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Maine Legislative Council to Vote Thursday on Introduction of Marijuana Legalization Measure

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director November 20, 2013

    On Thursday, November 21st, the Maine Legislative Council will be voting on whether or not to allow the introduction of LR 2329, a measure sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) which would legalize the cultivation, possession, and use of marijuana by individuals over the age of 21 in addition to establishing retail outlets to sell marijuana and marijuana products.

    It is extremely important that we cross this first hurdle at the Legislative Council tomorrow. We have a very real chance of passing this legislation if it is introduced. This is why we are asking all Maine residents to please take a minute of your time to contact the members of the council and urge them to support the introduction of this legislation.

    Maine: Click here to contact the Legislative Council in support of LR 2329

    Final language will be released soon, but you can see an overview of the legislation below. NORML believes this legislation presents a smart approach on marijuana for the state of Maine. It would allow anyone over the age of 21 to possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana, cultivate up to 6 plants, and purchase marijuana from established retail outlets. It also has key provisions in place that ensure individuals with several years residency in Maine and experience as a current medical marijuana dispensaries or caregiver are given priority on business licenses, explicitly leaves the current medical marijuana law in place for patients, and directs tax revenue to help low income patients be able to afford their medicine.

    LR 2329: An Act To Align Maine’s Marijuana Laws with the Guidelines
    Governing Taxation and Regulation Issued by the Federal Government

    Overview

    LR2329, “An Act to Align Maine’s Marijuana Laws With the Guidelines Governing Taxation and Regulation Issued by the Federal Government” is presented in light of the remarkable shifts in culture, events and momentum clearly moving Maine toward a model that regulates and taxes marijuana in a similar manner to the way we do alcohol. The Portland voter initiative answered the question for many, “Is Maine ready?”

    Now, it’s time for a responsible, pragmatic policy. In short – a Maine approach. Here are some key elements of the bill, as well as the context or rationale where appropriate:

    -The policy is focused on the responsible adult market and does not rewrite, recreate or in any way restrict the medical marijuana laws already on the books. Patients will continue to be able to procure medicinal marijuana from their current registered caregiver or registered dispensary provider without disruption. Further, the taxation structure currently in place for patients will remain in place going forward. The bill creates an entirely new chapter of law.

    -The bill does allocate 5% of the excise tax revenue to a new fund to help low-income medical marijuana patients afford their medication.

    -Adults over the age of 21 are allowed to possess, purchase, and consume cannabis.

    -The department will be set up under what is currently BABLO – Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations. This department already oversees tightly regulated products and is most capable of overseeing the start-up of a similar set of rules for running a vice business.

    -There are four types of licenses: Retail, Cultivation, Products and Testing. The cultivation licenses are divided up into tiers, allowing people to start small and scale up as appropriate to a maximum cultivation facility of 10,000 square feet – or, roughly a quarter of an acre. This addresses concerns about putting “the little guy” out of business.

    -To obtain a license under the bill, applicants must have been a resident of Maine for a minimum of two years. This ensures that Maine people benefit from the industry directly.

    -There will be a 10% sales and 15% excise tax with a minimum excise tax of $1.50 per gram.

    -The revenue allocations include, but are not limited to: public school construction, addiction treatment services, youth marijuana prevention, Drugs for the Elderly, research, underage sales prevention, increased number of Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), Fund for a Healthy Maine, liquor and marijuana inspectors, etc.

    -One of the key requirements from the DOJ was to avoid diversion, either to minors or to out-of-state locations where cannabis remains illegal. Further, they seek to stop rewarding cartels and drug dealers. The best way to meet both of these concerns is to ensure supply meets demand. If there is too much supply, the product will be diverted. If there is too much demand, dealers will step in. By extrapolating market data, we have estimated the production capacity should be a total of about 400,000 square feet to meet demand. We have authorized the bureau to allocate licenses at their discretion based on the number of applicants.

    -Colorado is experiencing difficulties in setting up its regulatory structure because they did not set aside revenue for the process, and their licensing fees have not met the revenue needs. LR2329 gives discretion to the bureau to determine the cost for setting up the program, and adjusting application and licensing fees to ensure they have adequate resources to do so responsibly.

    -Youth prevention is a big issue for the Coalition, but also for addiction counselors and law enforcement. The bill includes restrictions on advertising, strict guidelines against furnishing to minors, security requirements for farmers, and the creation of a funded Youth Marijuana Prevention advisory council. The Council’s primary objective will be to reduce youth consumption of marijuana throughout Maine.

    -The bill authorizes “home grow,” a popular expectation for individuals – and a check against industrial marijuana. Municipalities may sell twist tie tax stamps to adult consumers who must attach the tie to the plant demonstrating they have the right to grow it. This does a few things. It allows individuals 21+ to do so while providing an easy way for law enforcement to know whether the plant in question is legal. Further, it ensures revenue for the state. The home cultivation license would prohibit the licensee to sell their product. We also outlined specific notifications that must be presented to the licensee, ensuring they are aware of their obligations and responsibilities under the law.

