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.
As we mentioned here previously, NORML has worked with Representative Diane Russell in Maine to draft and prepare for introduction a measure that would have legalized and regulated the adult use of marijuana in the state. The proposed legislation would have legalized the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and the cultivation of up to 6 plants by individuals over the age of 21. It would have established marijuana retail outlets and cultivation sites across the state to create an aboveboard regulated market. To ensure that both those with experience and those with strong ties to the state of Maine were given priority, applicants who are already operating in Maine’s medical program and applicants with 2 or more years residency in the state were to receive the right of first refusal for retail licenses.
To be introduced, the measure had to be approved by Maine’s Legislative Council and was on track to do so until today. At the last minute, monied corporate interests representing established medical marijuana dispensaries came in and managed to flip one of the votes necessary to approve the bill for introduction. Their complaints were vague and they made the claim they were not invited to the table, despite the legislation being drafted to provide them with priority status when it came to applying for retail licenses. In truth, they walked away from the very table they said they were not invited to. In addition to providing deference to both medical dispensaries, registered caregivers, and applicants with real ties to the state, 5% of the taxes raised from the sales of retail marijuana would have gone to help low income patients who are suffering in Maine by subsidizing the cost of their medical cannabis.
“Today, corporate and profit-driven interests shunned Maine’s economic future and shut down the prospects of a new bill to regulate marijuana,” stated Representative Diane Russell, “For the record, 5% of tax revenue from the new bill would have gone to ensuring low income Mainers could afford their medical marijuana. Profits seem to be more important than patients – and that’s just wrong.”
With pressure from those with vested interest in maintaining the status quo, this proposed legislation ended up falling one vote short of what was required for its introduction, although we had enough votes.
Maine Residents: Please, take a moment of your day to contact Maine’s Legislative Council using our form linked below and let them know you disagree with their decision. The time is overdue for Maine to move towards a regulated system that puts the interests of Mainers before the interest of profits.
Very Disappointing: Please Reconsider LR 2329
I am writing to express my disappointment with the Maine Legislative Council for failing to approve Representative Diane Russell’s proposed legislation that would have legalized adult possession and limited cultivation of marijuana, while regulating its retail sale similar to how our state currently regulates alcohol.
For those who voted in support of Rep. Russell’s bill, I sincerely thank you. For those who voted in opposition to it, I write to respectfully request you reconsider your vote. I’ve outlined my reasons below and hope you will give serious consideration to the growing number of Mainers who want a Maine approach to marijuana policy.
Next Tuesday, Portland will be voting on a citizen referendum to legalize cannabis for adults. If this ordinance passes, there will be no vehicle to channel the growing momentum for legalization toward a constructive end. When 58% of Americans support replacing prohibition with regulation, the issue is no longer coming – it’s here. Regardless of the vote next week, we should be actively working to get ahead of this issue in a responsible, open manner.
Mainers are quickly realizing that prohibition has failed to protect kids. In fact, more than 80 percent of high school seniors attest to the federal government that they have easy access to marijuana – that statistic has remained constant for nearly four decades.
Further, Mainers are twice as likely to get arrested for possession if they are African American; York county residents are five times as likely. In 2010 alone, Maine arrested over 2,800 individuals for simple marijuana possession. The cost of enforcing these laws comes with an annual bill in excess of 8.8 million dollars a year, while doing nothing to create safer communities or dissuade use. Further, this system has only incentivized drug dealers and cartels who are currently profiting off prohibition.
This legislation was written with safe guards in place to give priority to in state residents and current medical marijuana dispensary operators when it comes to the distribution of retail licenses. Additionally, it would have taken the marijuana trade out of the hands of black market criminal elements and put it under the control of legitimate regulated business owners – from Maine – while raising substantial tax revenue for the state. The bill funded the hiring of new Drug Recognition Experts to help enhance highway safety, Drugs for the Elderly, addiction treatment, medical marijuana for low income people, and the launch of a marijuana youth prevention task force.
In short, this was a Maine approach to responsibly addressing a growing cultural shift. I ask you to reconsider this vote, and allow a new bill to move forward that truly reflects the direction Mainers want to go on this issue.
The initiative, Question 1, would remove all criminal and civil penalties for adults possessing up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. This means no arrest, no criminal record, no citation, no fine. We know we can win on Election Day and pass this initiative, which would send a clear message down the East Coast that the people in this region are ready to move forward on legalizing marijuana.
You can help make that victory a reality. Our allies at Just Say Now have launched an online phone banking tool which allows anyone across the country to log in and begin calling Portland voters to encourage their support for the issue. A script and talking points will be provided and you can help us by making as many calls to voters as you can, any amount helps inch us closer to the finish line.
Click here to sign up and begin calling Portland voters in support of Question 1 today!
Vote Yes on Question 1, Legalize Marijuana in Portland.
Reported this week in the Daily Herald:
Community banks and credit unions are ready and willing to provide financial services to entrepreneurs in the state’s new legal pot industry. But they aren’t able to, at least not yet.
Marijuana businesses, even ones that will soon be legally licensed in this state, are considered criminal enterprises under federal law, which makes handling their money a crime in the eyes of the Department of Justice.
Until the agency changes its outlook or Congress changes the law — and efforts are under way to do both — those getting into the pot business can’t open a bank account, secure a line of credit or obtain a loan from a federally insured financial institution in their neighborhood.
