Maine’s New Cannabis Laws
Just as Americans must all accept the fact that Donald Trump won the election, even by the slimmest margin, so must Mainers accept that a slim majority of us also voted to substantially end cannabis prohibition. Hopefully, the latter will help us cope with the former. Now it is up to lawmakers to “interpret our wishes” and come up with sensible legislation to write the new laws into the books. They say they need more time, and if they want to take their time getting this right, then that may be time well spent.
What the majority of Mainers voted for on the ballot was to legalize possession of up to 2 ½ ounces for anyone 21 or older, and the right to cultivate up to 6 plants under discreet conditions. These two items effectively decriminalize cannabis in the state for age-appropriate residents and visitors, and are very easy to adopt. The State legislature should address these concerns right away in order to honor the referendum process, which is one of the fundamental grass-roots expressions of Democracy.
Where legislators need to take their time is in the treatment of the other two aspects of the referendum, which are much more difficult: Whether or not to allow large-scale cannabis growing and sales, both commercial and retail, and how to regulate and tax these industries; and whether or not to change existing laws regarding driving under the influence. Indeed, establishing a reasonable benchmark for what constitutes “under the influence of cannabis” will take some research.
Many cannabis growers and users voted against the new referendum because they feared that the State would over-regulate a burgeoning cottage industry, as well as unfairly burden responsible users with draconian restrictions. Those fears may be well-placed, and should be addressed by lawmakers. It’s safe to say that most voters do not care very much about the details of the industry regulation or taxation, as long as there is a net gain to the State’s coffers.
If Colorado’s experiment has taught us anything, it is that Colorado has reaped enormous financial benefits from the legalization and taxation of cannabis. This Fall, they used some of the new money to fund Amendment 69, which guarantees all Coloradans health care. Colorado is also enjoying a boom in the population of young adults, which has produced a boom in housing and practically everything else. Colorado did make some mistakes, however. It is currently illegal to cultivate and sell outdoor grown cannabis in Colorado, thus prohibiting most residents from enjoying the fruits of their own gardens. Such a statute in Maine’s new laws would certainly subvert the intentions of most voters. After cultivating for 32 years, I can say with certainty that indoor grown cannabis is not superior in any way to outdoor grown, and much more expensive to produce.
While the Legislature carefully researches the effects of the cannabis laws in Colorado and Washington, they should check back with their constituents to clarify what we really wanted when we voted to repeal prohibition. They should also enact immediate measures to decriminalize the possession and cultivation of small amounts by private citizens for their own use, which is what most of us voted for to begin with.