Marijuana in Maine
On January 30th, 2017, it became legal under Maine state law for persons over the age of 21 to consume marijuana products on private property and begin cultivation for personal use. The legislature also became responsible for creating the regulatory structure under which the retail sale of marijuana products will take place, based on the framework and guidelines set forth by the referendum passed by the citizens of Maine.
The initiative sets out a framework for six main types of licenses related to cultivation, production, and sales of marijuana: a retail store license, a Cultivation Facility license, a Products Manufacturing license, a Testing Facility license, a Social Club license, and Occupational licenses. Except for the Testing Facility license, a person or entity may hold more than one kind of license, but each must be applied for separately and can be subject to different rules, requirements, and fees. Every individual who has an interest in or works for a retail marijuana store, cultivation facility, manufacturer, or testing facility will be required to undergo a criminal background check and hold an Occupational license.
There is no certainty over what the regulatory framework will eventually look like since the legislature has until February 2018 to create it. However, as laid out by the referendum, certain entities and individuals will be given preferences with respect to the granting of licenses and those with preference will be considered before those without preference. For example, preference will be given to caregivers who have three or more patients and have been a caregiver for two or more years. Additionally, entities may hold more than one kind of license but will only be given preference for one license in each class of license for which the entity applies. For instance, an entity may apply for two retail store licenses and a social club license, but can only use its preferential standing for one of the retail store licenses and the social club license, not all three. Additionally, licenses will only be given to those without preference once there are no other applicants for that type of license with preference left.
With respect to timing and implementation, the legislature has already amended the referendum as passed by the citizens. It passed an amendment allowing twelve months (instead of the referendum’s original nine months) to create the regulatory framework for retail sales of marijuana and marijuana products and to close a loophole that inadvertently removed penalties for people under the age of 21 using or cultivating marijuana. We will be paying close attention to not only the bills and amendments put forward by the Maine legislature and how they may affect local licensing and business operations but also any national developments under President Trump or newly appointed Attorney General Sessions in anticipation of the opening of the retail market.
While growing, selling, and using marijuana, either medical or for personal use, is legal in Maine, it is prohibited under federal law. The federal government classifies marijuana as a Class I substance, carrying the strictest penalties for possession and sales, and may at any time prosecute such possession or sale.