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Maine allowing recreational sale of marijuana in 2018

Maine will be among the eight states, along with California and Massachusetts, to allow the sale of recreational marijuana by next year. The Maine Legislature is working to finish the bill that will allow the opening of retail marijuana stores by the summer of 2018.

Maine Question 1, 2016, “An Act to Legalize Marijuana,” was passed on Nov. 8 last year. While growth, possession and recreational use became legal for persons 21 years of age or older on Jan. 30, the legislature passed LD 88, “An Act To Delay the Implementation of Certain Portions of the Marijuana Legalization Act,” to serve as a temporary moratorium on retail and taxation of marijuana until February 2018. The legislature would use this intermediate time to resolve issues surrounding the level of restriction placed on marijuana sales before the full act goes into effect.

The first draft of LR 2395 “An Act To Amend the Marijuana Legalization Act” had its first public hearing before the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee on Sept. 26. Concerns regarding the bill included the potential interference of adult-use laws; the six-month residency requirement for recreational license applicants being too short, allowing “large, out-of-state interests” to push Mainers out of the potential profit; a lack of local control over the legalization process; the suggested 20 percent tax rate on sales being too high and the 5 percent share of the generated tax going to the host community being too low.

Since this initial hearing, amendments have been made to the bill in preparation for an emergency special session on Oct. 23. The residency requirement was increased to two years, and the ideas of internet sales, drive-through sales and home delivery were cut entirely. Municipalities were given more control as well: They will have the authority to expand the per-property limit from 12 plants to 18, and to drop the buffer between marijuana businesses and schools from 1,000 feet to 500 feet. They must also “opt-in, not out, to authorize marijuana establishments in their town,” meaning municipalities no longer need to scramble to preemptively put moratoriums on marijuana sales. The bill awaits further amendment before the emergency session.

Currently in the state of Maine, legal possession of marijuana is limited to 2.5 ounces or less. Cultivation is limited to up to six mature plants, 12 immature plants and unlimited seedlings. Possessing or cultivating beyond these limits is punishable by months or years of jail time and thousands of dollars in fines, depending on the amount. Public use is a civil infraction punishable by a maximum fine of $100, so marijuana consumption is limited to private property.

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