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Guide to Maine Marijuana Laws

Guide to Maine Marijuana Laws

Since joining the Union as a free state in 1820, Maine–or the Pine Street State as it is known–has become famous for the lobster shacks and lighthouses that are found all along its coastline. And as the endpoint of the Appalachian Trail and the northeastern-most state in the U.S., Maine is also a perfect destination for anyone who loves the great outdoors since it is one of only a few places on planet Earth that is green year-round.

The more than 1,500 species of trees and plants that make up that perennial greenery became even more varied on November 8, 2016 when Maine voters chose to legalize recreational marijuana. But the voters supporting the initiative barely outnumbered its opponents. The referendum known as Question 1 that allows adults over the age of 21 to buy, possess, gift, and use marijuana passed by a razor-thin margin of only 4,073 votes.

Those few thousand votes were enough, however, to allow Maine to join three other states in approving reform measures in 2016, bringing the total number of states that have legalized marijuana to eight. One American in five now lives in a state where recreational marijuana is legal.

How Maine Got Legal

The thin margin by which recreational marijuana became legal in Maine quickly got challenged when the “No on 1” opposition group in the state called for a vote recount. When the recount yielded a similar vote tally, the group conceded, but legalization in Maine is still contentious.

Marijuana Law Milestones
  • 1999:  Medical marijuana is legalized when voters approved a statute that allowed patients with specific illnesses to grow and use limited amounts.
  • 2009:  Voters approve a measure that creates nonprofit marijuana dispensaries and a state identification card system for medical marijuana users.
  • 2009 – 2014:  Various attempts are made to legalize recreational marijuana through legislative measures, but none of them make it to the ballot.
  • April 28, 2015:  The Maine Marijuana Legalization Initiative is introduced by the group Legalize Maine.
    • It requires 61,123 signatures by February 1, 2016 to get on the ballot.
    • A total of 100,000 signatures are obtained and delivered to the state.
  • March 2, 2016:  The Secretary of State announces that only 51,543 of the signatures are valid.
  • March 10, 2016:  Legalize Maine files and wins a lawsuit against the state on the basis that all signatures are valid.
  • November 8, 2016:  The initiative is put on the ballot and passes by only 4,073 votes.
  • December 7, 2016:  The opposition group “No on 1” demands a vote recount but it yields a similar vote tally.
  • December 17, 2016:  The opposition group concedes.
  • December 31, 2016:  Governor Paul LePage delivers a signed proclamation to the Secretary of State that declares the law will take effect January 30, 2017.
    • The proclamation notes that the governor “maintains strong concerns regarding the integrity of Maine’s ballot and that he cannot attest to the accuracy of the voting tabulation.”
    • LePage also indicates that he believes Maine’s medical marijuana program is no longer necessary now that recreational marijuana is legal.
The Steps to Legal Sales

Following the passage of Question 1 on November 8, 2016, recreational marijuana was legal. However, because no shops can open until a system to oversee and license them exists, a legal conundrum was created. You are allowed to buy up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, but there are no legal places to purchase cannabis until regulations are finalized. Here’s how things have unfolded following the initiative’s narrow victory:

  • January 1, 2017:  Question 1 allows for agencies to begin licensing retail marijuana facilities within 9 months of the measure’s certification by the Secretary of State or sometime in September, 2017.
    • It provides for licensure of retail stores, cultivation facilities, manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and marijuana social clubs where marijuana products can be consumed on the premises.
  • January 15, 2017:  Representative Louis Luchini introduces Bill LD 88 to delay the licensing of retail marijuana facilities until February, 2018.
    • He claims the intent of the bill is to give state agencies additional time to craft rules and regulations to govern the industry.
    • The bill allows legalization of marijuana cultivation, possession, transporting, and sharing in private residences as of January 30, 2017, as Question 1 had prescribed.
    • But it bans the consumption of edible retail marijuana products until February 1, 2018.
  • January 26, 2017:  The Maine Senate and House of Representatives unanimously approve bill LD 88.
    • Governor LePage originally states he would neither sign nor veto the bill because he wants legislators to also appropriate revenue for marijuana regulation.
  • January 27, 2017:  LePage changes course and signs the bill.
    • He also issues an executive order to shift oversight of marijuana away from the Department of Agriculture to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.
  • January/February, 2017:  Many cities and towns in Maine, including Oakland and Pittston, approve temporary bans on the establishment of marijuana businesses.
The National Context

Just how is Maine’s legalization of recreational marijuana seen on a federal level?

