Marijuana as a business opportunity: Entrepreneurs sense momentum, understand dissent

The vote on marijuana legalization in Maine hasn’t been settled — that’s coming Tuesday, Nov. 8, when Question 1 appears on the ballot.


But business people and entrepreneurs are laying the groundwork for a post-legalization world. The stakes are high. Question 1 on Maine’s upcoming Nov. 8 ballot would legalize adult-use marijuana in Maine and potentially pump $2.8 million in annual sales tax revenue into state coffers, not to mention the economic ripples from marijuana-related businesses in communities that opt into the law.


In February, the New York Times reported, “National legal sales of cannabis grew to $5.4 billion in 2015, up from $4.6 billion in 2014, according to the firms, the ArcView Group, based in San Francisco, and New Frontier, based in Washington.”


David Boyer, campaign manager at the pro-legalization effort, wrote, "Yes on 1 will be making sure that voters know Question 1 is a good proposal for Maine. It limits big businesses from setting up shop in Maine and gives a pathway for current growers to move into the adult use market. It's time for small businesses operating in this state to be able to legally serve all adults 21 and up.”


Opponents include Compassionate Caregivers of Maine, a nonprofit third party agency, “designed to allow patients safe, affordable and easy access to their medicine.” They argue that Question 1 would destroy the medical marijuana system and favor large growers over the state’s smaller operations.


Those on the business end of the spectrum are trying to bridge the divide.


Outside the Cannabis Policy Conference at Port City Music Hall Monday, an event staged by McCabe Law Firm, a trio of interested parties gathered across the street.


An attendee at Monday’s cannabis conference, Taj Purvis said he is working with friends on “ganja entrepreneurial pursuits.”


“It’s super important to end the prohibition of marijuana, so we can’t be selfish … and try to swing the vote against ending prohibition,” Purvis said. “Restrictions on permitting” are an unfortunate aspect of the proposal, he said, but he expected the ballot measure to pass. “It’s not a benevolent bill,” Purvis said, arguing, “It’s tough to have someone decide for you what you can do when we’re supposed to be preaching freedom and equality.”


Benjamin Platner, who called himself an “entrepreneur/investor and idea guy,” said he is working on distilled and edible products, as well as grow operations.


“I think that it will go through some evolution after it passes, hopefully it will pass, I think it’s a positive thing for everybody if it passes,” Platner said.


“We’re all learning together,” he continued. But Platner urged opponents to see the forest for the trees.


“They need to see it in a larger picture, and those are people, I think a lot of those people are doing it on the dark, on the gray, and they don’t want that business line, that income to go away, and we all understand that, but that market is never going to go away.”


Connor Graham said, “At the end of the day, everybody really does want the same thing, and it’s an argument about how it’s going to get done.”


But change is coming, whether or not the state’s homegrown marijuana industry is ready or not, the trio agreed.


“Complacency really needs to end, people became complacent when they thought they could make easy money,” said Purvis.


According to the Secretary of State’s office, “This citizen initiative legalizes recreational marijuana and assesses a sales tax of 10 percent. Assuming a January 1, 2018 effective date, State sales tax collections would increase by an estimated $2,800,000 in fiscal year 2017-18 and by an estimated $10,700,000 in subsequent years. Under current statute, 98 percent of any sales tax collected is credited to the General Fund and 2 percent is
transferred to the Local Government Fund for distribution to cities and towns. The initiative designates the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF) as
the state licensing authority for retail marijuana.”


Language of the ballot measure reads, “A licensed retail marijuana social club may sell only retail marijuana, retail marijuana products, marijuana accessories, nonconsumable products such as apparel, marijuana-related products and edible products that do not contain marijuana, including but not limited to sodas, candies and baked goods, but may not sell or give away cigarettes or alcohol. All retail marijuana and retail marijuana products purchased at a licensed retail marijuana social club must be consumed or disposed of on and may not be taken off the licensed premises.”

For a copy of Question 1, visit http://www.state.me.us/sos/cec/elec/upcoming/index.html

Last modified onWednesday, 26 October 2016 14:33