When voters in Maine go to the polls on Election Day they – like voters in 4 other states – will see recreational marijuana legalization on the ballot. Although Maine is a state with an already established medical cannabis industry, it was not easy to get – and keep – recreational legalization on the ballot.
Unification and Court Battles
At this time last year there were actually 2 groups trying to legalize cannabis for all adults in Maine, the group behind what is now Question 1 and a group backed by the Marijuana Policy Project. Instead of competing for signatures and funding, the MPP group decided to bow out and throw their support behind the first group.
“Joining forces is the best step forward, not only for our respective campaigns, but for Maine as a whole,” said David Boyer, the campaign manager of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (the MPP group), in a statement released at the time the two campaigns joined forces. “We all agree marijuana prohibition has been a colossal failure and that it must be replaced with a system in which marijuana is legal for adults and regulated like alcohol. We can more effectively accomplish our shared goal by combining our resources and working together instead of on parallel tracks.
“We had some differences of opinion on some of the specifics, but our initiatives were largely similar overall. We would not get behind this measure unless we were 100% confident that it will effectively and responsibly end prohibition in Maine. We’re also confident that the voters will agree.”
The group Legalize Maine – the ones that started what would eventually become Question 1 – welcomed the support. “This is a major milestone on the path to ending marijuana prohibition in Maine,” said Paul McCarrier, President of Legalize Maine. “Either of these campaigns could be successful on their own, but together we can put our best feet forward in 2016. The voters are ready to adopt a more sensible marijuana policy, and we’re committed to working with everyone who wants to help them do it.
“Both campaigns have done a great job of educating voters, organizing volunteers, and raising funds, and now we can ramp up those efforts even more. David and MPP have made some major strides here this past couple years, and they clearly share our commitment to doing what is best for the people of Maine. We’re looking forward to working with them to cross the finish line next year.”
Anyone who thought it would be smooth sailing after that was soon shown the error of their optimism. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (the combination of the 2 groups resulted in the retention of Legalize Maine’s ballot language and CRMLA’s structure; CRMLA also became the name of the ballot measure before it became Question 1) soon had tens of thousands of petition signatures invalidated by the Maine Secretary of State’s Office. These signatures were later restored by Maine Business and Consumer Court Justice Michaela Murphy who ruled that the state had used an “incorrect and improper standard” when they invalidated a large group of signatures on what the CRMLA called a “handwriting technicality.”
This cleared the way for Question 1 to be on the statewide ballot.
What Would Question 1 Do?
So what, if passed, would Question 1 do? From Ballotpedia: “Question 1 was designed to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in Maine as an agricultural product. The measure would allow individuals over the age of 21 to possess and use marijuana, and would also provide for the licensure of retail facilities and marijuana social clubs. The measure would provide that the marijuana industry be regulated by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, that municipalities can limit the operation of retail stores, and that a 10 percent tax be placed on marijuana sales.”
Those aged 21 years or older would be able to possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana flower, which is the largest amount among the 5 recreational legalization measures being voted on next month. Adults would also be able to grow up to 6 flowering marijuana plants, 12 immature plants and unlimited seedlings and possess all the marijuana harvested from those plants at their residence.
Another interesting aspect of Question 1 is its inclusion of marijuana social clubs. “It also provides for the licensure of retail marijuana social clubs where retail marijuana products may be sold to consumers for consumption on the licensed premises,” it says in the ballot language summary. This will likely result in a “bar” type of establishment where edible and vaporizing can be done on site after purchase; smoking would probably be in an outdoor patio-type area.
While having no real funding to speak of, the opposition to Question 1 hasn’t needed it. On their side they have a couple high profile and vocal politicians launching wild accusations and taking fear-mongering to another level.
One of those very vocal opponents is Maine Attorney General Janet Mills. In a revised “assessment” of Question 1, Mills stated that the passage of Question 1 would allow children to get marijuana.
“It makes it legal for anyone of any age, two-years-old, 20 years-old, 80 years-old, to possess up to two and a half ounces of marijuana,” said Mills. Lawyers for Question 1 disagree, saying the measure clearly states it’s only legal for those 21 and older.
But leading the opposition is Maine Governor Paul LePage, who appeared in a recent video making wild and verifiably false claims about cannabis. “Question 1 is not just bad for Maine, it can be deadly,” LePage says, claiming traffic fatalities will rise even — though that doomsday prediction is not supported by stats from states like Colorado and Washington.
“They will smoke weed and sell pot at state fairs,” he adds. “Businesses could not fire employees for using marijuana.” He also claims that accidental marijuana ingestion will kill your children and pets.
Will Question 1 Pass?
In a poll taken late last month, 53% of respondents said they support legalizing recreational marijuana in Maine, while 38% are opposed. That’s a good spread but when the kind of political firepower is being trained on you is the caliber of what Question 1 is facing, anything is possible.
“Most people have made up their minds on Question 1 and the majority are supporting it” David Boyer, Campaign Manager for Question 1, told The Marijuana Times. “They see that it is working in states like Colorado and it can work here.”
In the end the battle over legalization in Maine is a battle between age old foes: truth and fear. Fear has had the upper hand for a long time when it comes to cannabis, which is why the legalization battles across this country next month are going to be so close. We are just now getting to a point where the truth about marijuana is widely known enough that a chance for real change is a reality.
“Based on our polling and our ground game, we are cautiously optimistic about victory in November,” David Boyer told us.
We’ll all know the answer after voters go to the polls in Maine on November 8th.