Homegrown in Maine: As MA Blinks on Legal Weed, ME Must Seize Its Marijuana Moment

After a tumultuous campaign topped by a nine-day recount to confirm its narrow 3,995-vote victory, implementation of Question 1 to legalize adult use of cannabis in Maine begins this month. But don’t expect smoother sailing for the implementation phase.

January 30, 2017. That’s the day the seeds drop for legal adult home cultivation of marijuana in Maine. It’s also the day that adults over 21 will be able to possess cannabis (up to 2.5 ounces) and use it (not in public spaces).  The initiative gives the state 9 months to create infrastructure for the retail cannabis program, including developing regulations, issuing RFPs, and granting operator licenses.

And yet legalization opponents are urging further delays to implementation in Maine, with some floating the radical idea that it may take two years to “sort out the details” of legal adult use. Naysayers have been encouraged by Governor LePage, who ramped up the rhetoric by not only calling for a state-wide moratorium, but also questioning whether medical marijuana should continue to exist alongside adult use.

Kicking the can down the road is a convenient but cowardly approach to any citizens’ initiative that challenges the status quo. For Maine to kick this particular can down the road would also be economically foolish, given what happened in Massachusetts recently: the Bay State also legalized marijuana in November’s elections, with 1.8 million residents voting yes to about 1.5 million opposed, but ut two weeks ago, a handful of Massachusetts lawmakers hastily passed and Governor Baker signed a bill to delay that state’s legal cannabis implementation until mid-2018.

The MA moratorium, particularly how it came about, is deeply troubling to drug policy advocates nationally. It is also a signal opportunity for Maine to take a decisive step toward becoming a regional leader in this industry.   Recent reports indicate that Maine’s eight medical dispensaries generated $23.6 million in sales in 2015. In Colorado, 2016 sales of adult-use and medical cannabis combined to break the $1 billion mark for the first time.  Industry experts predict that legal cannabis sales in the U.S. will reach $20 billion a year by 2020.

Of course, Maine is not Colorado. Its contribution to the national cannabis economy may never compete with theirs or California’s. (Or Massachusetts’, once their program gets off the ground), but we are a manufacturing state kicking hard during the slow asphyxiation of U.S. manufacturing generally and the paper industry in particular. We are an entrepreneurial state that reveres the small businessperson, and yet whose workforce is aging as its population stagnates. And Maine — Vacationland — is the only state thus far to enshrine social-use clubs in our legal adult-use law.

It is deeply self-sabotaging to suggest postponing the launch of a new industry that will generate millions in sales tax, create entrepreneurial opportunities and meaningful work, make use of shuttered commercial and industrial properties, and attract both job-seekers and tourists to our state.

Furthermore, though we don’t discuss this enough in public, under-the-radar talk knows that Massachusetts is a destination marketplace for illicit Maine cannabis. Massachusetts’ decision to delay legal weed guarantees that it will remain such. Swiftly clarifying and implementing legal safeguards here in Maine, to help throttle down on that off-market flow, is the neighborly thing to do. 

 

Be a part of history at Maine's first cannabis celebration event!

Date: Monday, Jan 30th  |  Time: 7pm-11pm

Cost: $20  |  21+  |  Tickets: necann.com

Join the Phoenix & the New England Cannabis Network to sample a spread of tasty foods and even tastier MJ edibles from the best local cannabis confectioners and have a blast celebrating with Maine's cannabis industry leaders and advocates at the Gold Room in Portland. There will also be an auction & fund-raising raffle to benefit the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, supporting their ongoing efforts to protect and improve the Maine MMJ program.  NOTE: ALL Maine laws regarding cannabis use will be in effect & enforced at this event.  Violators will be ejected without warning, and without refund.  Must be age 21 or older. Cash bar. This is a private, invitation-only event.

Last modified onFriday, 24 February 2017 17:07