Maine has an interesting history with regards to medical marijuana. When it comes to our modern times, it could be said that Maine was quite forward-thinking with regards to cannabis possession. Although marijuana was prohibited in 1913, it was decriminalized in 1976. The first medical marijuana law in Maine was passed on November 2 1999 with 62% voting “Yes” on Question 2, and allowed patients to grow their own plants. Maine’s Marijuana Legalization Act, Maine Question 1, was passed on November 8, 2016. By Monday January 30 2017, recreational marijuana was in operation in Maine.
Earlier this week members of the state’s Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee met with Colorado’s former marijuana czar to discuss how to develop Maine’s cannabis policies. As well as looking to Colorado, Maine’s financial and agricultural departments are asking for the public’s thoughts on how to regulate the state’s retail cannabis marketplace, as well as on the public health, budgetary, and enforcement aspects of the new market. The committee are aiming to have wrapped up comments by July 31, 2017.
With lots going on and changes set to come, let’s take a look at what the world of recreational marijuana looks like in Maine at the moment in closer detail …
What Are the Laws Like in Maine at the Moment?
Before we go into a bit about Maine’s politics and how it relates to marijuana, it’s probably best to take a look at the cannabis laws in Maine. We will give you a general breakdown, but for a comprehensive look, take a look here at the NORML website, as it goes into further detail:
- Recreational marijuana users must be at least 21 years of age. Medical marijuana users must be at least 18 years of age.
- Using marijuana in a public space is considered a civil infraction, and is punishable by a $100 fine.
- Possession is limited to 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower, 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower and concentrates (5g max on hashish & concentrates) or up to 5 grams of hash & concentrates. Possession limits are the same for medical marijuana patients.
- Possession of a “usable amount” is not punishable with proof of a valid physician’s recommendation.
- Cultivation is restricted to 6 plants or less for both recreational and medical marijuana users. Licensed caregivers can grow up to 6 plants for each registered patient. Cultivating anything more than 6 plants is a minimum of 1 year in prison and a minimum fine of $2,000.
- There is no punishment for possession of paraphernalia. Unusually, selling paraphernalia is a minimum of 6 months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
- Sale or distribution without appropriate licensing is a minimum of 1 year in prison and a $2,000 fine for 1 lb or less, and significantly longer sentences for larger amounts.
- Marijuana is considered a “schedule Z” drug in Maine.
- There’s a minimum of 8 medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine, as decreed by law.
- There are reciprocity laws in Maine for those with a valid, out-of-state medical marijuana card. However, medical marijuana cannot be purchased by those with an out-of-state MMJ card – they’ll have to buy recreational (and therefore pay the tax), grow their own or find a compassionate someone who’ll give them a decent price!
- Recreational marijuana is taxed at 10% in Maine.
Now that the law essentials are out of the way (and please remember that these are liable to change as time goes on), onto what the world of marijuana looks like in Maine.
The Politics of Cannabis in Maine
Since 1992, Maine has been a pretty solid Democrat-leaning state. The current U.S. senators for Maine are the moderately Republican Susan Collins and the Independent, Democrat-leaning Angus King, whilst the U.S. House delegations are the not-liked-by-conservatives, much-liked-by-Democrats Chellie Pingree and the fiscally conservative Republican Bruce Poliquin. Portland and South Portland was very pro-Clinton in 2016, and though the results were closer elsewhere, Trump was the loser in Maine in most towns except Auburn and Sanford.
Prior to 1992, Maine was generally quite Republican, except for the 1964 and 1968 elections. There could be all sorts of reasons for this shift in politics, with one being the younger voters of the 60s growing up and then voting Democrat when they became the main voters in the early 90s and onwards. This voting pattern is likely to be reflected in the children of those from the 60s as well, which is further compacted by the general trend of younger people voting for Hillary.
So Marijuana Legalization Was a Sure Thing in Maine?
Though the “Democrat-leaning states legalize marijuana, recreationally and/or medically” trend rings true for Maine as well, it’s not as simple as that. In fact, those who voted “Yes” on Question 1 in 2016 only narrowly beat the “No” – 50.2% to 49.8%, and by just a bit over 2,500 votes. A recount was needed! The south and some of the east of Maine mostly voted “Yes”, whereas the center and north of Maine mostly voted “No”.
Interestingly enough, this voting pattern reflects where most medical marijuana dispensaries are located in Maine – most of them are in the south, with only one major one in Safe Alternative (aka “Safe Alternatives of Maine) in the North. To the south are Remedy Compassion Center and Wellness Connection of Maine. This suggests that the simple Democrat = “Yes”, Republican = “No” doesn’t entirely hold true. Strange as it may sound, there could be many pot-smoking conservatives in voting “Yes” in Maine and a few “conservative Democrats” voting “No”!
The Economics of Cannabis in Maine
Maine is very much a “support local businesses” town (or “state”, should we say), where even some of Maine’s largest businesses are small in comparison to many other states’ leading businesses. Maine voters are generally opposed to the outsourcing of jobs, are quite restrained in their spending and prefer a “steady ship”.
Maine also doesn’t seem to like putting all its eggs in one basket, and so has quite a diverse economy. Healthcare, retail and construction are the mainstays of the Maine economy, although no one industry seems to dominate to too great an extent when looking at the proportions of the economy they make up. Agriculture and fishing are also big in Maine, with more paper production, wild strawberry harvests and lobster-catching than most other states combined. Maine has an ageing population, with places like Blue Hill, Ellsworth and Bar Harbor seeing a strong growth in the senior population.
How Does This Affect Cannabis Culture in Maine?
Maine has had municipal legalization of marijuana since November 5, 2013, when voters in Portland passed Question 1 by 67%. Possession of 2.5 ounces became legal within the city’s limits. The municipality of South Portland (which is separate from the rest of Portland) voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2014.
Whether it was a “matter of time” before the rest of Maine legalized is up for debate – it seems that recreational marijuana was effectively legalized in areas that allowed it, and illegal in areas that didn’t. Some people may have voted “No” on Question 1 because they may have felt “we don’t need any more laws/regulations”, “it’s already legal in places where they want it and illegal in places where they don’t” or even “It doesn’t go far enough and the laws are too restrictive – I want more freedom, dammit!”
As most of the laws restrict cannabis use to private property in Maine, it would be quite reasonable to believe that Maine has a “we don’t mind what you do if you keep it behind closed doors” attitude towards marijuana use. This is very much reflected in the laws and voting patterns of the state! We can imagine that the “split laws” might have been confusing and caused a lot of unnecessary trouble for Maine’s citizens, too, which must have caused havoc with court systems and the like in Maine. Though people to the south of Maine might be more open about their use, those towards the north may perhaps be a bit more discreet.
What Are the Benefits of Having a MMJ Card in Maine?
Other than the tax, qualified patients “may not be denied the right or the privilege” to use medical marijuana by landlords, the workplace or at schools. In divorce cases, medical marijuana use will not be held against a person in determination of parental rights. There are also various legal protections that are not available to recreational marijuana users, as they cannot be fined or incur a civil penalty by a business or occupational or disciplinary action for engaging in lawful cannabis use. So, if you’re an out-of-state medical marijuana patient, it’s definitely worth taking your MMJ card to Maine!
That’s all for the state of Maine for now. Should you hail from out-of-state and have a MMJ card, you cannot legally purchase medical marijuana (only “recreational”, which is taxed!) from a dispensary as of yet, although it wouldn’t harm to call ahead and ask! Should you be from Maine and want a MMJ card, send us an email and we can see what we can do.