Cannabis in America
Recreational Marijuana is Officially Legal in Maine
After nearly three months of being suspended in legislative limbo, Maine’s recreational marijuana bill officially went into effect on Monday. People 21 and older can now possess up to two and a half ounces of cannabis; they can also grow up to six mature plants, and 12 immature plants. But after Governor Paul LePage signed a moratorium on Friday, retail sales of marijuana will be frozen until February 2018, giving lawmakers time to close any loopholes that appeared in the original legalization measure.
Because Question 1 passed by a slim margin–about 4,000 votes–in November, a group opposing legalization requested a recount in early December. A few weeks later, the recount effort was dropped. “We are satisfied that the count and the result are accurate,” legal counsel for the opposition group said at the time.
Now that the Election Day results have been confirmed, Maine joins California, Massachusetts, and Nevada in legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016. Four other states passed ballot measures that legalized medical marijuana. Roughly one quarter of Americans now live in a state that has legal marijuana measures, either medically or recreationally, in place.
LePage, an early opponent of legalization, was able to suspend retail pot sales until early next year, but he did not succeed in adding two last-minute provisions to the moratorium bill, called “an Act To Delay the Implementation of Certain Portions of the Marijuana Legalization Act.” He requested $1.6 million to hire new staff, and to cover other implementation costs. Lawmakers in the House shot down that provision.
LePage also wanted to transfer oversight of Question 1 from the Maine Department of Agriculture to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations. That provision was also shot down, but LePage signed an executive order to ensure that delegation change happens.
“However, no rules will be promulgated until the Legislature allocates money to fund the rule making process,” LePage said on Friday “I sign this bill today to protect Maine children from the dangers of marijuana.” The governor also heavily criticized Speaker of the House Sarah Gideon, a Democrat, for nixing his proposed additions to the moratorium. He said Gideon was guilty of “playing dirty politics.”