    -At every opportunity, we have worked to protect the civil liberties of individuals who naturally fear reprisal from the federal government should policies change.

    -There is no referendum in this bill.

    18 Responses to “Maine Legislative Council to Vote Thursday on Introduction of Marijuana Legalization Measure”

    1. Fireweed says:

      and the wall comes crumbling down…

    2. RUT says:

      THE HOME CULTIVATION LICENSE SEEMS TO SET UP ALL KINDS OF PROBLEMS. WHY NOT JUST ALLOW SO MANY PLANTS TO BE GROWN PER PERSON. YOU DO NOT NEED A LICENSE TO MAKE HOME MADE BEER FOR YOUR OWN CONSUMPTION. THEY WILL BE LOOKING FOR NEW REASONS TO ARREST PEOPLE AND HAVE IDENTIFIED WHERE THEY LIVE. SORT OF LIKE A RULE THAT IDENTIFIES ALL THE DRINKERS. THIS SEEMS LIKE OVERKILL NOT LEGALIZATION. YOU CAN CARRY A CIGAR IN YOUR POCKET WITH OUT THE TOBACCO STAMP BEING PRESENT.

    3. Miles says:

      I send Rep. Diane Russell a sincere and well deserved salute!!!

      The gods know we need more representatives that actually represent instead of dictating…

    4. craig says:

      As an american who has waited 40 years for this to happen i think it sucks that i live close but not in maine i have been planning on moving to maine setting up a cannabis buseness and living happyalee ever after but i can see ill have to break the law as usual because of the 2 yr resrtiction on residencey why cant you people f***** die its just a f****** plant

    5. mexweed says:

      “… creation of a funded Youth Marijuana Prevention advisory council. The Council’s primary objective will be to reduce youth consumption of marijuana…”

      Interesting contradiction? I am o.k. with the “reduce” rather than the “prevent”. Every child should be “dosage literate” and understand what a 25-mg single toke is compared to a 1000F H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxide drag on a 500-mg joint.

      Possession of 2-1/2 ounces per adult– that’s over 2000 single tokes, more than I do in a year. The DOJ memo allowance for “moderate use” should include educational wink-room for under-age persons– how about <100 single tokes a year? Moderate home-grow too is good– education being the leading reason. Support!

    6. Demonhype says:

      @RUT: First you get the legalization, THEN you work out the kinks. It was easier for the opponents of Prohibition I, because their prohibition lasted under 20 years, but we are fighting 40+ years of lies and propaganda. As the older generation dies off (and ceases to vote) and the younger generation has more exposure to the realities of marijuana, things will loosen up in time. But the first and most important step is to get there.

      That said, I do worry a bit about corporate interests (including Drug War profiteers like private prisons and drug testing companies) putting the heat on legislators to try and stop legalization measures from ever reaching the people’s vote, because they know that is their last stand–if it reaches the people nowadays it WILL pass, and their only hope is to isolate legalization from the voting public.

      That, RUT, is the real concern. That a legalization bill isn’t loose enough or has controls that don’t exist for liquor is not as much of an issue, as even in MMJ states they have been known to start loosening the laws and adding a variety of conditions for medical use. Like I said, we can fix it and loosen it after we pass legalization, and those unnecessary controls could be the difference between a fence-sitter voting yes or no (because don’t forget, there are still a lot of people who are okay with legalization “so long as it is strictly regulated”–and over time and with the increased exposure even an inadequate legalization law offers they will change their minds and join the “legalize completely” crew over here on the correct side of this issue).

      The only people who stand to benefit from this not passing are the Drug War profiteers–preventing the issue of legalization from even reaching the voters is their final front in this fight because they know they have lost the majority support, and if they can block this they can block it in other states and continue to wage the Drug War at the expense of you and me. Don’t play into their game and end up helping their side, because torpedoing this effort is the only way they can win anymore.

    7. Drifter says:

      “It would allow anyone over the age of 21 to possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana, cultivate up to 6 plants”

      Shouldn’t 6 plants normally yield far more then 2 ½ ounces? I guess the logic is that people will throw away any cannabis over the 2 ½ ounces limit so they will not be in violation of the law. Are people expected to weigh their plants while they grow?

      I think the limit should reflect something reasonable for 6 plants…say about 1 pound.

      I’m all for legalization but lets be realistic.

      [Editor's note: Cannabis plants, if properly grown, can yield considerably more than 2.5 ounces per plant. Outdoor plants, for example, can readily yield a pound or more (FYI...for sentencing purposes the federal government claims in court that each plant yields a kilo, 2.2 pounds).

      One probably does not need to get too hung up in the granular details of 'how much is too much' for home cultivation, or, that there will be any aggressive law enforcement of any sort.

      Think about the situation today with home wine and brew making. There are clear and fairly low amounts of both one can produce at home and police don't go around trying to figure out how much people produce on private property. What does trigger a law enforcement interaction with people that produce more alcohol at home than they consume is when they try to sell the excess without having a license from the government and pay taxes on the sales.

