Yesterday voters said yes to marijuana legalization in Maine, making it the eighth state and the second on the East Coast (after Massachusetts) to allow recreational use. With 88 percent of precincts reporting, Maine’s initiative, Question 1, was favored by 51 percent of voters.
Question 1 allows adults 21 or older to possess, transport, and share up to two and a half ounces of marijuana and grow up to six flowering plants at home, along with 12 immature plants and an unlimited number of seedlings. Those provisions take effect 30 days after Gov. Paul LePage proclaims the election results, which he is required to do within 10 days after the vote is officially canvassed.
Question 1 charges the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry with licensing and regulating commercial growers, manufacturers, and retailers. The department is supposed to issue regulations for marijuana businesses within nine months after the initiative takes effect. In addition to ordinary marijuana stores, where consumption will not be permitted, Question 1 allows “retail marijuana social clubs” to sell cannabis products specifically for on-site consumption. The initiative imposes a 10 percent tax on sales.
Gov. LePage and Attorney General Janet Mills opposed Question 1. The opposition raised much less money than the initiative’s supporters: about $233,000 vs. $3.2 million as of October 25.
Maine decriminalized marijuana possession back in the 1970s. Under current law, as amended in 2009, possessing less than 2.5 ounces is a civil violation, punishable by a fine of $350 to $600 for up to 1.25 ounces and $700 to $1,000 for more than that. A medical marijuana initiative passed in 1999 with 61 percent of the vote. In 2013 more than two-thirds of Portland voters backed an MPP-supported ballot initiative repealing all local (but not state) penalties for possessing up to 2.5 ounces. A similar initiative passed in South Portland the following year.