Marijuana is legal for both recreational and medical use in Maine. Adults who are 21 years and older are lawfully permitted to use and possess cannabis. Maine first legalized medical marijuana on November 2, 1999, after a 62% vote for ballot Question 2. Patients with cannabis prescriptions from physicians were allowed to use and possess the drug in limited quantities. Title 22 Section 2383 of the Maine Constitution also allowed the transportation of cannabis within the state. However, the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 prohibits cannabis use, and the state's statute did not specify any distribution mechanism for marijuana. Consequently, there was a debate about how patients receiving marijuana therapy can lawfully obtain the drug. LD 975 - An Act To Establish the Maine Medical Marijuana Act was enacted on November 3, 2009, following the approval of Question 5. The LD 975 included provisions for medical marijuana dispensaries, making Maine the fifth U.S. state to grant such provisions. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is responsible for licensing and regulating non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries. On November 6, 2009, the governor set up a task force to amend the Medical Marijuana Act. In 2010, LD 1811 was enacted in line with the Administrative Procedures Act, which led to the establishment of emergency agency rules in that same year. One of the rules was that each of the eight districts in Maine can have only one medical dispensary.
Chapter 122 of the Code of Maine Rules (CMR) was adopted in November 2017 to simplify and clarify the DHHS' policies regulating the possession, dispensing, and cultivation of medical marijuana. Maine's Medical Use of Cannabis Program was transferred, according to P.L. 2017, to the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS). It is currently under the Office of Cannabis Policy (OCP), DAFS.
Before any patient on marijuana therapy can purchase their drugs from registered medical dispensaries, they must present their valid medical marijuana cards or prescriptions from a licensed caregiver. The Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act authorizes qualified caregivers and patients to possess up to 8 pounds of harvested marijuana. They are also permitted to cultivate up to twelve immature cannabis plants, eight mature ones, and unlimited seedlings. Medical patients on marijuana therapy can ingest or smoke cannabis. However, it is unlawful for patients under 18 years to smoke cannabis.
Maine legalized recreational cannabis in November 2016, after voters approved ballot Question 1. Consequently, marijuana became legal for retail sale and taxation per the Marijuana Legalization Act (MLA). On May 2, 2018, LD 1719 was enacted into law to implement a regulatory structure for recreational marijuana in the state. On June 27, 2019, the governor signed LD 719 into law to amend the MLA, finally authorizing the Maine Office of Cannabis Policy (OCP) to adopt the rules for commencing recreational cannabis on October 9, 2020. Title 28-B of the MLA allows Maine adults 21 years and above to:
Buy up to 5 grams or 2.5 ounces of recreational cannabis or concentrate from a retail store.
Share marijuana to persons 21 years or older (without remuneration).
Cultivate, possess, or transport (within Maine), a maximum of twelve immature, three mature cannabis plants, and any amount of seedlings.
Consume marijuana by smoking or ingestion on a private residence or property with restricted public access. However, it is illegal for Maine residents to consume recreational cannabis when on personal grounds designated for babysitting services or when operating a vehicle. Smoking marijuana in workplaces or public spaces with a smoking ban is prohibited. Persons caught violating the provisions of the law for personal recreational use risk seizure of cannabis in their possession and can be indicted for other civil or criminal charges.
Felons are eligible to purchase cannabis for recreational use in Maine, provided they are within the legal age. Any adult (21 years and older) can purchase recreational cannabis from any retail store but must present valid government-issued photo identification for proof of age. Medical patients must present their valid medical marijuana cards when purchasing medical marijuana. However, Chapter 417 Section 2453 and Title 22-B Section 103 of the Maine Constitution prohibit both recreational and medical marijuana users from patronizing unlicensed cannabis sellers.
Since its introduction, recreational marijuana has had a significant positive impact on Maine's economy. Marijuana legalization has helped in generating more tax revenue that will ordinarily be evaded in the illegal marijuana market. Marijuana sales in Maine surpassed $143.6 million between October 2020 and May 2021. The following are some of the ways marijuana has affected Maine's economy.
Tax Revenue: Like other enterprises in the state, the state law subjects marijuana businesses to taxation. Cannabis plantations must pay 15% excise tax, while retail marijuana stores are obligated to pay 10% sales tax. The table below shows a breakdown of Maine's annual tax revenue generated from marijuana between 2019 and 2021.
|Calendar Year||Adult-use Sales||Excise Tax||Sales Tax||Total Tax|
As of 2019, Maine had no established laws to generate sales or excise tax revenue from recreational marijuana. Therefore the tax revenues reported between 2017 to 2019 were generated from medical marijuana.
