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.
Marijuana Legalization Advocates Return to Independence Mall This Friday for Smoke Down Prohibition VIIJuly 24, 2013
From the organizers:
“After six successful rallies, The Panic Hour and Philly Norml return with the seventh edition of Smoke Down Prohibition.
We ask you to join us and peacefully sit-in at The Liberty Bell to stand up against cannabis prohibition.
This time the rally will be on Friday, July 26th and we will be gathering for the event at 4:20pm. Meeting location is Independence Mall at 5th St and Market St.
Click here for more info and to RSVP”
Speaking on the evolution of the Smoke Down events, one of the primary organizers, The Panic Hour’s NA Poe stated, “Although I will not be able to attend the protest in person, it brings me great joy that so many people are planning to stand up against marijuana prohibition by sitting in with us at the liberty bell. As Smoke Down grows and evolves, we will continue to use a blend of comedy and direct action to combat the absurdity of Cannabis prohibition.”
Chris Goldstein, writer for Philly.com and Philly NORML Board Member, encouraged legalization supporters to join the protest and push for an end to the war on cannabis. “Marijuana will be legal when everyone who consumes it for medication or recreation raises their voices to the federal government,” Goldstein said, “It is a privilege to participate in ‘Smoke Down Prohibition’ at historic Independence Hall in Philadelphia. This is the only monthly event in America focused on legalizing cannabis and keeping pressure on the federal government. We will keep it growing.”
Learn about the new “sit-in” format and what to expect from the seventh Smoke Down Prohibition by watching this video created by the organizers:
We hope to see all of you by the Liberty Bell this Friday!
On Friday, marijuana reformers recorded the closest vote for a legalization measure on the floor of a state legislature in recent history.
Rep. Diane Russell’s LD 1229, which would place the question of legalization before Maine voters this fall, was narrowly rejected in a 71 to 67 vote. We only managed to get this vote so close because of the outpouring of support via phone and email that Representatives heard from their constituents. Never doubt the power that making you opinion known to your elected officials has a very quantifiable effect.
The good news is that the fight for legalization in Maine still isn’t over for this year. Representative Russell just informed us that she intends to continue the fight for legalization to the floor of the State Senate. The Senate will vote on LD 1229 as soon as Monday.
[UPDATE: Unfortunately, Monday's Senate vote fell short: http://bangordailynews.com/2013/06/10/politics/state-house/maine-senate-opposes-sending-recreational-marijuana-question-to-voters/. The Senate defeat ends the legislative effort for this year.]
Last week, advocates turned in double the amount of signatures required to place a marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot in Portland, Maine this year, making certification seem very likely. If approved by voters, the initiative would allow adults aged 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana with city limits. Use of the drug in public spaces, such as schools and on public transportation, would still be prohibited. The result from the signature certification process is expected in the coming weeks.
Residents statewide may still get the opportunity to vote on marijuana legalization as well. We received word from Representative Diane Russell (D-Portland), sponsor of the LD 1229: An Act to Regulate and Tax Marijuana, that it is very likely the measure will receive a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives this week. The amended version of LD 1229 contains only a simple referenda component. If the amended bill is approved by the legislature, it would place the question of whether or not to legalize marijuana on the statewide ballot in Maine this fall.
MAINE RESIDENTS: It is absolutely crucial that your elected officials hear from you in support of this legislation over the next 24 to 36 hours. Please take a few minutes out of your day to call and email your elected officials and tell them to let the people of Maine decide if it is time to end marijuana prohibition. You can click here to easily find the name and phone number of your members of the State House and Senate. Call them and urge them to vote “YES” on LD 1229. You can also click here to quickly and easily send an email in support of this legislation to your elected representatives.
NORML will keep you updated as these two efforts move forward. You can track the progress of marijuana law reform legislation in other states via NORML’s ‘Take Action’ page here.
LD 1229, which aims to make Maine the third state to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, has been scheduled for a hearing before the Joint Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety this Friday at 10am. The measure was introduced with the support of primary sponsor Representative Diane Russell (D-Portland) and 35 co-sponsors.
NORML has been working closely with Rep. Russell in support of this historic legislation and we are hearing that the outpouring of grassroots support is having an impact. Elected officials in Maine are giving serious consideration to supporting this bill, many have already come over to our side. If this momentum keeps up, Maine stands an excellent chance of becoming the third state to legalize marijuana, but Mainers need to take action and urge their elected officials to stand behind this legislation.
If you live in Maine, please consider attending the hearing in person. You can find the event details and RSVP by clicking here. Make sure you also click here to use NORML’s Take Action Center to contact your elected officials via email and urge them to support LD 1229.
If you don’t live in Maine, you can still help get the word out. Share the above links on your Facebook/Twitter/etc and encourage your friends and family in Maine to take action to legalize marijuana.
UPDATED: Click here to tune in live! The press conference starts at 9:20am EST and the hearing at 10:00am EST.
Together, we WILL legalize marijuana.