To see what was up with the marijuana vote, I spoke with Yes on 1 Campaign Manager, David Boyer, over the weekend to get an update on Question 1’s status and the recount effort.
After the first week, Boyer reported that 15 percent of Maine ballots have been counted and there was little change in the vote count. During the second week, the No on 1 campaign targeted towns they felt might be ripe for their side. He hopes that if there continues to be little movement in the vote count totals by the end of the week, the No On 1 campaign will concede. If there is a need to continue, the recount will resume next year (due to the Secretary of State's limited holiday staffing).
Even if the recount continues, the margin of victory for Question 1 (over 4,000 votes) is unlikely to be overturned. The state estimates the recount cost could be as high as $500,000.
Once the recount is finished, the governor will have 10 days to certify the results and the law will go into effect 30 days after certification. After the law goes into effect, adults 21 and older in Maine will be able to grow their own cannabis for personal use and will be able to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis. Personal home cultivation is limited to six mature (flowering) plants, 12 immature vegetative plants, and unlimited seedlings. Under the law, adults can share their homegrown cannabis with other adults, but are prohibited from selling.
Retail sales of adult use cannabis will take much longer. Before cannabis can be legally sold under the Adult Use law, the Maine Legislature and the Department of Agriculture must determine many detailed elements of the program and go through a rigorous licensure process. This is likely to take at least six months, if not most of the 2017 calendar year. Despite this, medical dispensaries in Maine have been fielding calls from folks assuming they can legally purchase Adult Use cannabis under the new law.
Unfortunately, passing Question 1 may have been the easy part. The Department of Agriculture is designated to oversee the program and come up with the rules. They have nine months to accomplish this task. Many groups are hoping to reshape the program. Some want the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations (BABLO) to oversee the program and others wish for a free-standing Cannabis Commission staffed with industry experts to make sure regulators have some hands-on insight.
If you look at the timeline, legislators will add their guidance during the current session, the ‘nine months to write the rules’ clock will then start, license applications must be written, reviewed and weighed, and finally licenses awarded. From that point, the work shifts to the license holder in order to obtain municipal permits, construct appropriate facilities and then plant their first crop. It takes six months to take a plant from seed to properly dried finished product, and then the product must pass the mandatory lab testing before the first legal sale to the adult public takes place.
In the meantime, there are said to be efforts in the works to allow medical dispensaries to be the first to sell to adults while the rules are still being written. If medical dispensaries are allowed to sell first, the Adult Use program could begin operating as early as midsummer 2017. The argument in favor of this option is that the medical dispensaries are already state-regulated and inspected and can gear up faster to keep the black market at bay. If not, it will be 2018 before the first licensed retail store can provide products from licensed manufacturers and cultivators. The argument against this approach is that the new Adult Use program is very complicated and should be carefully considered and only implemented once the appropriate structure has been agreed upon and is in place.
On the Federal level, there is much speculation on how a Trump presidency will approach legalized adult use. Governor LePage has indicated he will be looking for federal guidance on the issue of Adult Use cannabis in Maine.
If you have an opinion on how we should proceed in Maine as well as in the country, it is best to inform your state and federal representatives. If you are a medical patient, rest assured that you will be able to continue sourcing cannabis from your current dispensary or caregiver.