Corporate Interests in Maine Torpedeo 2014 Legalization Effort

As we mentioned here previously, NORML has worked with Representative Diane Russell in Maine to draft and prepare for introduction a measure that would have legalized and regulated the adult use of marijuana in the state. The proposed legislation would have legalized the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and the cultivation of up to 6 plants by individuals over the age of 21. It would have established marijuana retail outlets and cultivation sites across the state to create an aboveboard regulated market. To ensure that both those with experience and those with strong ties to the state of Maine were given priority, applicants who are already operating in Maine’s medical program and applicants with 2 or more years residency in the state were to receive the right of first refusal for retail licenses.

To be introduced, the measure had to be approved by Maine’s Legislative Council and was on track to do so until today. At the last minute, monied corporate interests representing established medical marijuana dispensaries came in and managed to flip one of the votes necessary to approve the bill for introduction. Their complaints were vague and they made the claim they were not invited to the table, despite the legislation being drafted to provide them with priority status when it came to applying for retail licenses. In truth, they walked away from the very table they said they were not invited to. In addition to providing deference to both medical dispensaries, registered caregivers, and applicants with real ties to the state, 5% of the taxes raised from the sales of retail marijuana would have gone to help low income patients who are suffering in Maine by subsidizing the cost of their medical cannabis.

“Today, corporate and profit-driven interests shunned Maine’s economic future and shut down the prospects of a new bill to regulate marijuana,” stated Representative Diane Russell, “For the record, 5% of tax revenue from the new bill would have gone to ensuring low income Mainers could afford their medical marijuana. Profits seem to be more important than patients – and that’s just wrong.”

With pressure from those with vested interest in maintaining the status quo, this proposed legislation ended up falling one vote short of what was required for its introduction, although we had enough votes.

Maine Residents: Please, take a moment of your day to contact Maine’s Legislative Council using our form linked below and let them know you disagree with their decision. The time is overdue for Maine to move towards a regulated system that puts the interests of Mainers before the interest of profits.


Very Disappointing: Please Reconsider LR 2329

I am writing to express my disappointment with the Maine Legislative Council for failing to approve Representative Diane Russell’s proposed legislation that would have legalized adult possession and limited cultivation of marijuana, while regulating its retail sale similar to how our state currently regulates alcohol.

For those who voted in support of Rep. Russell’s bill, I sincerely thank you. For those who voted in opposition to it, I write to respectfully request you reconsider your vote. I’ve outlined my reasons below and hope you will give serious consideration to the growing number of Mainers who want a Maine approach to marijuana policy.

Next Tuesday, Portland will be voting on a citizen referendum to legalize cannabis for adults. If this ordinance passes, there will be no vehicle to channel the growing momentum for legalization toward a constructive end. When 58% of Americans support replacing prohibition with regulation, the issue is no longer coming – it’s here. Regardless of the vote next week, we should be actively working to get ahead of this issue in a responsible, open manner.

Mainers are quickly realizing that prohibition has failed to protect kids. In fact, more than 80 percent of high school seniors attest to the federal government that they have easy access to marijuana – that statistic has remained constant for nearly four decades.

Further, Mainers are twice as likely to get arrested for possession if they are African American; York county residents are five times as likely. In 2010 alone, Maine arrested over 2,800 individuals for simple marijuana possession. The cost of enforcing these laws comes with an annual bill in excess of 8.8 million dollars a year, while doing nothing to create safer communities or dissuade use. Further, this system has only incentivized drug dealers and cartels who are currently profiting off prohibition.

This legislation was written with safe guards in place to give priority to in state residents and current medical marijuana dispensary operators when it comes to the distribution of retail licenses. Additionally, it would have taken the marijuana trade out of the hands of black market criminal elements and put it under the control of legitimate regulated business owners – from Maine – while raising substantial tax revenue for the state. The bill funded the hiring of new Drug Recognition Experts to help enhance highway safety, Drugs for the Elderly, addiction treatment, medical marijuana for low income people, and the launch of a marijuana youth prevention task force.

In short, this was a Maine approach to responsibly addressing a growing cultural shift. I ask you to reconsider this vote, and allow a new bill to move forward that truly reflects the direction Mainers want to go on this issue.

36 thoughts

  1. Cowards! do whats right for the people not what you get paid under the table to influence your vote!

  2. Who was really trying to disrupt the law and made the state legislative council do a quick spin?
    I would always expect the trolls be coming around.

