On November 8, 2016, Maine voters approved a ballot question legalizing possession and use of marijuana by persons 21 and older, and allowing commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana, subject to state and local regulation.  Almost two years later, however, Maine still has no legal market for adult use marijuana. As summer 2018, however, Maine’s adult use retail marijuana market is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The voter-approved law, the Marijuana Legalization Act, took effect January 30, 2017, but the Legislature imposed a moratorium on the parts of the law regarding retail sales of marijuana until February 1, 2018.  The purpose of the moratorium was to give the Legislature time to develop a licensing system for retail marijuana growers and sellers.  In November 2017, however, Governor Paul LePage vetoed a measure that would have established that system.

On May 2, 2018, however, the Legislature overrode another veto from Governor LePage to pass “An Act to Implement a Regulatory Structure for Adult Use Marijuana.  The new statute makes several changes to adult use of marijuana in Maine.  Among other things, the new law:

  • Decreases the number of plants an individual can cultivate for personal use from 6 to 3;
  • Prohibits retail marijuana operations in municipalities that do not take action to allow them (in other words, towns that wish to allow retail marijuana operations must “opt in,” and towns that do not wish to participate need not take any action);
  • Eliminates marijuana “social clubs,” which would have been permitted under the voter-approved law;
  • Moves oversight of retail marijuana operations for the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Administrative and Financial Services; and
  • Imposes an effective 20% tax rate on retail marijuana sales (10% on the customer at the point of sale, plus an additional excise tax on processors and retailers).

The Department of Administrative and Financial Services is now tasked with writing regulatory rules that will govern licensing and inspection of retail and wholesale facilities, as well as collection of taxes.  The rules will be subject to approval by the next Legislature.  Although Maine’s first retail stores likely won’t open until spring 2019 at the earliest, Maine’s adult use industry is taking shape.

Jonathan P. Hunter, Attorney at Law, Rudman Winchell
Jonathan P. Hunter, Esq Rudman Winchell

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