Recreational Marijuana Overview

The laws are hazy, but here’s what happened:

On November 8, 2016, Maine voters approved Question #1 and joined eight other states to legalize the recreational use, retail sale, and taxation of marijuana. Following a recount and certification of election results, “An Act to Legalize Marijuana” was enacted. You can find the full “Act to Legalize Marijuana” and other background information in the 2016 Maine Citizen’s Guide to the Referendum Election.

On January 27, 2017, the legislature approved a state-wide moratorium on implementing parts of the law regarding retail sales and taxation until at least February 2018, giving time to resolve issues and formulate rules. The portion of the law that did become effective on January 30, 2018, allows persons over 21 years to grow six mature plants and possess 2.5 ounces.

In February 2017 the Marijuana Implementation Committee was formed to address the complex issues surrounding full implementation of the law. Their first order of business is deciding which department will act as the state licensing authority. The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF) was named in the Act as the state licensing authority, but it has been proposed that the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations (BABLO) be the regulatory department. It is likely that oversight will be a joint effort between ACF and BABLO.

Towns Blazing Their Own Trail

Under the Legalization Act, a municipality can vote on whether or not to be a “dry town” regarding Marijuana Retail Establishments and Social Clubs. At this time, at least eight towns in our service area have voted and passed prohibition ordinances. Retail Marijuana Establishments and Social Clubs are banned in Athens, Bingham, Canaan, Madison, Moscow, Norridgewock, Skowhegan, and Starks.

If towns decide to allow these businesses, there are other measures that can be put in place to promote and protect the public health, safety, and welfare from the negative effects of legalization. Sign codes regulating the size and content of all types of outdoor signs can limit youth exposure. Potential fire hazards resulting from overloading circuits can be avoided with ordinances that allow law enforcement and building officials to inspect grows at any time.

Potential Chronic Problems

One in five high school students in our area report current marijuana use according to the Maine Integrative Youth Health Survey; this is twice as many youth that report current cigarette use. Perhaps more concerning is that 60 percent of our high school youth report a low perceived risk of harm from smoking one to two times a week. This is concerning because low perception of harm is linked to greater use. As with any other substance that causes impairment, there is potential for developing dependence; the earlier use starts the higher the risk for dependence becomes.

Planting the Prevention Seed

If you are a parent, talk to your child about substance use in their early teen years. You may be surprised at how much influence your words, actions, and opinions can have on their choices. Visit the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids for resources on talking to you child about marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs.