabis market. The House voted in favor of an override 109-39, and the Senate’s tally was 28-6, more than enough to seal the deal.
The team here at Medicine Man Technologies applauds this move to uphold the will of the voters who approved Question 1 in 2016 and made Maine the fourth state to legalize recreational cannabis. Even the tight 50.3% to 49.7% vote was ultimately confirmed by a required recount.
As of January 2017, adults over the age of 21 are able to possess up to 2.5 ounces and use it in private, non-public spaces. Growing in your home or a non-visible area was also allowed, with a limit of 6 mature plants per adult. Question 1 also included social clubs and retail dispensaries as points of purchase. The sales tax rate was set at 10% with 98% of that revenue going to a general fund.
The Ups and Downs of Adult Use Cannabis in 2017
The start of the year saw the quick passing of a bill that gave lawmakers until February 2018 to hash out laws for the new cannabis market. This framework became LD 1650 which encompassed rules for licensing and regulating legal enterprises for cultivation, processing/production, and retail facilities. It also included language delaying cannabis use in social clubs until 2019.
With the House voting 81-50 and the Senate voting 22-9, LD 1650 was finally sent to Gov. LePage for approval in October of 2017. Unfortunately, he vetoed the bill.
In response, David Boyer of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Maine political director and campaign manager for the 2016 Question 1 campaign, stated, “Gov. LePage has made a mistake by vetoing this legislation. Instead of a regulated and controlled system of marijuana cultivation and sales, Maine will continue to support the unregulated market. In 2014, the governor said he would implement a legalization law if approved by voters, but he has failed to uphold that commitment.”
At the time, LD 1650 also didn’t have the required two-thirds majority to overrule the veto. So, a special committee was assembled to revisit the bill and make more adjustments. The revised version, LD 1719, will now go into effect thanks to the veto override. Here are key the changes to the original referendum:
- Adults who grow at home can only have 3 plants instead of the original 6
- Halts the establishment of social clubs for adult use cannabis
- Eliminates delivery businesses, internet sales and retail drive-thru windows
- Number of commercial grow licenses will no longer be capped
- Maine residents with 4 current years of in-state living will be given licensing priority
- Individual municipalities may enact a moratorium on adult use retail facilities
- Doubles sales tax to 20% and sets aside 6% of those revenues for law enforcement
- Retail licenses will not likely be available until spring of 2019
Meanwhile, Adult Use Cannabis is Still Legal in Maine
While advocates collectively groaned at the thought of waiting until 2019 for retail dispensaries to open, there are still ways for adults over the age of 21 to enjoy cannabis.
Residents of Maine can either grow their own plants or rely on friends with green thumbs to share their harvest or homemade edibles. The law allows people to possess and transport up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and to give it to another adult as long as no money or other items of value are exchanged.
And in another bit of good news, one very unique provision of the original 2016 law went into effect on February 1st. Maine is now the first state to protect employees and job applicants (over the age of 21) from discrimination based on their cannabis use outside of the workplace. The state’s labor board has even removed it from the list of substances employers can have applicants or employees tested for.
While a simple, straightforward rollout of a medical or adult use cannabis program is always the goal, Medicine Man Technologies has seen far too often how complicated it can be to launch a new enterprise. Hopefully, things will move ahead more smoothly in Maine. We’ll keep you updated.
If you want to start your own legal enterprise in the U.S. or anywhere across the globe, please contact us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.