Impact on Maine Government Expenses: The revenue generated from marijuana is distributed according to the provisions of the Act to Legalize, Tax and Regulate Marijuana. According to the annual reports published by OCP’s Department of Administrative and Financial Services.
|Calendar Year||Total Revenue from AUMP||Total Revenue from MMMP|
|2019||$ 81,601||$ 2,597,338.25|
The State of Maine Controller credits 60% of revenue generated from cannabis excise tax into Maine's general funds. The remaining revenues generated from excise tax is distributed as follows:
10% is credited to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention under the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). It is used for financing awareness campaigns on and abuse of substances like marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco among Maine youths.
10% also goes to the DHHS to provide treatment for substance abuse addicts.
5% sponsors programs that help low-income patients on marijuana therapy have access to treatments.
10% is credited to the Marijuana Regulation and Licensing Fund to reimburse cannabis administration and regulation expenses incurred by state agencies.
5% is allocated to Sheriff's associations across the state to finance campaigns that combat the sale of marijuana and alcohol to underaged persons (below 21 years).
The first $30,000 generated from marijuana annual sales tax revenue goes into financing public school renovation and construction in Maine. After this initial deduction, 5% of the sales tax is credited to Maine's municipalities based on the tax revenues they generated for the year. The municipalities then distribute the funds to their different county governments according to their sales tax receipts. The State Controller credits the remaining part of the sales tax into the state's general fund.
Tourism: While the Maine Office of Tourism (MOT) strives to enhance tourism growth in the state, the state has become an attractive destination for tourists because of marijuana legalization. Private and state-owned businesses benefit economically from the yearly influx of visitors.
Income and Jobs: In Maine, all persons working for marijuana establishments are required to have the Individual Identification Card (IIC). The marijuana industry comprises different value chains such as farming, manufacturing, storage, transportation, and testing. Its legalization allows for the cultivation of the plant internally, hence the need for a local workforce to drive its various activities, creating jobs for Maine residents.
Crime Reduction: Although marijuana was only legalized in 2020, possession of small quantities (2.5 ounces or less) has been decriminalized since May 1, 2009. The number of arrests for marijuana-related offenses in the state since that time fell. For instance, Maine recorded fewer marijuana crimes in 2019 compared to 2018.
There has been a notable decline in marijuana crime rates in Maine over the years. The state recorded 833 marijuana arrests in 2018, while only 579 arrests were made in 2019. Also, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrest data for the state show a downward trend in marijuana crimes in Maine. For instance, the number of cannabis-related crimes in 2016 was 2,702, constituting over 49% of all drug offenses in Maine that year. The following year, there were only 898 marijuana arrests, making up 27% of the entire drug arrests. A breakdown of 2017 cannabis arrest data reveals that 791 marijuana-possession arrests were recorded, while the number of arrests for cannabis sale and manufacture was 107. These numbers fell in 2018 by over 4% and 13% for marijuana possession and marijuana sales, respectively. Arrests for marijuana possession plummeted further in 2019 by 0.5%. However, the number of cannabis arrests for sale and production rose by 33% in 2019. That year, about 73% of all cannabis-related arrestees were males, while 27% were females.
Between the 19th century and the 21st century, Maine regarded marijuana as an illegal substance and opposed its use. In 1913 Maine banned recreational cannabis after a few other U.S. states. This encouraged the illegal cannabis market to thrive for several decades. However, in 1976, Maine became the third U.S. state to officially decriminalize the possession of marijuana in small quantities.
Maine legalized medical cannabis in 1999, allowing licensed medical personnel to administer marijuana to patients with severe medical conditions. Maine voters enacted - LD 975, the Question 5 bill, in 2009. The bill changed the range of illnesses that require medical marijuana as treatments. Also, it designated the DHHS as the agency responsible for issuing medical marijuana cards to eligible patients and registration certificates to non-profit dispensaries. According to the bill, DHHS is responsible for establishing the application and renewal fees per the bill's provisions.
Governor John Baldacci on, May 1, 2009, signed LD 250 into law. This law decriminalized marijuana in the state, thus permitting residents 21 years and older to possess 2.5 ounces of the drug or less without civil penalties. Maine voters approved Question 1 of the ballot on November 8, 2016, becoming the 9th U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana. LD 250 also permitted the retail sale and taxation of cannabis in Maine. According to the statute, municipalities in Maine can prohibit cannabis business operations or limit their activities. Different state agencies were allowed to establish regulations for the marijuana industry, and retail sales were scheduled to commence after four months (in February 2018). On January 30, 2017, Governor LePage turned down LD 1719, the bill that would regulate and tax recreational cannabis sales due to its conflict with the federal constitution. However, on May 2, 2018, the Maine Legislature overturned the governor's veto. Consequently, LD 1719 was established as law on the same day. Governor Mills signed LD 719 - An Act Regarding Adult Use Marijuana, into law on June 27, 2019. Recreational marijuana dispensaries eventually commenced sales on October 9, 2020.