In November 2016, Maine was among the four states to make the decision to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana for adult use. Question 1 passed with a margin of only around 4,000 votes – so close that the opposition almost immediately called for a recount. In order for them to recount the ballots it was going to cost around $500,000 – and required a bunch of volunteers, including people from both the opposing campaign and the campaign leading the initiative.
After delays due to lack of volunteers and coming close to running out of time to have the recount completed before the new year, the opposing side realized that there was not enough of a difference so far for them to likely come out on top in this recount – so they withdrew their call for the recount, finally making the final count official and legalizing marijuana.
As of this past Monday, cannabis possession, consumption and cultivation is now legal in Maine – provided you stay within the law. People can cultivate up to 12 plants at home (as long as no more than 6 of them are mature at a time) and they can gift or possess up to 2.5 ounces at any given time without fear of arrest. Both public consumption and driving while using (or while under the influence of) cannabis will remain illegal and would result in a fine, at the very least.
“It’s huge. No longer will we be punishing adults for using a safer substance than alcohol,” said David Boyer, campaign manager for the ballot question. “We’re not making criminals out of thousands of Mainers who choose to use marijuana.”
People around the state are surely celebrating, whether they were advocates or activists who worked hard to get Question 1 on the ballot and then passed, but also those who waited patiently and voted in favor of the initiative. There is even an event being thrown for those who worked on the Yes on 1 campaign, as well as some other folks, that they are calling “The End of Prohibition Party”.
Lawmakers will be spending the next several months trying to work out the details for the regulation and taxation of the plant – and hopefully things will be in place in time for them to open retail dispensaries in February 2018. The expected date in February is already a delay from what was originally intended by the initiative, but not to the extent being seen in nearby Massachusetts, who will see a potential six month delay to mid 2018.
Overall, things appear to be running smoothly so far for the state of Maine as they transition into having a legal cannabis industry. It’s now legal for adults to possess and consume, so arrests will decline significantly – and if lawmakers work diligently and don’t hit many snags or attempt to make any major changes to the law, retail sales could be available as soon as February of next year.