      In effect it is ONLY those who seek to sell their home-produced alcohol products without getting proper legal authority to do so who place themselves in any legal jeopardy. Producing a few extra beers to give away during the holidays as gifts creates no real legal jeopardy. Same too with growing cannabis at home under legalization--only becoming the government's business when it is taken off property and intended for untaxed and unlicensed sales.]

    8. Todd hoglund says:

      Good luck

    9. Ken Hinnenkamp says:

      Shouldn’t we start a coordinated effort to support HR499, which effectively decriminalizes cannabis at the federal level? My suggestion is to create a canned petition to be sponsored by NORML organization activists in every state directing house and senate members to support HR499. We would need millions of signatures, but with the right organization and support at the state level, we could succeed. Moveon.org has indicated to me that they would help us support such an effort. We could also petition the president to support the initiative and to release all non-violent prisoners incarcerated for marijuana offences. Anyone out there think this is a good idea?

    10. Vince says:

      It’s all about money at the end of the day. If it makes dollars, it WILL make sense to each state slowly but surely

    11. Bob Constantine says:

      Some people want to put you in jail for a plant presently.

      Now, with tax and regulate, some people will want to put you jail for not having the “proper” permission from government. I think free people will do what they’ve always done and always should do, ignore laws that take away their freedom.

      It really comes down to this, you are either a person that thinks peaceful people can and should run their lives without any government intervention or you don’t.

      Regulating and taxing soften the stick of government, but it still means in order to be “free” government permission must be granted. That’s just wrong.

    12. Voice of the Resistaqnce says:

      Youth marijuana prevention funny when I was a young man attending seminary school the more they said no, no, no, the more interested in drugs I got; rots of luck prohibitionists.

    13. Dave Evans says:

      Yes Bob, it is wrong, so why does this keep on happening? We have laws stopping these abuses, but they are never applied. Why??? How is drug law more important than the consitution? There is no way to calculate all the damage to society this stupid policy achieves because they hide the damage almost a well as they keep arresting people for nothing.

      Prohibition teaches the police to think like shit. It teaches the police, our lawyers and judges how to serve in a corrupt system. How in every court room, the oath to “Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” is just used as an excuse for further abuse.

    14. Passafist says:

      Good its long over due. Maine has a low pay rate and high tax rate.
      I lived in San Jose CA for a year, well in my time there they were about to lay off 17 police officers – IN SAN JOSE?!?!?!?! That place is BADNEWS once the sun goes down…. Well, San Jose Implemented a 20% straight tax on ALL cannabis products….

      Guess what? San Jose made enough to keep the 17, and upgrade and hire more members for its gang task force. I think crime went down about 13% that year.

    15. Dave Evans says:

      [Editor's note: Cannabis plants, if properly grown, can yield considerably more than 2.5 ounces per plant. Outdoor plants, for example, can readily yield a pound or more (FYI...for sentencing purposes the federal government claims in court that each plant yields a kilo, 2.2 pounds).]

      Wow, you cited another example of “official corruption” even while my letter was waiting to post. Sentencing people to jail for something that might happen later on is not remotely legal in the US. They have no idea how much each plant will yield and 2.2 pounds is an extremely inflated amount. The corruption is taught to the police and lawyers by equating marijuana plants with bullets loaded in an illegal gun. There is no connection, but somehow both are treated in an extremely similar fashion.

      [Editor's note: Unfortunately there are thousands of small time cannabis cultivators who're incarcerated because they got caught by Johnny Law with say 100 scrawny and immature plants, and if the case went to trial, the federal prosecutors argue with a straight face that the defendant was nabbed with 220 pounds of cannabis for sale. A NORML legal seminar on the matter was turned into a book, 'Marijuana, the law and you']

    16. Changes have been made to the LR: 2329 since the 11/21/13 Vote.

      By working together, feedback, suggestions and education, this bill will be even stronger when it comes back to the Legislative Council.

      We all need to get back to the same table: Mainer’s, Parties, Press, State and House Reps., distilleries and lawmakers.

      We can and will overcome this, by working ”Together”.

      Please feel free to view the NEW revised LR: 2329 and provide any feed back and suggestions to this bill.

      http://yesmaine.org/lr2329

      If you live in Maine, please help our State and get others involved. If you want to make a difference here in Maine, get others involved and spread the word about: http://yesmaine.org

      Interested in Joining a new upcoming Maine Normal?

      Please feel free to fill out our Maine NORML Inquiry:

      http://yesmaine.org/maine-norml-inquiry

    17. Tony Ferguson says:

      Im really hopeing Maine dos something soon.. Ive got my med card but would love to see it legal for everybody;) Portland Maine took the first steps for the rest of us so lets take the next steps and take OFF RUNNING AND DONT STOP UNTIL ITS LEGAL ;)

    18. james says:

      Big Steel would be the biggest loser if marijuana is leagalized.

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