The Portland Phoenix

Politics & Other Mistakes: Reefer (red-tape) madness

Getting a license to sell marijuana in Maine is easy.

In much the same sense that negotiating peace in the Middle East is easy.

Here’s all you have to do:

Fill out a state application of 835 pages that specifies you are of good moral character, sound mental health, have never been exposed to coronavirus, eat at last five helpings of fruit or vegetables every day, do not cheat on your income taxes and can recite the Cyrillic alphabet backwards in Croatian. Also, you have to swear under oath that you never smoked pot when it was still illegal.

If the bureaucrats at the state Office of Making Things Nearly Impossible deem your filing to be complete, they’ll eventually issue you – no, not a license. That would be too simple. Instead, you get a conditional license that allows you to, well, it doesn’t actually allow you to do anything.

You now have to take your conditional license to a city or town and fill out another application – this one is only 490 pages long (although some municipalities are allowed to add additional questions on the Middle East peace process and quantum physics). Once that’s done, the local government will decide if you’re too shady to be selling cannabis in their downtown.

In the unlikely event you receive a positive response (possibly as a result of a substantial bribe), you can start selling weed.

Kidding. You aren’t even close. You have to take your municipal approval back to the state office that gave you that conditional permit, and see what they think of the deal. Then, maybe, possibly they might give you a license.

Of course, that’s nowhere near the end of it. All that license qualifies you to do is submit yourself to a regulatory regimen that, by comparison, makes getting a permit to dump hazardous waste in the local drinking-water supply seem like child’s play.

You can’t just bag up some joints or box up some edibles, slap on a price tag and open for business. Because if you could do that, the state wouldn’t know nearly enough about what you’re up to.

Under Maine’s rules, every molecule of THC must be tracked from the moment it comes into existence until it turns up in somebody’s bloodstream. This requires high-tech tags that can be monitored by satellites or the unmarked police van parked down the block. There’s also a proposal before the Legislature to establish a special unit in the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency to keep a watchful eye on you, your suppliers, your customers, your relatives, your pets and your role in Middle East peace negotiations.

Failure to comply exactly with every syllable of the legal restrictions can and will result in your being forced to watch “The Masked Singer” without benefit of hallucinogens.

But let’s suppose you’re the sort of person undaunted by petty obstacles. You have the perseveredness to meet all these criteria and prepare to open for business. Even then, you still may face a substantial fine because “perseveredness” isn’t a real word.

OK, you pay up and turn on the “OPEN” sign. More pitfalls await. You can’t sell to anyone under 21. You might be prohibited from doing business with undocumented aliens. You’d be wise to avoid potential customers who have been accused of sexual improprieties. You’ll want to screen out Russian agents seeking to manipulate your sales data for political purposes.

Nevertheless, suburban potheads are soon flocking to your door, and you’re making big bucks. But don’t be too hasty in spending any of it. First, you have to pay sales tax, which is calculated based on a formula derived from the point spread on XFL games. Then, there’s income tax. Worker’s comp. Insurance. And a substantial loss due to your being a cash-only business, which means you get robbed every other day.

You must have been stoned to get into this mess. Because it doesn’t take an MBA to realize it makes more sense to keep selling weed on the black market.

Middle East peace plans may be emailed to

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