With the Maine Wire’s recent investigative reporting into the “Triad Weed” operations that have overtaken rural Maine, there has been an increased interest in the regulatory regime governing the growth, sale, and use of cannabis in the state.
Understanding the state’s statutory landscape for recreational marijuana cultivation and consumption is a key starting point for understanding how such a sprawling operation was able to develop relatively uninhibited for so long throughout rural Maine.
When it comes to the regulation of marijuana production, possession, and consumption in Maine, the rules differ depending on who is doing the growing and why.
State law governing marijuana is primarily divided into two categories — medical-use marijuana and recreational-use marijuana.
As far as recreational-use marijuana is concerned, however, there is also a further subdivision between the laws governing the professional and personal cultivation of cannabis.
While professional cultivation is quite stringently regulated and requires adherence to a number of rules spelled out in statute, the code surrounding personal cultivation is comparatively sparse.
And, counterintuitively, medicinal marijuana is far less regulated than recreational marijuana.
Professional Marijuana Cultivation
In order to cultivate marijuana professionally in Maine, a grower must apply for licensure with the Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) under the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS).
There are several licensing tiers, each with a different cap on the amount of cannabis that may be grown at a given time.
Tier 1 facilities are maxed out at 30 mature cannabis plants or 500 square feet of canopy, Tier 2 facilities can have up to 2,000 square feet of canopy, and Tier 3 facilities can grow up to 7,000 square feet of canopy.
Tier 4 facilities are allowed to grow as much as 20,000 square feet – a figure that can be increased in 7,000 square foot increments every two years.
In order to become a licensed professional grower, an individual must be at least 21 years old, have no disqualifying drug offenses, and may not be a law enforcement officer or employed by a state agency. They must also pass a criminal background check.
State law also includes a number of granular-level regulations governing the day-to-day operation of these professional-growth facilities.
Penalties for violating these restrictions include monetary fines up to $100,000, as well as license suspension or revocation.
Law enforcement officials are authorized under these statutes to investigate “unlawful activity in relation to a cannabis establishment,” as well as to conduct background checks of a licensee or a facility’s employees during the course of such an investigation.
Professional marijuana cultivation is the most heavily regulated of the various cannabis subcategories in Maine state law.
Maine allows for marijuana dispensaries to sell cannabis products, plants, and paraphernalia.
Dispensaries may not employ those under the age of 21, and those who are younger than 21 are prohibited from entering one of these shops.
Sellers are required to verify that their customers are over the age of 21 and must have a controlled entry area that is physically separated from the sales area of the store.
A dispensary’s license must be on display at all times on the shop’s premises.
Dispensaries are also required to submit to on-demand government testing of its products during business hours, without prior notice. Furthermore, prior to selling any cannabis products to customers, dispensaries must test for potentially-harmful contaminants.
Personal Marijuana Use
Personal-use marijuana is the least-regulated of Maine state law’s subcategories of cannabis regulation.
Those over the age of 21 are legally allowed to possess marijuana paraphernalia and up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis — which may be comprised of as much as 10 ounces of cannabis concentration.
They are also allowed to transfer — at no cost — up to six immature cannabis plants or seedlings to another person over the age of 21.
Cannabis can legally be consumed on private property or in a private residence. Marijuana consumption is prohibited, however, in vehicles, babysitting and daycare facilities, designated smoking areas, or any public area.
Fines up to $100 may be imposed for violations of these rules in addition to any applicable civil or criminal penalties.
Personal Marijuana Cultivation
Home cultivation of marijuana is similarly regulated in a brief but clear-cut manner.
An individual is allowed to grow up to 6 mature cannabis plants, 12 immature plants, and an unlimited number of seedlings on a given property. A single person may cultivate marijuana across multiple properties — with each property considered as a separate location — so long as all other requirements are met.
Marijuana grown on private property may not be “visible from a public way without the use of aircraft or binoculars or other optical aids,” and “reasonable precautions” must be taken “to prevent unauthorized access by a person under 21 years of age.”
All plants are also required to be clearly labeled with the authorized grower’s name and driver’s license or identification number.
Anyone found to be in violation of these regulations is subject to the “forfeiture or seizure” of any unauthorized cannabis plants in addition to any other applicable civil or criminal penalties.
According to the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL), 24 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational cannabis as of earlier this year.