This is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. As a result of the overwhelming success of many cannabis initiatives this November, all the remaining states in this series have legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana. This week we head to the East Coast to focus on Maine.
Our previous rankings are as follows: 8. New Mexico; 9. Nevada; 10. Hawaii; 11. Maryland; 12. Connecticut; 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16.Pennsylvania; 17.Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah; 31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas; 46. Kansas; 47. Alabama; 48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma; 50. South Dakota.
Criminal Penalties. Throughout this series we have focused on states that have not legalized the adult use of marijuana. Maine marks the first state in our series to allow recreational cannabis. Unlike previous posts, we will not focus on the criminal penalties for the possession or distribution in Maine. However, there are two things to keep in mind regarding Maine and its criminal penalties for pot:
- Possession or cultivation of cannabis in an amount that exceeds the legal limit can result in criminal liability. The same goes for the sale or distribution of cannabis without a license.
- Maine just approved its legalization initiative and its fully legal market is not yet operational. This process could take years. For example, Alaska legalized cannabis for recreational use in 2014, yet the state only recently allowed its first legal sale.
Recreational Marijuana. On November 8, Maine narrowly voted yes on Question 1, approving the Marijuana Legalization Act. As a result of this vote, adults in Maine over the age of 21 may possess up to two-and-one-half ounces of marijuana and may cultivate up to 6 flowering plants and 12 vegetative plants in their home.
The Act creates a tightly regulated market for the cultivation and sale of cannabis. The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry will oversee Maine’s recreational market. The Act creates licenses for retail stores, cultivation facilities, product-manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities. The Department will oversee the application process for cannabis businesses. The Act gives cities and towns the ability to prohibit the operation of marijuana establishments.
The Act creates a 10% tax on adult-use marijuana sales. The revenue will go to implementing and enforcing regulations. Remaining funds will be allocated to the state legislature. The Act does not create a tax for medical marijuana sales.
Medical Marijuana. Maine’s medical market is to be distinct from the recreational market and until the recreational market is up and running, the medical program is the only way to legally purchase cannabis in Maine. Maine residents with a debilitating medical condition may ask their doctor for a recommendation to use medical cannabis. Those conditions are as follows:
- Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Hepatitis C
- ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)
- Crohn’s disease
- Agitation of Alzheimer’s disease
- Nail-patella syndrome
- Intractable pain, or a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces cachexia, severe nausea, seizures (such as those characteristic of epilepsy) or severe and persistent muscle spasms (such as those characteristic of multiple sclerosis)
- Chronic pain that has not responded to traditional treatments for 6 months or more.
Maine allows for regulated dispensaries to provide cannabis to patients. Patients may also grow up to six cannabis plants. Maine residents then have the option to register with the state as a medical marijuana patient but are not required to do so to possess, purchase, or cultivate medical cannabis.
Bottomline. With recreational marijuana legal and an established medical market in place, it should come as no surprise that Maine ranks so highly on this list. Establishing a recreational market is no easy task and the state has a lot to do before recreational stores are operational. However, this is a good problem to have as it means Maine residents will soon have access to legal adult-use marijuana. Congratulations to Maine on voting for adult-use cannabis.