AUGUSTA, Maine (April 12, 2018) – Yesterday, the Maine Senate gave final approval to a bill to implement and regulate the state’s adult-use marijuana market. Final passage of the bill into law would effectuate a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana and further nullify federal cannabis prohibition in effect.
Rep. Teresa Pierce (D-Falmouth) and Sen. Roger Katz (R-Augusta) introduced House Bill 1719 (LD1719) last December. The legislation would create a legal structure to license, regulate and tax the sale and cultivation of recreational marijuana in Maine.
As it stands under the law established by the referendum, adults in Maine can grow up to six mature marijuana plants and possess up to 2½ ounces of marijuana for personal use, but they can’t legally buy or sell it. The referendum left it to the legislature to create a framework for licensing sellers and commercial cultivation. Until that happens, it will remain illegal to buy or sell cannabis in the state.
Last year, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a similar bill in part because it would put the state in conflict with federal law.
LD1719 made some compromises to gain more support, including stripping a provision that would have allowed Mainers to buy and consume marijuana at “social clubs.” The proposed law would also lower the number of plants individuals can grow at home from six to three.
Under the proposed law, towns will have the option as to whether or not they want to allow marijuana businesses. The bill includes a provision allowing recreational retailers to buy marijuana from existing medical growers, a provision that would allow the state’s industry to get off the ground quickly.
“We worked hard to compromise and find common ground,” Pierce told the Portland Press Herald. ““Our town officials, our local businesses, our parents and families and communities that each of us represent are all asking us to put a reasonable, highly structured regulatory system in place. … They recognize the status quo just isn’t what we should be doing.”
According to the paper, marijuana activists are divided on the bill. Legalize Maine President Paul McCarrier opposes the reduction in the number of plants people can grow at home. He also wants a cultivation cap to keep rich growers from cornering the market by creating a glut. The Maine chapter of the Marijuana Policy Project came out neutral on the bill. It opposes the loss of social clubs and the plant count reduction, but wants to get a structure in place so legal sales can finally happen.
Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, state legalization of cannabis is perfectly legal, and the feds can do little if anything to stop it in practice.
Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
Legalization of marijuana in Maine removes one layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing state prohibition, Maine sweeps away some of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Maine joins a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, and Massachusetts, along with Maine, joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. In January, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act.
With 29 states including allowing cannabis for medical use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.
“The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.
LD1719 will now be transmitted to the Governor for further consideration.