  • Legalization of marijuana in Maine is part of a national trend, as the Pine Tree State became the eighth state to legalize recreational marijuana.
    • This strengthens the challenge to the federal government’s ban on marijuana.
  • Those working for drug policy reform say this toehold in the east gained when Maine joined Massachusetts in legalization dramatically boosts the movement’s political clout on a national level.
    • It adds to the pressure on the federal government to allow each state to decide on its own regulations.
    • Maine may lead the way for more east coast states to follow the trend.
  • It also further illustrates the real dysfunction between state and federal legal systems.
    • The feds take tax dollars from marijuana companies.
    • But those same companies have trouble opening bank accounts or accepting credit cards because of the federal ban on marijuana.
  • Since marijuana is illegal at the federal level, selling cannabis at the state level excludes cannabis companies from taking normal business deductions with the IRS.
    • This will remain the case until the federal government alters its current position on marijuana.
  • Tom Angell, Chairman of the drug policy reform group called Marijuana Majority, claims the end of federal marijuana prohibition is now only a matter of time and that policies related to it will be a much bigger issue in Washington, DC.
  • The confirmation of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General in February, 2017 created some anxiety among marijuana reform advocates.
    • He can choose to uphold or rescind the U.S. Justice Department’s August, 2013 memo suggesting that U.S. attorneys not prioritize marijuana-related convictions.
  • You can learn more about the current administration’s thoughts on state legalization reading this article or this article.

And how does it fit in with other legalization movements around the country?

  • While states like Nevada have shown an eagerness to enact the will of the voters prior to deadlines, Maine legislators seem intent on delaying program implementation.
  • Opponents of the initiative in Maine remain contentious and angry.
  • Local government is also taking action to ban marijuana establishments.
  • What happens in the Maine legislature in 2017 and 2018 will have big implications for how other states handle recreational marijuana legalization in the future.
  • With legalization now in place in eight states and the District of Columbia, the national market for marijuana is projected to reach $22 billion in as little as 4 years (up from $7 billion in 2017).
  • Maine–along with Massachusetts, California, and Nevada–is part of a third wave of states to legalize recreational marijuana. More and more states are expected to place legalization measures on the ballot in the coming elections.

Read all about the current status of marijuana in all the states over at NORML.

The Law in Maine

Personal Use

These are the rules related to recreational marijuana in Maine:

  • Just like alcohol, pot can only be purchased by adults. Currently, you have to be at least 21 years old to buy products from a recreational marijuana store.
  • The rules apply to any adult, even visitors from out of state, as long as they have ID.
    • Visitors to Maine can also possess marijuana and buy it from retail stores once they’re open.
  • All recreational products must be consumed in Maine.
    • It’s not OK to bring your stash across state lines.
  • The most you can purchase at any one time once stores are open is:
    • 2.5 ounces (70 grams) of prepared or “usable marijuana”
    • 1/5 of an ounce (5 grams) of “marijuana concentrate”
    • This goes for everyone – Maine residents and visitors alike
  • The most you can possess at any one time is:
    • 2.5 ounces (70 grams) on your person
  • If you’re 21 or over, and you do not participate in the medical MJ program, you can grow marijuana indoors at home for personal use as follows:
    • Six flowering plants per household no matter how many adults reside there
    • Twelve immature, non-flowering plants
    • Unlimited seedlings
    • Cultivation has to be indoors
      • Unless you get permission from the state to grow outdoors
      • Outdoor grows cannot be visible from public roads or the sky
      • Plants outdoors must have an identification tag that includes your driver’s license number
    • You are not allowed to grow if your landlord has a rule against it.
  • You can share or give 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana to someone 21 or over as long as no money changes hands.
  • You can also share up to 6 immature plants or seedlings to someone 21 or over as long as no money changes hands.

To learn more about Maine laws related to personal use, check out NORML.

A Word About Medical Marijuana

The Maine Marijuana Legalization Initiative does not change any of the existing medical marijuana laws or affect patients’ rights in any way, shape, or form. Everything stays the same for a medical marijuana patient in Maine.

  • Medical MJ patients or their designated caregivers can still grow up to 6 mature plants at one time.
  • You can buy up to 5 ounces or prepared marijuana each month.
    • It has to be dispensed in 2.5 ounce increments every 15 days.
    • It has to be purchased at a state-licensed dispensary.
  • Possession and transport limits stay the same:
    • Up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana
  • Patients will get their medical marijuana cards just like always.
    • Minors under the age of 18 still need a parent or guardian to sign a release form.
  • Designated caregivers can still function in the same way.
  • Dispensaries will operate like always but will be able to obtain licenses for recreational sales when the licensing program is ready.
    • The usual 5.5% sales tax still applies to usable marijuana.
    • The usual 7% sales tax on marijuana prepared foods still applies.
  • If you currently have a medical marijuana card, it’s a good idea to hang on to it in case there are additional delays in the recreational marijuana program.

