Another election, and another historic night for marijuana reform.
Michigan has passed legalization! MPP played a central role in this campaign from start to finish. From coordinating the initiative drafting to overseeing the production of TV ads, MPP staffers worked alongside a excellent campaign team for two years to make Michigan the first state in the Midwest to adopt legalization. This is a huge win that will maintain our momentum in Washington, D.C. to pass a landmark federal reform bill through Congress in the near future.
Utah passed medical marijuana! MPP led the drafting process and played an important supporting role throughout the campaign. We are so proud of the Utah Patients Coalition team on this historic win that will end the heartless policy of criminalizing patients. If we can pass medical marijuana in Utah, then we can pass it in any state in the country…and we will.
In Missouri, voters approved medical marijuana, and they chose the best of the three possible initiatives. We congratulate our allies in the marijuana reform movement for this important win that will help patients access the medicine they need.
Sadly, North Dakota did not pass its legalization initiative. In such a conservative state, it was always an uphill battle. The proponents ran a strong campaign, but in a midterm year, the electorate was always going to be a challenge. North Dakota passed medical marijuana in 2016. It’s only a matter of time before the state adopts legalization, either via ballot initiative or legislative action.
As a movement, we won three out of four states. And for MPP, we’ve now played a leading role in seven of the 10 states that have legalized marijuana for adults (Colorado, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Vermont, and Michigan).
We couldn’t do this work without the support of voters, allies, activists, and donors. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to everyone who made these crucial victories last night possible.
In other great news, voters elected at least seven governors who support ending marijuana prohibition — Ned Lamont in Connecticut, JB Pritzker in Illinois, Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico, Tim Walz in Minnesota, Gavin Newsom in California, Jared Polis in Colorado, and Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan. For more details, check out our elections page.
Earlier this month, the Maine Legislature overrode Gov. LePage’s vetoes of LD 238 and LD 1539, bills to improve Maine’s medical marijuana program. LD 238 allows for third-party extraction of medical marijuana. LD 1539 is the culmination of the Health and Human Services Committee’s session-long work reforming the medical marijuana program.
The bipartisan omnibus reform bill:
- removes the qualifying condition list so that any Mainer can use medical marijuana so long as their doctor thinks it would be helpful for them;
- eliminates the requirement that a patient must designate a caregiver or dispensary as their sole provider, allowing for more patient choice;
- adds two more dispensaries to the existing eight dispensaries and removes the cap on the dispensaries after January 1, 2021;
- allows for caregivers to open storefronts, if the town approves; and
- much more…you can read a summary of the changes here.
These reforms are a win for the patients and the industry, and a hearty “Congratulations!” is in order for everyone that worked hard to make this happen.
The walls of marijuana prohibition have crumbled all around New Hampshire. It is now legal for adults in all three neighboring states to grow and possess cannabis, and retail sales will soon become a reality in Massachusetts, Maine, and Canada.
Sadly, Gov. Chris Sununu continues to oppose legalization, in part because he continues to rely on terrible advice from New Hampshire’s so-called “drug czar,” former Manchester police chief David Mara. Last week, during an appearance at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Mara went on camera and offered an incredibly weak argument in defense of the status quo.
In other news, Senate Democratic leader Jeff Woodburn has launched an online petition calling for Sununu to support legalization. Sen. Woodburn announced last month that he intends to sponsor a bill to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis in 2019.
If you are a New Hampshire resident, please call Gov. Sununu’s office today — tell him it’s time to stop listening to Chief Mara and start listening to the people of New Hampshire, who overwhelmingly support ending marijuana prohibition!
LD 1719 creates the rules for licensing and regulating marijuana producers, processors, and retail establishments and sets the tax rates for adult-use marijuana. The bill does not implement the portion of the voter-approved initiative that calls for social consumption lounges.
While the bill was by no means perfect, we are glad that the state is moving forward with implementation, and soon there will be a legal way for adults to purchase marijuana.
We are disappointed that social clubs were removed from the law and that adults may now only cultivate three plants at home instead of six. We will be working with the next legislature and governor to improve upon the work the legislature has accomplished. To that end, we have sent a survey to the candidates running for governor, asking if they will make implementation a priority once elected. Stay tuned for the results of the survey before the June primary election.
This week, the Maine House and Senate overwhelmingly passed LD 1719, which would set up Maine’s adult-use marijuana market. MPP was neutral on the bill, as it removed social club licensing from the initiative voters passed in 2016. LD 1719 also reduced the number of plants adults can cultivate at home from six to three flowering plants. That said, it’s been 18 months since Maine voters passed Question 1, and it is time that adults had a legal place to purchase marijuana.
Given the veto-proof margins that LD 1719 passed by, we are uncertain if Gov. LePage will veto the bill. If he does, many lawmakers will have to change their votes to sustain his veto. We will keep you posted on what happens next.
The Maine MLI Committee has been back to work over the last two months on the latest iteration of their omnibus bill to establish regulations for the adult-use marijuana market. Unfortunately, most of the changes have been politically oriented to garner support from House Republicans. Changes that concern us the most are the removal of social clubs from the bill and reducing the number of flowering marijuana plants an adult can grow, from six to three per adult.
We are still waiting on the final language of the bill, which may be a week or two. Once the final bill is released, we will be sure to send it to you.
