From Augusta

What you need to know about Maine’s new marijuana law, effective Jan. 30

Mon, 01/30/2017 - 12:00am

    Rep. Owen Casas, I-Rockport, sits on the Maine Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. He explains the new law governing recreational marijuana that goes into effect today, Jan. 30.

    The recently passed citizens initiative allows recreational consumption of pot on January 30, 2017 (which means by the time you are reading this you, if you are over 21, are allowed to legally consume marijuana).

    Although marijuana consumption is legal for recreational purposes, it is still not legal for you to buy or sell pot, unless you are a medical patient.

    The citizens’ initiative allowed for nine months of rule- and regulation-making to be started Jan 30, 2017. That nine-month timeframe was extended by the Legislature an extra three months so the anticipated start date for legal sales of recreational marijuana is Feb 1, 2018.

    Although I thought that the extension was unnecessary, in reality it is only a two- to three-week extension because the Legislature wouldn't be in session at the end of the original nine-month period.

    Law enforcement will view marijuana in a similar light as alcohol. This means that if you consume marijuana in any form you cannot operate a motorized vehicle like a car, boat, ATV, RV, motorcycle, etc.

    There is flexibility for you to consume in a vehicle, like boat or RV, when it is properly parked and you do not operate that vehicle while intoxicated, similar to alcohol.

    You cannot walk around smoking pot in public places, just like you can't walk down the street with an open container of beer.

    Also, just because it is legal doesn't mean you can show up to work high, just like it is a pretty poor idea to show up to work drunk.

    You can consumer marijuana on your own private property or on a friends private property if that friend has given you "explicit permission."

    You can also grow up to six of your own flowering marijuana plants. You will also be able to transport (meaning just driving with it in the vehicle) up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and up to 5 grams of marijuana concentrate.

    We were able to fix the definition of "marijuana concentrate" so that the weight of non-cannabis-related material is not counted toward your 5 grams (meaning an edible marijuana brownie won't have you fall outside the law because there are well over 5 grams of flour, sugar, and eggs in it BUT 6 grams of straight hash oil would be illegal).

    These fixes were done by the committee I serve on, Veterans and Legal Affairs.

    Most agree that the citizen’ initiative passed in November was heavily flawed and needed to be fixed before Jan 30. Case in point: A drafting error that allowed for those under the age of 21 to legally be able to possess pot.

    We worked very hard at crafting a stop-gap fix of these glaring errors, knowing that the harder work and getting into the weeds (I couldn't resist) would happen by the newly created Joint Standing Committee on marijuana implementation.

    Our charge was to fix what really needed to be fixed before it became legal, then let that specialized committee work on the finer details.

    Although there was some resistance from Governor Paul LePage over which agency would have primary control over regulation and a fiscal appropriation to fund the rulemaking, he finally signed the bill.

    What we produced in Veterans and Legal Affairs passed unanimously in both the House and Senate and should be thought of as a great nonpartisan effort. I was encouraged by the friendly and upbeat atmosphere we had in committee while working on this and I hope that continues into the work that the Joint Standing Committee will do.

    So enjoy, but be smart. We have a lot of examples of good and bad practices from the other states that have legalized recreational marijuana and I hope that we all work together to make this a success.

    Rep. Owen Casas, I-Rockport, represents Camden, Islesboro and Rockport in the Maine Legislature.