The road to legalization in Maine

Marijuana is legal to consume and possess in Maine, but it's illegal to buy and sell it. Why? Marijuana is legal to consume and possess in Maine, but it's illegal to buy and sell it. Why?
Following the November election and the passing of Question 1, recreational use of marijuana was legal. What that means and how it really affects Mainers are two different things, as I experienced in Oregon for the past 11 months. After reviewing Chapter 417 Marijuana Legalization Act, I noticed many similarities in the approach taken in Oregon. What isn't spelled out, and is crucial for people who are looking to enter the legal marijuana business in Maine to understand, are the timeframes and expectations, because they will change several times for prospective business owners.
 
There is confusion when moving from a medical program to a recreational program for several reasons. There are turf wars (how many state agencies will be involved?), credibility issues (who is best qualified to administer a program that tracks every seed, plant, and gram of marijuana as it moves around the state), enforcement of the rules (crucial to insuring the black market doesn’t continue to grow), and of course the budget issues that are top of mind for lawmakers.
 
As a business, these things impact the efficiency of rolling out a working program and how long it takes. As the adage goes, time is money, and without deep pockets it is difficult to carry expenses 6-9 months beyond when you expect to be generating revenue. In Maine’s case, it will be a year (February 18, 2018) before applications for licenses will be taken by the Maine Government. This means that while it is legal to grow your own and possess marijuana if you are over the age of 21, marijuana cannot be bought or sold. Why? The rules that govern the tracking and transfer have not been established. This means that everyone running out to find buildings to turn into grow rooms, purchase lights and soil, hire people and become a Maine marijuana business will have at least a year of rent and other carry costs before they can apply and start the licensing process. Depending on how well the rules are written, this will take another 6-12 months based on what happened in Oregon.
 
Maine is at an inflection point as it rolls out its rules, and if it studies other states to see what has worked, what to avoid, and incorporates best practices, Maine stands to be a state thriving from recreational marijuana. The question remains – will it be in 2018 or 2019?
 
My money is on 2019. There are still several things to be discussed and decided by municipalities, utilities, law enforcement and licensing enforcement. Simplicity is key. Things like deciding it doesn’t matter if a single plant grown in a 10-gallon pot of soil is tagged as a medical plant or a recreational plant – it is the same plant producing the marijuana for a recreational user or a medicinal user and taxed accordingly. Caregivers realizing that their knowledge, ability to grow medicine and treat people doesn’t go away under the law, in fact it means more clients coming to them without having to visit a doctor first.  Finally, that testing needs to be done without exception to insure pesticide and mold free products are in the market vs stuff grown with pesticides, fertilizers, and heavy metals in them. Municipalities and their residents will need to decide what they will allow.
 
Maine can be a model state again with marijuana. We did it first with reasonable caregiver laws, and we can implement a reasonable program that works for businesses, law enforcement, residents and visitors alike.
 
Mark MacAuley is a marijuana professional who splits his time between Maine and Oregon making medicinal and recreational non-intoxicating cannabis products under the KUSA brand. He is a registered caregiver in Maine and has applied for his recreational processor in Oregon.
Last modified onTuesday, 07 March 2017 12:54