Maine Marijuana Tourism? Time Will Tell
In a very close vote in November, Mainers approved a referendum allowing recreational marijuana use. The vote was split geographically: large cities and coastal Maine voted yes while rural and northern areas voted no. A recount affirmed the passage with a 3,995 vote margin (1/2 of 1%!).
The new law will allow adults 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces and grow six plants for personal use. It will also allow the retail sale from special stores and and consumption in “social clubs”. A hefty 10% sales tax (in addition to the usual 5.5%) will fund school construction and pay for state regulation. See the wording of the new law here. Governor LePage has vowed to try to stop the law with a court challenge if he can’t get assurances from the President-Elect that he will enforce federal laws. Federal laws are in conflict with all legalization laws at the state level and have been unenforced during the Obama years.
In recent developments, Gov. LePage has verified the vote and so the law will go into effect on January 30, 2017. On that date, it will be legal to possess 2-1/2 ounces or less and grow six plants. What will not be legal will be public consumption, casual sale of homegrown pot or driving while impaired (although no test exists for cannabis intoxication). Also, there will be few if any places to buy recreational cannabis for quite some time. Local governments are scrambling to enact moratoriums to prevent the establishing of retail outlets, social clubs and growing operations until more is known. Somewhere in Portland an existing medical marijuana store will be the first to sell to recreational customers. We have a medical marijuana store even in Ellsworth. Without the need for a prescription, medical cannabis dispensaries will see their business decline and so will have to begin recreational sales.
Licensing of recreational stores however is a much higher hurdle than medical dispensaries and is subject to local bans. The moratoriums will be in place until one municipality in Maine takes the plunge; a store will open, possibly as soon as late 2017, and everyone will be watching to see what happens. Until then, our legislature needs to refine the law to fill in the details with policies for retail establishments clubs and growing facilities. This will take nine months.
Those wishing to start growing need to buy seeds, and whether it is legal to buy those seeds is another question. Fertile seeds are defined in the law as “cannabis” and as such, must be purchased in a regulated store. Our law does not address seed purchases from another state or country. Federal laws may still make such purchases illegal.
During a recent trip to Ellsworth’s Home Depot I was sure I smelled pot near the loading dock in the back of the store. I expect one of our guests here at SeaCat’s Rest will light up this summer, but outside please. Our insurance policy requires no smoking indoors, no matter what plant you burn.