Although Maine voters legalized the use of recreational marijuana at the polls in November 2016, and legalization took effect in January, a veto issued Nov. 3 by Gov. Paul LePage, upheld a few days later by the Maine House, have made it likely that commercial production and retail sales are probably years away.
A current statewide moratorium on such sales expires Feb. 1, 2018, but Maine's Legislature reconvenes in January, so the moratorium could either be extended or replaced by an implementation law.
Some towns, like Fryeburg and Hallowell, have placed a moratorium on applications to the planning board for marijuana-related businesses. It is set to expire next January.
Fryeburg Town Manager Sharon Jackson said selectmen hope to have a marijuana zoning ordinance for voters to consider next June.
While seven other states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult-use cannabis, only five have launched retail markets. Massachusetts, which also passed a recreational use law last fall, plans to begin sales next year.
However, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. New Hampshire, which decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in July, has posted on the state Department of Health and Human Services website a notice saying violators could be punished with incarceration and fines, with no exemptions for medical marijuana card-holders.
A confirmed marijuana user could also risk losing security clearance, a license to drive a commercial vehicle and the right to purchase firearms and ammunition.
During a time where the future of the recreational cannabis market remains uncertain, we present a reminder about what exactly is marijuana's current legal status in Maine and our neighbor to the south New Hampshire
• Possession of small amounts (2 1/2 ounces or less) and limited home cultivation of marijuana are legal for adults 21 and older. "Adults may also cultivate up to six mature marijuana plants at their residence or on another adult’s property with the owner’s permission," according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a nationwide clearinghouse of information on drug laws.
• It's legal to give away or "gift" marijuana to adults 21 and older, but it remains illegal to buy or sell.
• Mainers with certain medical conditions can ask their doctor about becoming a medical marijuana patient. Patients may grow their own marijuana, have a caregiver grow it for them or buy it from a dispensary.
The allowable medical conditions are: Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cachexia or wasting syndrome, cancer, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, hepatitis C, HIV or AIDS, Huntington’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, nausea, nail patella syndrome, Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
• Maine law allows what it terms "caregivers" to grow and process marijuana on behalf of a patient. Local caregivers include Adam and Amy Martinese of Brownfield.
• Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB 640, a marijuana decriminalization bill, on July 18,. It became law Sept. 16 and reduces penalties for possessing 3/4 ounce or less of marijuana "from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil violation punishable only by a fine," states the MPP.
• New Hampshire has a medical marijuana law. According to N.H. DHHS, those with the following conditions can apply for a therapeutic cannabis card if their doctors approve:
A) Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic pancreatitis, spinal cord injury or disease, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, lupus, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, ulcerative colitis, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
(B) A severely debilitating or terminal medical condition or its treatment that has produced at least one of the following: elevated intraocular pressure, cachexia, chemotherapy-induced anorexia, wasting syndrome, agitation of Alzheimer's disease, severe pain that has not responded to previously prescribed medication or surgical measures or for which other treatment options produced serious side effects, constant or severe nausea, moderate to severe vomiting, seizures, or severe, persistent muscle spasms; moderate to severe pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
• In New Hampshire, marijuana is dispensed at alternative treatment centers with locations in Merrimack, Plymouth, Dover and Lebanon. A "designated caregiver" may purchase or process marijuana for patients but cannot grow it.