Maine to Begin Recreational Cannabis

Maine finally made progress towards the recreational marijuana market residents voted for in 2016. Last week, Governor Janet Mills proposed regulations that would give Mainers — not outside investors or national cannabis conglomerates — exclusive access to licenses until June 2021.

Experts say this may create a unique farm-to-table structure with small, discreet shops close to the facility where the plants were cultivated, fitting in neatly with Maine’s artisanal image.

“We don’t want out-of-state corporate businesses here running our cannabis industry,” said Matt Hawes of the Maine Cannabis Industry Association, “If you know anything about the psyche of Maine consumers, you know we are very much locavores here.”

Individuals applying for a license must have lived in the state for the past four years under the laws outlined by Mills’s administration.

Corporations would have to prove that each officer, director, manager, and general partner had been a resident for the last four years and that a majority of the firm’s ownership and control also rests in the hands of Mainers.

Adjacent Massachusetts has no residency requirements for most license types.

Maine is also planning stipulations intended to prevent large, national marijuana companies from gaining control over local marijuana cultivators and retailers through loans, management agreements, brand licensing deals, and other schemes commonplace in Massachusetts, detailed in a recent Globe Spotlight Team investigation.

Current storefront “registered caregivers” in Maine’s medical marijuana system, which includes eight larger dispensaries but is ruled by hundreds of small-scale caregivers, will likely convert to recreational shops.

The hope is their stores would stock local organic products, instead of popular products licensed from national companies that are common in Massachusetts pot stores.

“You can get a lobster in Massachusetts, but you get a better lobster in Maine—and it’s going to be the same with marijuana,” said Maine Representative Teresa Pierce. “We’re doing this the Maine way, and it’s going to result in a better product. You’ll see people on a farm growing what they want and selling it in the local community--when people think about health and being close to the source, Maine has that advantage.”

Maines new policy isn’t as inclusive of its natives as it first appears. Lawmakers want to reduce the number of plants citizens can grow at home and eliminate consumption cafes. Most disappointing, they aren’t providing a pipeline for communities of color that faced high arrest and incarceration rates when marijuana was illegal. Under Maine law, those convicted on a felony drug charge within the past decade are ineligible for recreational licenses.

“Arbitrarily denying those who were disproportionately impacted by the drug war from participating in this legal industry would appear to be out-of-step with both public opinion and Americans’ sense of fairness,” said Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML. The proposed policies still favor wealthy Caucasians, they just ensure the are wealthy caucasian Mainers.

Gundersen, the Maine policy director, said adjustments could be implemented once the market is up and running, in other words, once wealthy non-minorities have had a chance to entrench themselves in the market.

Former Governor Paul LePage, a strident opponent of legalization, had attempted to veto the recreational vote and delayed regulations during his tenure, so Mills' administration has acted quickly moving forward with legislation, a process that included getting sign-off from Maine’s attorney general and nine executive agencies. The Legislature is expected to sign off on the rules as soon as June, with licenses possibly being issued later this year.

Bibliography

Adams, Dan. "Maine Is Finally Moving Ahead with Recreational Marijuana - and Mainers Will Be the First to Profit." BostonGlobe.com. May 08, 2019. https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/marijuana/2019/05/08/maine-finally-moving-ahead-with-recreational-marijuana-and-mainers-will-first-profit/AmAmenSoUc1xBz56biuKpM/story.html.

Wallack, Todd, and Dan Adams. "Massachusetts Marijuana Regulators Investigating Whether Companies Violated License Limits." BostonGlobe.com. March 28, 2019. https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/03/27/massachusetts-marijuana-regulators-investigating-whether-companies-violating-ownership-limits/jshf4znu16AaNxD3P1NdBK/story.html.

"Pot Bust: California Dramatically Cuts Marijuana Tax Revenue Projections." Los Angeles Times. May 09, 2019. https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-pot-marijuana-tax-revenues-california-20190509-story.html.