In the Weeds: stay involved in the conversation about marijuana legalization in Maine

The votes are in, and Maine has legalized recreational marijuana. This may end up being Maine’s biggest public health disaster since ….our opioid epidemic. Or maybe not. That remains to be seen.

But no matter what, the law creates a super highway to Maine for Big Marijuana. So like it or not, we have to get ready. Big Marijuana is on its way to Maine.

Here are two important ways we can stay involved in the conversation and be a part of creating Maine’s future pot culture.

Home Rule and Home Grown

Thank goodness for home rule in Maine. Our towns and cities can enact laws that do not run counter to state or federal law. The new marijuana law will expressly allow municipalities to “regulate the number of retail marijuana stores and the location and operation of retail marijuana establishments and retail marijuana social clubs.”

Municipalities can also just “say no” and prohibit retail marijuana shops and social clubs (aka pot bars).

Possessing and growing marijuana will be allowed in all municipalities, including home grown. A person may grow up to six flowering plants as long as no one can see them from the road.

This is powerful stuff: towns can decide what kind of atmosphere they want to create when it comes to cannabis. Local residents need to step up and make sure they have a say in what they want their town’s weed culture to be.

The devil is in the detail….and in the rules and regulations

The law clearly anticipates production, marketing and sales of new marijuana products in Maine. The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is tasked with regulating the entire supply chain, from marijuana cultivation, manufacture and distribution, to developing a testing and certification process for retail products, including testing and labeling of THC potency.

The law gives the Department of Agriculture just nine months to develop rules to implement this new supply chain of a psychotropic substance. That’s a big job, and the Department will need to tread carefully. The legislature may also get in on the act and make revisions to the law.

Big Marijuana will no doubt be at the table, hoping to influence decisions from seedlings to sales. Public health, health care, and citizen groups need to be there as well.

The bottom line

We as Mainers have an opportunity to create our own brand of legal weed. Not the way Colorado did it, or Washington did it, but the way we want to. It’s in our hands to make sure marijuana legalization is not Maine’s next public health disaster.

Alison Webb

About Alison Webb

Alison Webb is a public health consultant with over 20 years experience in community outreach, grassroots organizing, implementing and evaluating evidence-based programs, and advocating for healthy policies at the Maine State Legislature. Alison is especially interested in what science tells us about promoting health and wellness and how we can apply that to live well in Maine. The blog describes recent public health research and give readers insights into how to use that knowledge to lead healthy lives.