Maine residents have been mighty patient since late 2016 when voters approved legal recreational cannabis in the state and still haven’t fully received it. Former governor Paul LePage is responsible for a number of setbacks, but things are finally changing thanks to current governor Janet Mills and her rational approach to cannabis. Almost three years later and the state will actually have regulated sales by 2020.
Maine’s Recreational Marijuana Laws
Despite the setbacks Maine has faced getting regulated cannabis in the state, recreational weed has been legal since 2016.
Adults over the age of 21 can possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis at a time. Penalties for possessing over 2.5 ounces to 8 ounces can result in up to $1,000 in fines and six months of incarceration. The penalties for possession go up to over 20 pounds which is punishable by 10 years of incarceration and $20,000 in fines.
According to NORML, “an adult may cultivate up to 3 flowering marijuana plants, 12 immature plants, and unlimited seedlings.” Adults can keep all of the cannabis harvested from their plants so long as they do not exceed three flowering plants. Exceed five plants and fines start at $2,000 with one year of imprisonment and can reach up to 10 years of imprisonment with $20,000 in fines for 500 or more plants.
Maine’s Medical Marijuana Laws
Medical marijuana has been legal in Maine since 1999. It’s now estimated Maine has nearly 46,000 registered patients. After a 2018 amendment to the medical marijuana law was approved, physicians can recommend cannabis at their discretion for any condition they feel patients may benefit from. The laws for possession are the same for registered patients as recreational users, meaning patients can not possess more than 2.5 ounces at a given time. Patients or registered caregivers are allowed to have up to six mature flowering plants.
Maine Marijuana Licenses
The new laws will take effect 90 days after the June 20th decision, meaning prospective retailers can apply for a license in September. The state is not about to let any money-hungry business person hop on the new laws, either. Only residents who have lived in Maine for four years or longer can apply for a license until June 2021, when the state will begin to allow outside applications. This means Mainers are going to reap the benefits and establish a system that focuses primarily on small and local businesses. Officials for marijuana policy in Maine want to prevent big, outside companies from coming in and pushing out small local businesses. The state used other legal recreational states, Massachusetts primarily, as an example to guide Maine towards the best course of action. “Big Marijuana,” where some are registering multiple licenses under a corporate umbrella and pushing small businesses out, is a big issue in Massachusetts’ legal cannabis landscape. To prevent “Big Marijuana” from taking over, all applicants are required to have lived in Maine for at least four years. This includes business partners and managers. Residents can’t pair up with applicants from out of the state in order to bypass the law.
Who Can’t Get a Marijuana License in Maine?
Even if you’ve been in the state for over four years, it’s not just a free-for-all when it comes to getting a license. Those who cannot obtain a license include:
- State employees
- Law enforcement officers
- Anyone who has previously had a marijuana license revoked
- Anyone with a felony from the last 10 years (non-marijuana-related)
No more than 2.5 ounces of flower can be sold to a customer on a given day, with up to no more than 5g of that being concentrated cannabis. It should also be noted that edibles in fun, kid-appealing shapes like animals and people are prohibited.
Maine decriminalized small amounts of cannabis back in 1976, followed nearly 20 years later by voters approving legal medical cannabis. Another almost 20 years went by before voters passed legal recreational cannabis. Here we are, almost three years after that, with regulated cannabis sales at the fingertips of Maine residents and there’s yet another side note: municipalities can choose to opt-in for cannabis sales, but they don’t have to. As of July 8th, 15 communities had opted in, with more expected to join. There are nearly 500 municipalities in Maine though, so keep that in mind when deciding how you feel about it. With Maine’s marijuana-defiant governor out of office, the ball is finally rolling again. Each community will have to decide what this means for them, though.
The Future of Maine’s Marijuana Laws
Former Maine Governor Paul LePage had a knack for vetoing bills, and his opposition to marijuana was no exception. Even with his heartfelt letter stating, “Maine is now battling a horrific drug epidemic that claims more than one life a day due to overdoses caused by deadly opiates,” Maine has moved forward under the guidance of another governor who recognizes the difference between cannabis and opiates. With the new Maine marijuana laws in place, residents are finally on their way to accessing legal recreational weed in the state. By September of this year, residents who have lived in Maine for four years or longer can apply for a marijuana license. By 2020, adults over 21 will be able to access legal weed.