Why Does Maine Have Two Legalization Initiatives
People are always interested to know why Maine has two initiatives. They ask, “What was so bad about the Legalize Maine initiative that made MPP feel the need to spend all that money on a competing initiative?”
We have never received a credible answer to that question, but we thought we would go through the differences for you. We believe the differences are significant for the people of Maine. We are willing to fight for a better future and the tremendous support we are receiving tells us we are doing the right thing.
It really all boils down to major philosophical differences. Our focus is on jobs and economic development. We believe the rationale for pages and pages of onerous rules and regulations are dubious at best. Crappy Mexican marijuana has been consumed by American citizens for decades with few documented hazards to health or the general welfare.
We suspect that the real reason is the smell of money. Big business wants to invest because they see massive profit potential. A diversified market of small to medium sized businesses would cost them potential profits. By their very nature they seek to control and monopolize this economic sector through their connections with government.
Difference #1 – Who will regulate the new industry?
The question – should marijuana be regulated like alcohol? We look at the history of the alcohol industry since the days of prohibition to guide us.
What we see is the gradual elimination of all the small and medium sized distillers and breweries. Fortunately we have seen a trend toward small craft breweries in recent years and feel marijuana fits that mold.
In most states we also see a system of government regulated distributors that have a monopoly. Ever tried to buy some wine from your neighbor with a vineyard?
Marijuana is a plant, just like barley, hops and other grains. In flower form it requires no processing to be used as intended. Edibles are manufactured the same as food products. Seems to us the Department of Agriculture is best suited to regulate the marijuana industry.
Difference #2 – Who has final say on rules and regulations?
Once again we look to history and experience to guide us. We see time and time again situations where unelected government bureaucrats are authorized to write what are called routine technical rules.
These rules can have major consequences for local businesses, and the jobs and local taxes that are associated with them. How many times have you seen the bureaucrats hold public hearings where the majority of the testimony is negative, and then they just go ahead with what was originally proposed.
If these rules are major substantive, the rules and regulations cannot go into effect until after our elected representatives have a chance to review them or amend them. We believe our local businesses and workers should have a say in how they are regulated. We only have that say if we can communicate with our local representatives to explain why we think certain rules are bad and why.
The only downside we see in our proposal for major substantive rules is that it will delay the initial implementation until after the legislature reviews and votes on the rules that would be written by the Department of Agriculture.
Difference #3 – Local determination for retail stores
MPP proposes to limit the total number of retail stores allowed in the state. This is typical of the cookie cutter approach they use in every state they try to organize.
One of their reasons for these limits is to avoid situations where there is a weed store on every corner. Maine is different than Colorado and Washington. Our largest city is less than 100,000 people.
There is no good reason why the state government should dictate to local municipalities the number of retail marijuana stores that are allowed to operate. That is a decision that should be made on a case by case basis by the citizens and their local representatives.
We suspect that the real reason for limits on retail stores is to reduce competition so that investors can limit risk and gain higher profits.
Difference # 4 – Limits on Cultivation Capacity
There is no question as to whether production capacity will be limited when the final rules go into effect. The need to avoid over production and keep marijuana from entering the black market are key guidelines from the federal government.
The question then becomes, who do you want to set the initial production numbers? The MPP initiative requires the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations (BABLO) to set the limit under routine technical rules.
Once again we look to history and experience to guide us. If you examine similar situations in industry segments across the country over the years you see a pattern. The investors looking to cash in always want to limit their risk and create as much of a monopoly situation as they can get away with.
What happens is a lot of money is spent on lobbying to have rules that benefit the investors. These rules would restrict production to create a shortage and set high prices, coupled with a limit on the number of retail stores, of which they own a high percentage.
We have set the initial production limit to 800,000 sq ft of canopy, which includes vegetative and flowering. The Department of Agriculture would be able to adjust that number up or down after the first year.
The 800, sq ft number was reached by looking at empirical data from Colorado and Washington. We looked at studies from federal agencies, state authorities and think tanks like Rand. Then we added the best research we could find…… our personal knowledge of the Maine market……plus 29 million visitors each year.
We estimate that the total production from 800,000 sq ft will be between 75-90,000 lbs. That is the number that we feel any committee or commission would come up with if the calculations are done impartially.
Once again, if the estimate is either high or low, the department can adjust it the next year.
Difference #5 – Home Cultivation and Possession Limits
Maine decriminalized marijuana possession a long time ago. Maine law currently states that possession of less than 2 ½ ounces of a useable amount of marijuana is a civil offense, akin to a speeding ticket, rather than a criminal offense. Medical marijuana limits are also 2 ½ ounces.
Our initiative maintains the current Maine limits. The MPP initiative limits possession to 1 ounce, which they have based on what other states are doing. MPP also believes that a 1 ounce limit is more politically viable.
What is even more troubling is that the MPP initiative would create a new crime for possession of over 1 ounce.
The MPP initiative allows you to have 6 plants in total. That includes seedlings and vegetative plants. They are just trying to be politically viable.
Our initiative allows 6 flowering plants, 6 vegetative plants and 6 seedlings. That is what makes sense for the people.
Difference # 6 – Taxes
The quickest way to ruin a new industry is to tax it to death. Too many people see marijuana as a cash cow for new government programs. We strongly oppose earmarking any marijuana tax money for specific new programs.
The people of Maine are not under-taxed. The truth is the state is having trouble paying for everything it is doing today. We think it only appropriate that a new marijuana tax should be used to help the State of Maine pay it’s bills.
That is why we want the sales tax to go into the general fund. We think our elected representatives should decide how to spend the money.
The MPP initiative places a 10% tax on top of the current sales tax. The Legalize Maine tax is a straight 10%.
One of the things that guides us is our belief that there are more important economic benefits to the people of Maine than how much the government can collect in taxes.
The creation of hundreds of profitable small and medium sized businesses and the people they will employ are what are important. Local businesses will benefit and communities will feel better when they see some opportunity.