To learn more about medical marijuana, see our guide to Buying Medical Marijuana, as well as the Health Benefits of Marijuana.

Buying Weed

You’re 21 years old and you want to buy pot in Maine. Where can you get some weed?

  • It’s legal to purchase marijuana in Maine now for personal use, but unless you have a valid medical marijuana card, you can’t buy it until recreational stores actually open.
  • The state is moving very slowly on setting up the program that will allow stores to open.
    • The legislature has already delayed the deadline for licensing stores from fall 2017 to February, 2018.
  • Until then, someone cultivating pot at home could share up to 2.5 ounces of bud.
    • No money can change hands, though, since selling pot–even among friends–is illegal until the recreational stores open.
  • Do not think about bringing marijuana into Maine from somewhere else since transporting cannabis across state lines is still a felony.
    • This is the case even if the marijuana is being brought from a state where marijuana is also legal.
Consumption

Once you’re able to buy pot in a recreational store, where can you smoke it?

  • You are not allowed to smoke or ingest marijuana in public at all in Maine.
    • Not even if you’re a medical marijuana patient.
  • Existing laws that restrict where you can smoke tobacco also apply to smoking marijuana.
    • Oddly, the initiative does not state that the laws apply to ingestion of marijuana and marijuana products by means other than smoking.
  • The safest thing to do is consume it only at home or on private property for now.
    • The bill states it can be consumed in a “nonpublic place,” although it does not define nonpublic.
  • Make sure you don’t smoke it or consume it:
    • On streets
    • While driving a vehicle
    • In public parks or on public transportation
    • In bars and restaurants
    • On federal land, which includes
      • National parks
      • Federal courthouses or other federal buildings
      • National monuments
      • Military bases
  • If you rent or lease, you’ll need to check with your landlord before lighting up to make sure they approve.
    • They have the right to ban marijuana from their buildings and property.
  • Violating the rules has consequences.
    • If you’re busted smoking marijuana in public, it’s a civil violation.
    • Expect a fine of $100.
What the General Public Thinks

What is the attitude toward marijuana legalization in Maine?

The vote to make recreational marijuana legal in Maine was the closest of all the states that legalized it in 2016. And the legislature followed the example of their Massachusetts counterparts by immediately delaying the deadline for licensing stores by at least 6 months.

The legislation – thanks to the force of those opposing legalization – gives local government in Maine tremendous power. They can:

  • Delay the state licensing of any proposed facility until they approve its location
  • Restrict the number of stores in their municipality
  • Prohibit the operation of retail stores or marijuana social clubs entirely
  • Regulate the location of retail stores or marijuana social clubs
  • Require local licensing in addition to state licensing

Here’s how other numbers break down:

  • 67% of Democrats support legalization
  • 56% of Independents support legalization
  • Only 35% of Republicans support it
  • Among voters age 65 and over, 65% oppose legalization
  • 52% of voters ages 50 to 64 support it
  • 56% of voters who are between the ages of 35 and 49 also support legalization
  • And 69% of Pine Tree State residents age 18 – 34 are strongly in favor and think that marijuana should be made legal

Police Enforcement

Driving High

Based on Maine Revised Statutes, Title 29-A, it is illegal for a person to drive while under the influence of marijuana, alcohol, other drugs, or a combination of substances. When alcohol is involved, a blood alcohol level of 0.08% is considered a DUI. When marijuana is involved, however, ANY amount found in the driver’s blood or urine while he or she is driving establishes that the driver was under the influence and will bring about some fairly stiff penalties.

So what is driving high in Maine?

  • There is no consensus in Maine about how much marijuana in the system actually impairs driving as there is in Colorado or Washington.
  • A person suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol OR marijuana has–simply by virtue of driving in the state–given “implied consent” to provide a breath, blood, or urine sample to police for testing at any time authorities have probable cause to administer a test.
    • If you refuse to take the test, your driver’s license will be immediately suspended for 275 days without any court action.
    • Suspension can be for as long as 6 years.
  • Since there is no legal limit set for marijuana in Maine, the simple “use of marijuana while driving” can qualify you for a DUI, so it’s smart to stay put if smoking or using pot.

How can an officer stop you?

  • The State of Maine has some very straightforward regulations defining a lawful stop by a police officer and an unlawful stop. Police cannot stop drivers based merely on reasonable suspicion. They must have probable cause to believe you are driving under the influence in order to stop you.

