In case you didn’t hear, last Monday, we here at The Phoenix hosted a gathering of 200 or so pro-cannabis advocates to celebrate the end of one of the most ineffective and hypocritical laws in recent Maine history: the banning of cannabis consumption by consenting adults. The 3-hour celebration (7p.m. — 10p.m.) was a strictly a private affair, 21+ only, with an invite required to purchase a ticket. There was a buffet of party food, grab-bags filled with free gown-growing soil aids, speeches by 5-6 leaders of the cannabis legalization movement, a door-prize raffle, live comedy, and a cash bar. The mostly Generation X or older crowd was happy but typically reserved, and the event ended early (most likely because most attendees wanted to get to bed). Remarkably, four local TV news teams sent live crews to cover the event, joined by reporters from several local newspapers. Wait. Did I mention the free cannabis-edible samples?
Part of the plan was to have a few local canna-chefs whip up some micro-dosed (5-10ml) samples to give out to party attendees to celebrate the first day of legal cannabis consumption in Maine. Having attended a couple of similar events in Massachusetts on that state’s “end of prohibition day” we studied the Maine law and followed a pretty strict script — we made the event private (The law allows consumption of marijuana on private property "not generally accessible by the public" if the consuming person has permission by the property owner), banned all smoking/vaping use, and made sure that the people giving away the canna-edibles received no compensation (monetary or otherwise) in exchange for their donations. We also had strict limits in place limiting attendees to 1 sample per vendor, with each sample containing much less than a typical “dose” of THC.
Despite those precautions the venue owner was contacted by BABLO (Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage & Lottery Operations, the Agency assigned to regulate and enforce legal cannabis use) on the day of the event and told it would be in his best interest to cancel it, citing a conflict with his liquor license as the main problem. Here’s the funny thing about that though: nothing in the law legally restricts people in Maine who are 21+ from buying a ticket to a live entertainment venue that serves alcohol, and bringing a 2.5-ounce bag cannabis with them into the venue. Legally, one could actually pin the bag to the outside of your jacket with “this is my cannabis” written on it as they entered the venue. Once inside, nothing would legally restrict that same person from giving the cannabis away to anyone and everyone (21+) who asks for some (though it would be illegal for anyone to consume it then and there).
So why was giving cannabis samples away at our event deemed illegal? The short answer is that it wasn’t. In my conversations with the Portland Police Department, I was told that charging admission to the event and then having cannabis samples available “could be considered trafficking." Similarly, during conversations between the owner of the Gold Room (the event venue) and BABLO, no specific language in the liquor license or in the new cannabis law was cited, but the result was the Bureau saying they felt what we were doing would violate the venue’s liquor license. Representatives from both BABLO and the Portland Police were professional, collaborative and helpful through the process but in the end, it was clear is that no one — us, BABLO, or local law enforcement, is entirely sure of what is legal and what’s not at this point. We decided it would be best not to mar the new era of cannabis legalization with a negative incident and held the party sans-edibles. Lessons learned, but many, many questions remain unanswered in regards to legal cannabis use in Maine. Stay tuned!