Opening Day Is Coming

On Friday, October 9, at least five businesses across Maine will be able to sell cannabis to adults over the age of 21 for the first time. Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy will continue to approve licenses for commercial growing, sales, testing and manufacturing of adult-use marijuana products on a rolling basis.

After a year of record-breaking cannabis sales across the country, it is likely that retailers licensed for adult-use sales will see boffo numbers that day. What is not clear is how the new market will impact Maine’s medical marijuana providers. Case studies in states where recreational licensing joined long-running, medical programs have shown that prices go up and the variety of medical products available become scarce, since many patients needs are met by recreational products.

The MORE Act

Next week, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. This will be the first time the federal government will be voting on cannabis decriminalization, though there is a chance the vote could be delayed, as Democratic leadership has said they are prioritizing legislation that will provide economic relief from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As summarized in a House Judiciary Committee Press Release, the MORE Act will:

• Remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act to decriminalize it at the federal level. The law would apply retroactively, requiring federal courts to expunge prior convictions and require courts to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.

• Open up Small Business Administration funding for cannabis-related businesses and service providers.

• Create an Opportunity Trust Fund that will provide grants or loans to individuals that have been most adversely impacted by policies from the “War on Drugs.” The grants may provide funds for job training, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, substance use treatment and more. The loans are for small businesses in the cannabis industry that are owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

• Provide non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, which includes prohibiting the denial of federal public benefits based on a marijuana related offense.

• Require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on industry demographics to ensure American racial minorities and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.

With over 100 co-sponsors, it is expected to easily pass the House when the vote happens and then languish in the Republican controlled Senate. However, the MORE Act has an official House Republican co-sponsor in Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL), while Reps. Don Young (AK) and Tom McClintock (CA) have said they will vote for it.

Election Day

Five U.S. states will be voting to legalize cannabis for medicinal and/or recreational use on November 3.

Arizona, Montana and New Jersey voters will decide whether to add recreational products to their medical market. South Dakota voters will be venturing into completely new territory with two separate measures to establish a medical and a recreational market.

Voters in Mississippi will be looking at two competing measures to create a medical market. A citizens’ initiative would establish a medical market for 22 qualifying conditions while a legislative initiative would limit medical use to patients with terminal illnesses.