Examples of probable cause include:

  • Speeding
  • Illegal turns
  • Running a stop sign
  • Driving erratically
  • Swerving

Once you’re pulled over for a traffic violation, the officer can evaluate and test you for being under the influence.

In Maine, police are also entitled to conduct periodic sobriety checkpoints as long as all vehicles are stopped (not just random vehicles) and the stops are brief. If you turn away from a checkpoint, they will consider this probable cause and have the right to evaluate and test you.

What happens when they stop you?

  • They will ask some questions, observe your behavior, and probably have you take a preliminary breath test.
  • If you pass the breath test–meaning no alcohol is detected–then they’ll conduct field sobriety tests to determine your level of impairment. The test can be:
    • Walk the Line Test–you’ll be asked to walk in a straight line and the officer will watch for lack of balance, inability to stay on a straight line, or breaks in walking
    • One Leg Stand Test–you will be asked to raise your foot, be still, count and look down and the officer will watch for swaying, hopping, or putting your foot down
  • They’ll also look for:
    • Dilated pupils
    • The smell of pot
    • Eyelid or body tremors
    • Especially relaxed and uninhibited behavior
    • Short-term memory problems
  • If you fail the field sobriety tests, the officer can arrest you and perform a blood or urine test to determine drug content without your consent.
    • And remember, if you refuse to take the test, your driver’s license will be immediately suspended for 275 days without any court action.
  • A determination of impairment is made on a case-by-case basis in front of a judge.
  • If you’re convicted, penalties range from fines to jail time.

Penalties for a first offense, which is usually a misdemeanor, can include:

  • A fine of at least $500 and up to $2,000
  • A mandatory DUI surcharge of $125 (in addition to the fine)
  • At least 48 hours in jail and up to 364 days in jail
  • One year of probation
  • License suspension for at least 90 days
    • You will be subject to an additional 275 days of license suspension if a person younger than age 21 is in the vehicle at the time you are stopped
  • If you refuse to take a drug test, the minimum fine can increase to $600 and the minimum jail time can increase to 96 hours

Second and third convictions increase fines and jail time significantly and require participation in a drug rehab program run by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. And if you have a fourth or subsequent conviction, you’ll be required to use a state-issued ignition interlock device when driving any vehicle for 4 years after your license suspension has ended.

Learn more about the laws and penalties for drugged driving in Maine from NORML.

Other Legal Information

Public intoxication:

  • The public intoxication laws in Maine are not yet defined when intoxication comes from marijuana, so it’s safe to assume that the public intoxication laws related to alcohol will apply for now.
  • Currently, public intoxication is a Class E crime punishable by a fine up to $100, jail time of up to 6 months, or both.
  • There are 2 potential defenses if a police officer attempts to take you into custody:
    • You can argue that you are not intoxicated
      • You will have to take and pass a breathalyzer or other sobriety test
    • You can show that you were in a private place instead of a public place

Possession of more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana or 1/5 of an ounce of concentrates:

  • More than 2.5 ounces but less than 8 ounces is a crime with:
    • A $1,000 fine
    • Up to 6 months in jail
  • 8 ounces but less than 1 pound is a crime with:
    • A $2,000 fine
    • Up to 1 year in jail
  • 1-20 pounds is a crime with:
    • A $5,000 fine
    • Up to 5 years in jail
  • More than 20 pounds is a crime with:
    • A $20,000 fine
    • Up to 10 years in jail

Sale, delivery, or possession with intent to distribute:

  • For an amount that’s 1 pound or less, it’s a Class D crime punishable by:
    • A $2,000 fine
    • 1 year in jail
  • More than 1 pound but less than 20 pounds, it’s a Class C crime punishable by:
    • A $5,000 fine
    • 5 years in jail
  • 20 pounds or more, it’s a Class B crime punishable by:
    • A $20,000 fine
    • 10 years in jail
  • Any amount sold or distributed to a minor, or sold within 1000 feet of a school or school bus is a felony punishable by:
    • A $5,000 fine
    • 5 years in jail

Cultivation:

  • More than 6 plants but less than 100 plants is a Class D crime punishable by:
    • A $2,000 fine
    • 1 year in jail
  • More than 100 plants but less than 500 plants is a Class C crime punishable by:
    • A $5,000 fine
    • 5 years in jail
  • 500 plants or more is a Class B crime punishable by:
    • A $20,000 fine
    • 10 years in jail

Paraphernalia:

