The bill - which is very similar to Marijuana Policy Project-sponsored legislation passed in Colorado last year as well as numerous bills being considered around the country - would allow for possession and cultivation for people over 21. People could grow up to six plants and posses up to two and a half ounces of marijuana if the bill is approved.
The bill would charge the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services to license and regulate retail marijuana stores, testing facilities and infused-product facilities. In addition, the bill would allow for industrial hemp cultivation in Maine. A tax of up to $50 per ounce would be enacted on all transactions.
Interestingly, the bill has language saying that a concealed-carry handgun permit can not be denied to someone who uses legal marijuana if the bill were to pass. That flies in the face of federal law, which says anyone who uses illegal controlled substances can not own or use firearms.
The bill is seeing opposition not only from police, who predictably are against anything that could disrupt their way of doing things, but also from medical marijuana advocates. According to the Bangor Daily News, the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine say the bill is poorly written and doesn't have enough protections.
"We believe it is masquerading as decriminalization because it will force people to have to buy plants and seeds from out-of-state interests," Paul McCarrier with MMCM said to the Daily News. "The way the bill is written does not protect the grower or individual producer."
If approved this session, the bill would then go before voters this fall. No public hearings have been scheduled for the bill yet. The Maine legislature ends their session mid-April.
"Support for changing our marijuana laws is growing as more and more elected officials realize it makes no sense to maintain a system of prohibition for a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol," said David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Maine can and should take a more sensible approach to marijuana policy, and we are glad to see so many legislators agree."
Currently, possession of up to 2.5 ounces is a civil violation with a max fine of $600. Cultivation of five plants or less is a misdemeanor charge with up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Paraphernalia possession is also a civil violation with up to $300 in fines.