Across the hall, in the Health and Human Services Committee, some structural reforms are being considered. For the first time, in a long time, stakeholders are working together with the committee to make the medical program better for patients and the industry. We will keep you abreast of these changes as they occur.
In the meantime, we are meeting with Republican, Democratic, and Independent candidates for governor. Not only do these meetings allow us to ask the candidates where they stand on marijuana policy, but also, they allow us to be a resource and answer questions they may have. We are frustrated and disappointed that adults in Maine will not have a legal way to purchase marijuana this year and hope the next governor will make implementation a top priority.
On Friday, Maine Gov. Paul LePage followed through on threats to veto legislation that would have started the process of implementing a regulated marijuana market that Maine voters called for when they approved Question 1 in 2016. The bill, which was supported overwhelmingly in the House and Senate, would have created rules for cultivation, processing, and retail establishments, as well as set tax rates for adult-use marijuana and delay marijuana social consumption lounges until summer 2019.
LD 1650 was the product of nearly seven months of transparent deliberations in the legislature that included input from a variety of stakeholders and concerned residents. Gov. LePage and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) attempted to circumvent this legislation by introducing a bill to officially delay marijuana retail sales until 2019, but it was defeated in late October.
MPP's David Boyer released the following statement:
Gov. LePage has made a mistake by vetoing this legislation. Instead of a regulated and controlled system of marijuana cultivation and sales, Maine will continue to support the unregulated market. In 2014, the governor said he would implement a legalization law if approved by voters, but he has failed to uphold that commitment.
We call on the legislature to override this ill-advised veto. The bipartisan compromise bill proposed by the legislature will allow Maine to establish the regulations necessary to implement the will of the people as expressed last November.
In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker campaigned against the marijuana legalization initiative last year. However, he respected the outcome and moved forward with implementation of the law. It is unfortunate that Gov. LePage has not done the same. Seven other states have passed legalization initiatives over the past five years, and none have seen this type of obstructionism from their governors.
MPP will continue working with our allies and the legislature to make sure Maine voters gets the legal and regulated marijuana program they called for last year.
UPDATE: Legislative attempts to override the veto failed. MPP is urging lawmakers to address the issue immediately at the beginning of the next session.
Maine lawmakers approved a bill late Monday that would establish regulations for the legal marijuana market, with the House voting 81-50 and the Senate voting 22-9 before both chambers passed the measure in an “under the hammer” or unanimous vote. This omnibus bill, LD 1650, was the culmination of nearly seven months of work by the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee. The bill creates the rules for licensing and regulating marijuana producers, processors, and retail establishments; sets the tax rates for adult-use marijuana; and will delay marijuana consumption social clubs until the summer of 2019.
“We commend the legislature for supporting the will of the people by passing this bill to implement a regulated marijuana market without further delay,” said David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “This bill was created transparently and inclusively, and while it may not be perfect, it essentially does what Maine voters wanted when they approved Question 1 last year. It is time to start working toward that goal of getting the marijuana market out of the hands of criminals and under the control of the state and legitimate businesses.”
Last week, Gov. Paul LePage and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) announced legislation that would further delay legal marijuana sales and cultivation until 2019 — three years after voters approved Question 1, which made marijuana legal for adults and regulated similarly to alcohol. This moratorium bill was defeated in the legislature on Monday. Gov. LePage has also threatened to veto the implementation bill, but MPP will continue working to ensure that the voter initiative is rolled out in a timely manner.
Since the formation of the Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization Implementation in Maine, a few bills have been progressing steadily.
The first bill is LD 243, which would transfer the authority to oversee adult-use marijuana from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations within the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS). The Bureau would be responsible for licensing adult-use marijuana businesses, in addition to creating and enforcing regulations. LD 243 also allocates $200,000 to the Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization Implementation and $1.4 million to DAFS to implement Question 1. The bill is now sitting on the Appropriations table. Once appropriated, it will go to the governor’s desk for his signature.
The second bill they have been working on is LR 2391, which would create a framework for retail marijuana testing facilities. By setting up testing facilities first, Maine would hopefully avoid regulatory bottlenecks experienced in other states. Mandated marijuana testing means that enough laboratories are needed to test all the marijuana that will be sold in Maine. LR 2391 is on track to be passed before the Legislature adjourns today.
The Joint Select Committee will continue to meet in the summer and fall, after the Legislature adjourns. We will be working closely with the committee to make sure Maine’s adult-use marijuana program is set up swiftly and responsibly.
To receive updates directly from the committee, please sign up here.
The Vermont House Judiciary Committee will begin holding hearings this week on H. 170, a bill that would legalize possession and limited home cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 and older. This bill is sponsored by the committee’s chairman, vice-chair, and ranking Republican, and its prospects appear to be bright: Vermont Public Radio reported on Friday that the House "appears more receptive" to legalization in 2017, and Governor Phil Scott is "willing to consider the House plan."
Although this bill would not legalize and regulate marijuana sales in Vermont, it still represents a very significant development.
Last week, Maine became the second New England state — following Massachusetts — where adults are no longer punished for possessing small amounts of marijuana or a limited number of plants. Now that marijuana is legal in two other New England states, there is no reason whatsoever for Vermont to continue punishing adults for choosing to use a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.
If you are a Vermont resident, please contact your lawmakers and tell them to support this sensible legislation.