  3. What is the name of the legislator that was flipped at the last minute? I would like to address communication to them personally.

  4. Wow. Too bad. Don’t give up because thats what they want you to do. Just one vote shy? Well you got your foot in the door this time, next time you will kick it wide open.

  5. Bottom line money will always win out over public sentiment. The bigger the green industry gets those whose seek to exploit it’s distribution will be increasingly moneyed and self interested.

  6. Maine has a crazy GOP governor – has he taken a stand on the issue? Can Maine still give the question to the citizens in 2016? And that’s a shame that the very people who know about marijuana, the medical retailers, are acting on selfish interests and not for the benefit of all Maine’s people. (Maybe Stephen King will endorse if he hasn’t already)

  7. It’s going to be a beautiful day when logic and compassion finally win out over fear and propaganda.

  8. This is another example in a long list of how stupid our politics are. So the winners (those already legal and at the head of the line) came to the table and smashed it for everyone else. Childish, isn’t it? Why, again, do the feet stomping babies get to wreck it for the rest of us?


  10. I disagree with the bottom line being money. The money gets in the way, and slows the journey to the goal. Stick to what your doing Maine; it obviously has done some good.
    Take suggestions and write your Legislative Council. I don’t live in Maine but when I read this, I feel, it just really needs to be looked at, and see who, what and why this vote was set-forth in this manner.

  11. I’m sick to my stomach. This is just another example of a small group of people protecting their financial interests with no regard for the public. The needs of the many should outweigh the needs of the few.

  12. Can we get the names of all the legislators that opposed this? They need to be thrown the hell out next election!

  13. Humboldt County

    Arcata residents who use an excessive amount of electricity can expect to see a spike in their November utility bill.

    Measure I, the so-called marijuana grow tax, has been implemented by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. Passed by Arcata voters last fall, the measure assesses a 45 percent tax on residences that use more than 600 percent of the energy baseline — or the energy used to power three average homes — energy consumption not uncommon to indoor marijuana grows.

  14. This is the same crap that happened in California in 2010. You had people involved with cannabis with narrow interests wanting prohibition to do their dirty work for them. Advocates of cannabis freedom need to wake the hell up and realize not everyone involved in cannabis is your ally. In fact some are your outright enemies. This movement if you want to call it that, is being hijacked by psychopaths who don’t give a rat’s ass if you go to jail as long as their turf and profits are protected. People who support true cannabis freedom must not only focus fighting off symmetrical enemies like reefer madness prohibitionists, but must equally focus on asymmetrical enemies like these parasite dispensaries, growers and dealers who oppose true cannabis freedom, liberty and justice.

  15. This Freedom and Liberty thing that politicians talk about is nothing more than Hollow promises and is used strictly and oh so loosely for election purposes. They dont really mean it.

    The elected officials in Maine had better understand that this was in fact a huge blunder. After 58% of Americans stated clearly in the last poll that it is to be legalized you should understand that you just lost your job by voting against this measure and the people of Maine should follow through with your dismissal your next election.

    The politicians in Maine are made of the very same fiber as the Doctors who work on behalf of the coal mines down in West virginia. They’ll do anything and anybody for any reason, if the money is right.

    This particular vote is very very disturbing to me because of the fact that it is the state of Maine. Maine!

    Maine has always been a state in the Northeast that I looked up to because of its stance and consistent positions for liberties and free thinkers. The people from Maine always reminded of the people of Tennessee. They love freedom and their liberty and are very very independent.

    When politicians vote no on policies and laws knowing that passing the law will pay 5% revenue to help others that didnt exist before, you have to stop and ask yourself who these people really are and who owns them. Id say they really cant look themselves in the mirror honestly. Oh, who are we kidding, they cant do anything honestly.

    This issue is already legal in the hearts and minds of 58% of the American people, you are in serious trouble and shouldnt have sold out the people of Maine.

    You should be history after the next election. Be advised! All politicians should have the understanding that we are going to be using that very issue to elect in Maine and the remaining 48 states.

  16. Taxing a plant is nearly as ludicrous as jailing people for a plant. Both give the government power over what should be a free and personal choice. The answer lies in peaceful freedom, not jail, not regulation.

  17. With 58% of Americans in favor of legalization hopefully these greedy politicians will fall to the wrath of the people come the next election. Don’t give these bastards a chance to stick it to you again the next time the legalization issue comes up for legislation. And hopefully will set an example to the politicians in the other 47 remaining states.

