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Maine Question 1 Has The Most Progressive Rules On Consumption, Home Growing

Here's what you need to know about Maine's Question 1 a.k.a. "The Marijuana Legalization Act."

The Basics

Question 1 is arguably more progressive than the legalization programs currently in effect. The initiative would make it legal for people aged 21 or older to purchase and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in Maine. That's more than twice the amount you can legally carry in Colorado and Oregon.

Residents would also be allowed to grow twice as many plants as in Colorado and three times as many as Oregon. Question 1 would let Mainers cultivate up to 12 plants so long as no more than 6 are flowering at a time. Having that many plants - in any stage of growth - would be a felony in both CO and OR. 

Visitors would be able to consume cannabis in social clubs (think marijuana bars), but public consumption would remain illegal.

Sales would be restricted to licensed retailers. There are no state limits on how many licenses will be issued, but cities can put caps on the number of marijuana retailers allowed to operate in their municipality. Or they could opt to ban marijuana stores, which Bangor has discussed. A 10 percent sales tax would be charged on all recreational marijuana sales, which is lower than the tax rates in the other legal states right now.

The legalization regime would be overseen by the state's Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The ACF would handle licensing growers and retailers, setting limits on how much THC marijuana products can contain and establishing independent testers to ensure products are safe. Individual municipalities would regulate how stores are allowed to operate.

The Proponents

Like four out of the five recreational ballot initiatives, Question 1 is backed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). It's also been endorsed by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). And famous globetrotter Rick Steves will also be campaigning of Question 1. The host of PBS' "Rick Steves' Europe" has also pledged to donate up to $100,000 to the campaign.  

The campaign is courting voters by promising that marijuana will make communities safer, smarter and more prosperous.

"By passing Question 1 and regulating marijuana, Maine will generate millions of dollars in new tax revenue, which can be used to fund education and other vital services," the campaign website says. "Right now, taxpayer dollars are being wasted enforcing failed marijuana laws. Law enforcement time and resources should be focused on serious and violent crime."

The Opponents

Compared to other states, the opposition to Maine's legalization initiative is weak. Question 1's base is particularly strong because legalization activists actually came together to support one initiative, which isn't always the case, according to Morgan Fox - Communications Manager for MPP.

"Pretty much every single state has had another group that is pro-legalization but for some reason or other -- usually because they want less restrictions and less regulations -- don't like the Marijuana Policy Project's language," Fox told Civilized. "But in some states we came together like in Maine, where we were able to come together and join forces.”

So the main opposition comes from state government. Governor Paul LePage has spoken out against marijuana, but his bizarre comments haven't helped the prohibitionist cause. In fact, his credibility as a legislator has recently come into question after he admitted that he didn't understand how Colorado and other legal states made money by taxing recreational marijuana. More recently, he made a racist remark about minorities dealing drugs and then left an obscenity-laced voicemail for a state representative who called him out for being racist.

"I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist. You cocksucker, I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I'm a racist. I've spent my life helping black people and, you little son of a bitch socialist cocksucker, I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you."

That is the main voice of opposition in Maine. And while Attorney General Janet Mills and Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine also oppose legalization, none have filed with the state in order to raise money for an opposition campaign. 

So the issue might just come down to whether or not campaigners can make the case for legalization.

National Outlook

Question 1 could be a game changer for the legalization movement.

“Getting states in the northeast - like Maine and Massachusetts - is going to make a huge difference," Fox told Civilized. "Some northeastern states have had really robust medical marijuana programs for years. But we just really haven’t been able to get a strong foothold for legalization for adult use...It’s really tough to tell [why]. It might just be a matter of timing. Northeastern states tend to be a bit more conservative in terms of how fast they move on various social changes. So they needed to see some examples [of recreational regimes]. And now that they have those examples, a lot of people are ready for it.”

And that could move things along in Vermont and New Hampshire, neighboring states that will have to legalize through the legislature instead of the ballot box.

"Neither of those states have a ballot initiative process," Fox said. "But there’s massive popular support. New Hampshire has been polling at 50 percent support for legalization the last couple years. But lawmakers have always been a bit behind the curve on this. But when their neighbors are making good policy changes, and starting to reap the benefits from them, it’s going to be very hard for them to continue to ignore their constituents.”

h/t Maine Public Radio.

5 States are voting on recreational use of cannabis in 2016. Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada.


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