  • Possession of paraphernalia in Maine is considered a civil violation punishable by a maximum $300 fine.
  • If you sell paraphernalia to someone 16 years old or older, it is a Class E misdemeanor punishable by:
    • A $1,000 fine
    • 6 months in jail
  • If you sell paraphernalia to a minor, it is a Class D misdemeanor punishable by:
    • A $2,000 fine
    • 1 year in jail

City and municipal laws:

The legislation related to recreational marijuana in Maine – thanks to the force of those opposing its legalization – gives local governments tremendous power. They can:

  • Delay the state license of any proposed facility until they approve its location
  • Restrict the number of stores and/or social clubs in their municipality
  • Prohibit the operation of retail stores or marijuana social clubs entirely
  • Regulate the location of retail stores or marijuana social clubs
  • Require separate local licensing of stores and clubs in addition to state licensing

Learn more about Maine’s laws and penalties through NORML.

Going into Business

Even though the legislature has delayed the deadline for licensing the first retail marijuana facilities in Maine (and have a lot to iron out related to regulating marijuana businesses), opening one is still worth considering.

Licenses

Because of the legislative delay in establishing industry regulations and issuing the first licenses, the complete details related to application requirements are uncertain. But here’s what we know so far.

  • The legislature must establish all rules and regulations governing the retail marijuana program by September, 2017.
  • The Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, who will oversee the program, should begin accepting applications for licenses 30 days later or in October, 2017.
  • Within 90 days of approving a retail facility license application from a qualified applicant, the Bureau must issue the license.
    • If multiple applicants compete for a spot in a municipality that has limited the number of licenses, the Department has 180 days to consult the municipality and issue the contested license to the preferred applicant.
  • Licenses will be required to:
    • Cultivate marijuana
    • Manufacture marijuana-related paraphernalia
    • Operate a testing facility
    • Engage in retail sales
    • Operate a marijuana social club
  • While the state itself cannot limit the number of retail marijuana store licenses, Maine’s municipalities will have total control over where any retail marijuana establishments will be located, and if they will be permitted at all.
  • If a local municipality requires a license, this will have to be obtained before you can submit an application to the state.
How to Acquire a License

Anyone that meets certain requirements can apply for a recreational marijuana facility license. But once the state begins accepting applications, it will give priority to applicants as follows:

  • First priority for issuing licenses will be given to cultivating caregivers that have been registered with the state for at least 2 years at the time of the application
  • Equal priority will be given to any applicants who have served as principal officers or directors of an existing medical marijuana dispensary
    • Each director or officer will get preference for only one of each license type, regardless of how many dispensaries in which he or she has an interest
  • Finally, priority will be given to caregivers who have three or more caregiver registration cards at the time of the application
Who Can Apply for a License

To apply for a recreational marijuana business license in Maine once the application process begins:

  • You must be at least 21 years old
  • You must not have previously had a retail marijuana establishment license revoked
  • You cannot be a member of law enforcement
  • You must not have a disqualifying drug offense on record
    • A disqualifying drug offense means conviction for a state or federal controlled substance law violation punishable by 5 or more years in jail that occurred less than 10 years prior to the time of application

There will be a fee for submitting your application for a license and then a fee for the license itself, but the Bureau has not yet established the amounts.

Taxes

How will recreational marijuana be taxed in Maine?

  • When recreational marijuana facilities open for business, all sales will be taxed at a rate of 10%.
    • This is in addition to the state’s 5.5% general sales tax.

Where will the tax dollars go?

  • For now, tax dollars, licensing fees, and penalties will be deposited in the state’s General Fund.
  • Later in 2017, the legislature is expected to fully define how the dollars will be distributed.
  • We do know that a large portion of them will pay for the regulation and oversight of the industry.

Growing Pot

The Maine Marijuana Legalization Initiative allows adults 21 and over to grow marijuana at home for their personal use.

  • Adults who do not participate in the medical marijuana program can grow:
    • Six flowering plants per household no matter how many adults reside there
    • Twelve immature, non-flowering plants
    • Unlimited seedlings
  • Cultivation has to be indoors
    • Unless you get permission from the state to grow outdoors
    • Outdoor grows cannot be visible from public roads or the sky
    • Plants outdoors must have an identification tag that includes your driver’s license number
  • If you end up with more marijuana than you can use, you can give away up to 2.5 ounces to someone 21 or older but no money can change hands.
  • You can also share up to 6 immature plants or seedlings to someone 21 or over as long as no money changes hands.
  • Property owners can ban the cultivation of marijuana on their properties–meaning your landlord can decide that plants cannot be grown on their property, i.e., in your apartment.

To learn more about the laws related to growing marijuana in Maine:

Related Resources