The Universal Notebook: Everybody must get stoned

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As long as no one is being fined or imprisoned for growing or using marijuana, I really don’t care what the laws are. That said, Maine’s marijuana laws and policies certainly are confusing.

Two years ago I held a medical marijuana card, a tincture of marijuana having been prescribed to restore my appetite after I lost 50 pounds due to illness. The tincture didn’t do a thing for my appetite, but it proved to be as effective on pain as prescription painkillers – and far less addictive. I still have half the little dropper bottle left.

Edgar Allen BeemMy medical marijuana prescription has expired, but since adult-use recreational marijuana has become legal and is now everywhere available, I’m thinking I don’t need to pay a physician for a new Rx. If I want some dope I can just run down to the corner pot shop. Either that or ask any one of my friends and relatives who grow marijuana for a few buds. 

I am a creature of the 1960s. Everyone I know used to smoke pot and lots of my peers still do. Baking marijuana brownies is also popular. A little nibble does wonders to take the edge off.

I suppose the prevalence of a mood-altering substance such as marijuana is a sad commentary on the psychic state of the American people, but then so is the ubiquity of alcohol, painkillers, sedatives, and over-eating. 

Legalizing marijuana, for medical use and now just for fun, simply recognized the reality that the American people want to get stoned.

It took a few years (thanks to Paul LePage and COVID-19) for the state to get its regulatory act together after the Maine people voted to legalize recreational marijuana in November 2016, but since pot finally went on sale last October sales have totaled close to $50 million. In August alone, Maine’s 54 pot shops sold $10 million worth of smokes and edibles. That translated into $1 million in sales taxes.

Medical marijuana has been legal for a decade and has an established network of 3,000 caregivers. Sales of medical cannabis came to $280 million in 2020, but there are signs that Maine’s bipolar (medical/recreational) marijuana industry may eventually settle out in favor of one set of rules.

Right now, for instance, recreational marijuana has to be tested for potency, residual solvents, foreign matter, and mold and mildew, while medical cannabis does not have to be tested at all. Seems backward to me. Recreational pot sales are taxed at 10 percent, while medical marijuana sales are taxed at 5.5 percent. Medical marijuana can be prescribed for kids, but recreational use is restricted to adults. And, as I mentioned at the outset, why should anyone have to get a doctor’s prescription to acquire a legal substance?

In other states such as Colorado, the number of medical cannabis cardholders declined after recreational use was legalized and that’s likely to happen here as well. Fire on Fore, the Old Port’s first medical marijuana store, just announced that it is transitioning to recreational marijuana. 

Maine law does not permit a business to sell both medical and recreational marijuana from the same property. That probably will change, too. I guess that once the state government stops being so uptight about pot use we will see a more integrated, one-stop-shopping marijuana market.

And maybe by the time that happens, the federal government will have legalized marijuana, and American citizens in jail on marijuana offenses will have been set free. A law that no one obeys is a bad law.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.