  18. They. Are. A. Bunch. Of. Money. Mongrels. Changeing. The. Way. They. Vote. I. Say. Vote. All. Of. Them. Out. Just. Like. We. Voted. Them. In. Do. Not. Worry. They. Win. Never. Get. Rid. Of. Pot. Just. Look. How. Long. They. Have. Been. Trying. Wnd. All. The. Money. They. Have. Wasted. We. Will. Overcome. These. Crooked. Politians

  19. It takes a while for a ship to change course. Butthe minds of people are finally coming about. We cannot be stopped. Because of the tremendous potential profit, corporate America will also one day embrace it. One pot is rescheduled, we win.

  20. Isn’t that how the national healthcare law was passed? In the back room, behind the smoke and mirrors of deception? Rammed down the throat of people who innocently believed their elected officials are working on their constituant’s behalf..

  21. Eeee eeeee haaaa. Oh excuse me Norml I know this is off subject but has any one noticed a jackass around lately? Should I describe him long pointed ears, tail, buck teeth, loud braying noises very annoying.

  22. When I read this article I get the feeling that the author bent over backwards not to name the names of (a) the corporate interests; (b) the medical marijuana dispensaries; and (c) the legislator(s) who flipped. Why so shy? NAME NAMES!!!

  23. @Mark I: In a word, no.

    Seriously, corporations are overwhemingly against the ACA and absolutely in favor of prohibition. The two are light years apart.

    I would very much like NORML to respond to the questions about the possibility of a voter initiative legalizing in 2016. Did the corporate interests torpedo just a legislative effort, or did they torpedo the ability of the people to have their say in 2016?

    [Editor’s note: If the Maine legislature does not pass legalization bill by 2015, Maine will likely be joining CA, MA and OR (if it’s voters don’t pass a legalization initiative in 2014) with legalization initiatives on the ballots.]

  24. Seriously – Why doesn’t NORML publish the names of those for ending prohibition and those that want to keep in place?

    Surely if these names were published on this site we could all target those who deserve to win or loose the next election… Not publishing this information would seem, to me, to slow us down from realizing our goals. I say that 70 plus years of prohibition that is so obviously based on lies, greed, and predjudice needs to end now; so, why not name names??? Lets target these people with a show of ferocity!

    [Editor’s note: A group called the Maine Association of Dispensary Operators and individual members of the national medical cannabis trade group, National Cannabis Industries Association (NCIA), have contacted NORML complaining that NORML is reporting about their efforts to thwart overall cannabis legalization legislation that would otherwise be readily introduced by State Representative Diane Russell and her colleagues without their opposition.

    What NORML and other pro-cannabis law reform organizations are working against in Maine is to avoid a similar opposition of medical cannabis operators that arose in Washington State in 2012, where the nascent medical cannabis industry (mainly out of Seattle) was effectively the only active public opposition in the state to legalization to what was ultimately–and thankfully–a successful initiative.

    There is a new documentary called Evergreen that well captures how the WA state legalization activists overcame the unprincipled and at times uncivil opposition from the small group of sellers of medical cannabis in the state.]

  25. Egomaniacs are what is wrong with marijuana, from sore losers like Mitt Romney to folks that can’t stuffing their faces like Chris Christie, none will support marijuana reform.

    And now we have, what? Are we so blessed by Maine Association of Dispensary Operators and individual members of the national medical cannabis trade group and National Cannabis Industries Association that we should let them take over marijuana? Hey there dickheads, you’re not, never was and just like the DEA, you never will be “in charge of marijuana”.

    We are (and you’re just one tiny piece of the whole), and it will be free. And we don’t need your permission, you don’t own marijuana.

  26. Law enforcement still hauling them down off the interstate here in Idaho another one just this weekend. The guy was from out of state Minnesota, charging them under federal trafficking laws. Let me take a guess at this based on my own experience. If you get pulled over the officer will come to your window and announce that he smells marijuana even if he does not, then demand a search. Be prepared for this travelers, It’s one thing to pay a speeding ticket but you don’t have to put up with dishonest Idaho law enforcement.

  27. If you have a medical marijuana card can you still be charged with paraphernalia if you have any type of paraphernalia in your car in Arizona?

  28. John you ask about a medical card in Arizona. John… your in maine now…you can’t get theyah from heah!

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