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.
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
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.
John Hanger is currently pursuing the Democratic nomination in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race and has made marijuana law reform a central plank in his platform. He has released a three step plan for marijuana law reform that advocates for medical marijuana and decriminalization immediately upon taking office in 2015 and to move to full legalization by 2017.
At the press conference, NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri stated, “Hanger is the only candidate who isn’t afraid to openly discuss and campaign on a platform that calls for widespread reform of Pennsylvania’s marijuana laws. Since the start of his campaign, John Hanger has been a passionate and outspoken advocate of ending Pennsylvania’s war on marijuana and moving the state towards a smarter approach.”
In an interview with NORML conducted earlier this year, John Hanger stated his belief that marijuana law reformers can elect the next governor. “We can win this issue in May 2014, by my winning that primary,” Hanger said, “It will shock the political establishment and accelerate the changing of the laws by years in Pennsylvania and around the country. I believe Pennsylvania is seen as a bellwether. If marijuana reform can win in Pennsylvania, it can win anywhere.”
VOTER NOTE: Since the Republicans are running current governor Tom Corbett for reelection, there will only be a Democratic primary in this election which will be held in May 2014. To vote in this primary, you must be registered Democrat. You can change your party affiliation, then change it back, at any time by sending in a new voter registration application and marking “Change of Party” where given the option. More information on Pennsylvania voting can be found here.
Three localities in Michigan (Ferndale, Jackson, and Lansing) all voted in support of marijuana legalization today by huge margins. The three areas had similar proposals to remove criminal and civil penalties for personal possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana.
Ferndale won by the largest margin with 72% of voters approving the measure. Jackson approved their ordinance with 61% support and only 39% opposed and Lansing passed theirs with 63% support. (Note: Official final vote tallies will be updated when they come in.)
“These votes in Michigan, along with the resounding vote in Portland, Maine illustrate that not only are the American people considering moving towards legalization of marijuana, they overwhelmingly are demanding it,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Politicians must open their eyes to the political reality that legalization has arrived and is supported by a massive majority of voters. If they continue to drag their feet on the issue, we will take it to the people wherever possible, and we will win.”
Supporters of Portland’s Question 1 claimed victory tonight, celebrating their work to make Portland the first city on the East Coast to legalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for adults over 21. Question 1 was approved by about 70% of the vote, with only around 30% voting in opposition.
“Volunteers have been working tirelessly to make Portland the first city on the East Coast to legalize marijuana for adults, and tonight we celebrate,” said Rep. Diane Russell. “This is truly a victory for science, for common sense and for liberty.”
Earlier this year, Russell’s bill, “An Act to Tax and Regulate Marijuana” earned itself 35 co-sponsors, but fell just four votes short in the Maine House of Representatives. Since that time, the Department of Justice has released guidelines allowing states to move forward with regulating marijuana in a similar manner to alcohol. The populist Portland vote is seen as a litmus test of momentum for replacing prohibition with alcohol-style regulation.
“We already successfully regulate marijuana for medical use and, with tonight’s vote, it’s now clear Mainers are ready to move forward responsibly regulating all adult marijuana sales. We are calling on city officials to respect the will of the voters, and state leaders to get ahead of this issue with a Maine approach to taxing and regulating this commodity, much like we do alcohol,” said Russell. “It’s time to stop rewarding drug cartels and start rewarding responsible business owners, while funding important state priorities with new tax revenue.”
“We hope this resounding vote in Portland sends a loud and clear message, not just to lawmakers in Augusta, but lawmakers nationwide,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “We the people are ready for marijuana legalization and it is well past time for legislators to listen to their constituents and push for an end to the failed policy of prohibition.”
NORML and Representative Russell are still working to have statewide marijuana legalization statewide in 2014.
Today, voters across the nation head to the polls to cast their ballots in a number of state and local elections. While there are no statewide marijuana initiatives this year, that doesn’t mean some Americans won’t have the chance to vote in favor of sensible marijuana law reforms.
In Portland, Maine, Question 1 will appear on the ballot. This measure would remove all criminal and civil penalties for possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana within the city. No arrest, no fine, no crime. NORML encourages all Portland residents to get out and vote YES on Question 1.
Three areas in Michigan will also be voting on local marijuana legalization initiatives. Lansing, Ferndale, and Jackson will be voting on measures to legalize the private adult possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana in those locations. NORML encourages voters in these cities to get out and vote YES on these efforts.
Below is a statement from NORML PAC on the endorsements it has made in this year’s races:
18th Legislative District State Senate – Assemblyman Peter Barnes: “NORML PAC is endorsing Assemblyman Peter Barnes in his campaign for a seat in the state Senate representing the 18th Legislative District. Assemblyman Barnes has been a strong supporter of medical use as well as marijuana decriminalization during his tenure in the Assembly and we believe he will prove a strong advocate for reform issues should he be elected to the Senate. Meanwhile, his opponent, East Brunswick Mayor David Stahl, oversaw an over 35% increase in marijuana arrests in his city from 2010-2012. For these reasons, NORML PAC is endorsing Assemblyman Barnes for state Senate.”
15th Legislative District State Assembly – Assemblyman Reed Guscoria: “NORML PAC is pleased to endorse Assemblyman Reed Guscoria in his campaign for reelection to the New Jersey State Assembly. Assemblyman Guscoria has been a vocal advocate for reforming New Jersey’s marijuana laws, from drafting the original NJ medical marijuana legislation, being the primary sponsor of the NJ Assembly’s marijuana decriminalization bill, and continuing to push for sensible reforms to New Jersey’s medical marijuana program to make it workable for patients.
Assemblyman Guscoria has been an important leader pursuing reforms that roll back the senseless and destructive prohibition on marijuana and move New Jersey towards a policy that is smart on crime and compassionate towards the state’s patient population. ”
Mayoral Election – Steve Berke: “NORML PAC is pleased to endorse Steve Berke in his campaign for mayor of Miami Beach. Steve has been a tireless advocate for reforming marijuana laws and has used his campaign and platform to educate the public about the failures of marijuana prohibition and the necessity of pursuing a new policy. We believe that during his mayorship, Steve Berke would be an excellent spokesman for advancing the conversation around ending our country’s war on cannabis consumers, as he has already done for many years outside of elected office. Steve Berke believes strongly in reforming our current laws and moving towards a system of legalization and regulation, for these reasons NORML PAC supports his candidacy for mayor.”