What’s going on right now in the United States by way of cannabis legislation evolution is both reassuring and depressing. Reassuring if you happen to live in any of the regions making progress – depressing if you reside elsewhere. With so many states making such incredible advances in cannabis research, development and proactive legislative adjustments, you’d think the idea would be catching on far and wide. But now – case-in-point being the United Kingdom, where folks can only watch in quiet despair as they themselves remain in the dark ages.
But enough of that for now – back over the pond.
The ‘Maine’ Event
Along with a further eight North American states, the people of Maine will take part in a historic vote later this year on the legal status of cannabis. November looks set to be one of the most incredibly important months in the history of US cannabis legislation, potentially ending with up to nine states legalizing recreational cannabis and 28 making positive moves with medical marijuana. As for Maine, this is one of the states seeking to legalize recreational marijuana, having long since been a strong advocate for medicinal cannabis.
A short while ago, Secretary of State for Maine, Matt Dunlap made the announcement that the ‘Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’ had stirred up enough support among voters to be included in the November ballot. While it’s now technically possible for lawmakers to immediately pass the measure and begin its enactment, this is extremely unlikely to happen. Instead, it’s almost guaranteed to be left in the hands of voters, who in just a few weeks’ time are expected to vote heavily in favour of the measure.
“This November, Maine voters will have the opportunity to adopt a more sensible marijuana policy,” wrote David Boyer, campaign manager of the pro-legalization effort.
“We are thrilled to finally start transitioning into the more substantive phase of this campaign. It has been a longer wait than expected, but nothing compared to how long the people of Maine have been waiting to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition.”
A Foregone Conclusion?
Having made the decision to legalize medical marijuana as far back as 1999, the legalization of recreational cannabis in Maine has always been regarded as a forgone conclusion. Less a case of if, more a question of when. And now it appears we have our answer – November 2016. Should the measure go ahead – which is looking extremely likely at this stage – it will result in adults aged at least 21 to both grow and possess cannabis in small quantities, for personal and non-medical consumption. In addition, the state will follow the example of Colorado and launch a new recreational cannabis industry, licensing and regulating businesses to grow and sell cannabis and cannabis products, subject to a standard rate of taxation set at 10%.
There are currently four states in North America where recreational cannabis is legal, with the likes of Nevada, California and several others taking the subject to the ballot box in November. By the end of the year, the face of cannabis use and control in the United States could be changed like never before.
But what’s really interesting about the situation in Maine is that the measure that’s now almost guaranteed to go ahead nearly didn’t make it to the November ballot at all. Back in March, it was determined by Dunlap’s office that a full 17,000 of the signatures added to the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol movement were not legally valid, due to a problem with the signature of a notary. However, the case was taken to court by those pushing for legalization as complete and total nonsense – a notion upheld by a state judge who called the dispute over the signature “unreasonable”.
That’s a much nicer word than we’d have used!
Changes in legislation were also considered in 2015, though never happened due to a rather dominating House vote against the idea 98 to 45. It’s on the books this year for sure though and as far as polls at the moment go, it’s looking like an above-50% majority for those looking to legalize recreational pot.
A True Trend-Setter
Maine has always had a reputation for setting a solid example for the rest of the US to follow, when it comes to progressive cannabis legislation. Back in the 1970s, Maine became one of the first American states to decriminalize the possession and use of cannabis in small amounts. In addition, they were also among the very first states to legalize and promote research into medical marijuana, following the example of California in 1999. And of course, it was just three years ago that the residents of Portland voted overwhelmingly in favour of the decriminalization of cannabis possession.
Speaking on behalf of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, David Boyer spoke of his optimism and anticipation for a more liberal, educated and proactive future for Maine.
“We think that regulation and controlling marijuana and putting it behind the counter is a far better approach than giving drug dealers a monopoly,” Boyer said.
By contrast, anti-cannabis activist Scott Gagnon insisted that nothing good will come out of legalization, perpetuating the usual unfounded scare stories.
“We are confident that when Mainers see the full story of marijuana and what it would mean to have pot dispensaries in their community, they will rise up to reject the marijuana industry agenda, to protect the health of their communities and the futures of their children,” he argued.
Specifically, adults aged 21 and over will be able to possess up to 2.5 ounces of pot for personal use, should the measure go ahead.
Full Steam Ahead?
Going by the results of the latest polls carried out, it’s looking like those in the ‘yes’ camp are going to get their way this winter. Going by the findings published by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center this week, things are leaning toward a majority vote in favour of cannabis legalization. Specifically, there’s now an apparent 53% majority looking to push the ‘yes’ vote through, compared to 38% that that have decided to oppose it. Of course, this doesn’t paint the best picture if the undecided folks decide to add their support to the ‘no’ camp, but still…it doesn’t seem like this will be the case.
“We’re excited about the polling, and it affirms what we’ve been hearing from people across the state,” beamed Yes on 1 campaign representative, Alysia Melnick.
“Mainers are ready for this.”
However, it’s also become abundantly clear that those who really do not want to see weed hitting the streets of Maine are intending to ramp up their efforts big time over the next few weeks. The big vote is looming and with an apparent majority looking to take the side of ‘yes’ campaigners, time is running out for the anti-cannabis camp to bring out the big guns.
And that’s exactly what they intend to do, according to Scott Gagnon, director of the No on 1 campaign.
“It’s going to be a very robust, aggressive campaign,” he said.
“It will increase access to youth and fundamentally change our communities.”
Among the medical cannabis industry, voters seem to be split right down the middle. While a fair few big names would prefer things to stay exactly as they are, others are embracing the possible change as the kind of move that could help them grow and expand their businesses massively. And when it comes to getting medical marijuana into the hands of those who need it, few could argue that improving accessibility is anything but a positive thing.
Problems with Policing?
But while pro-cannabis campaigners insist that Maine is ready for legalization, this apparently isn’t a sentiment shared by state-wide police. Quite to the contrary in fact, as the Maine Association of Chiefs of Police has lashed out at the proposed bill itself, stating the law enforcement across the state just isn’t prepared and ready to deal with the legalization of pot.
You’d think it would actually relax their workload, but what do we know…right?
As far as critics among the state’s police forces are concerned, Quest 1 has been put together poorly and isn’t nearly as concrete and precise as it needs to be for a workable cannabis-tolerant future. Instead, they’re trying to convince the public that schools, families and the safety of the general public would be put at risk.
Because of course that’s what’s happened in Colorado…except for the fact that it hasn’t.
“We think this is going to impact our communities and our youth in the worst possible way,” Falmouth Police Chief Ed Tolan said.
“This is big business. There’s no question about it. This is commercial. We don’t see that much of a benefit in taxes to the citizens of Maine.”
No benefit in taxes? Worst possible impact on communities? Either these guys have been living under rocks for the past two years, or they have some kind of weird alternative agenda too bizarre to comprehend.
Either way, fingers crossed that common sense will prevail!