Fortunately, there is already a bill Congress could act upon to resolve this issue. Earlier this year, Representatives Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) and Denny Heck (WA – 10), along with a bipartisan group of 16 other Republicans and Democrats, introduced legislation that would reform federal banking laws relating to marijuana businesses. HR 2652: The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2013 updates federal banking rules to resolve conflicts between federal and state laws and would allow marijuana businesses acting in compliance with state law to access banking services.
Under current federal banking laws, many legal, regulated legitimate marijuana businesses that follow state law are prevented from opening bank accounts and operating as any other businesses would, which could ultimately lead to crime such as robbery and tax evasion in addition to the already onerous burden of setting up a legitimate small business.
Please take a minute of your time today to utilize NORML’s Take Action Center to contact your elected officials and urge them to support this important legislation. You can do so by clicking here.
The DC City Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety will hold public hearings on legislation introduced earlier this year by Councilman Tommy Wells, B20-0409: The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013. The measure will receive two public hearings, one on Wednesday evening from 6:30pm until 9:00pm at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library located at 1800 Good Hope Road SE. The hearing will reconvene Thursday at 11:30am in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building located at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW.
NORML will be testifying along with other allied groups in favor of this legislation. The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act would make the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by those 18 years of age or older a civil violation, punishable by a $100 fine. Currently, the possession of any amount of marijuana in the District of Columbia is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months incarceration or a maximum $1,000 fine. A survey conducted by Public Policy Polling earlier this year found that 75% of DC residents support this reform.
A live stream of the hearings should be available here, the video will also be archived on the City Council website for viewing at a later date.
If you live in DC and can’t attend the hearing, you can quickly and easily contact your City Council member in support of this measure by clicking here.
You can read NORML’s testimony below:
Written Testimony Regarding B20-0409: The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013, Before the DC City Council, Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety
By Erik Altieri, Communications Director
NORML | NORML Foundation
October 24, 2013
NORML applauds the members of the City Council for holding this hearing regarding the decriminalization of personal use amounts of marijuana.
B20-0409: The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013 reduces minor marijuana possession penalties (those involving the possession of 1 ounce or less) from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $1000 fine, to a civil infraction punishable by a fine only. This common sense, fiscally responsible proposal will cut costs, improve public safety, and have a positive impact on the quality of life of thousands of adults in the District of Columbia.
This Measure Will Improve The Quality Of Life For DC Citizens
In 2011, about 4,300 District citizens were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana at the estimated cost of over 20 million dollars. These arrests disproportionately effect people of color, with African American residents being arrested at 8 times the rate of their white counterparts despite similar use rates. This statistic makes the District 2nd in the nation when it comes to racial disparities, falling just behind Iowa. While only accounting for 51.6% of the population, people of color account for more than 90% of all marijuana arrests. Passage of this measure would spare many of these citizens from criminal arrest, prosecution, and incarceration, as well as the emotional and financial hardships that follow — including the loss of certain jobs, students loans, federal and state subsidies, and child custody rights.
Most adult marijuana users act responsibly. They are not part of the crime problem and they should not be treated like serious criminals. This legislation would maintain monetary sanctions for marijuana possession violations, but would spare offenders from being saddled with lifelong criminal records. This change would continue to discourage marijuana abuse, while halting the practice of permanently criminalizing thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens.
B20-0409 Will Cut Costs And Improve Public Safety
Law enforcement resource allocation is a zero-sum gain. The time that a police officer spends arresting and processing minor marijuana offenders is time when he or she is not out on the streets protecting the public from more significant criminal activity. Passage of this bill would allow law enforcement, prosecutors, and the courts to re-allocate their existing resources toward activities that will more effectively target serious criminal behavior and keep the public safe. In recent years, lawmakers in California (2010), Connecticut (2011) and Vermont (2013) have enacted similar legislation for these reasons. To date, these laws are working as lawmakers intended.
District Residents Strongly Support Decriminalization
Public opinion strongly favors such a reprioritization of law enforcement resources. Marijuana ‘decriminalization,’ as proposed under The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act, presently enjoys support from the majority of Americans. According to a DC poll conducted by Public Policy Polling earlier this year, 75 percent of D.C. residents support decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.
Contrary to the concerns of some, the passage of this legislation would not negatively impact marijuana use patterns or attitudes. Passage of similar legislation in other states has not led to increased marijuana use or altered adolescents’ perceptions regarding the potential harms of drug use. In fact, the only United States government study ever commissioned to assess whether the enforcement of strict legal penalties positively impacts marijuana use found, “Overall, the preponderance of the evidence which we have gathered and examined points to the conclusion that decriminalization has had virtually no effect either on the marijuana use or on related attitudes and beliefs about marijuana use among American young people.”
Support Public Safety: Vote ‘Yes’ On The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act
The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act seeks to reduce government expenditures and promote public safety. These are goals that lawmakers should support. It makes no sense to continue to treat responsible adult cannabis consumers as criminals. While NORML encourages the Council to approve this measure, we hope that you will also continue to pursue further marijuana law reforms. Amending this legislation to include limited personal cultivation of several marijuana plants would allow consumers to have an alternative source instead of continuing to funnel money into the black market. Ultimately, we urge the Council to consider moving further, to a system that regulates marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, which would put marijuana commerce in the hands of regulated businesses and away from criminal elements. Thank you for your time and consideration of this measure.