ME: Finally Acknowledging Pot’s Acceptance

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Photo Credit: Miami Herald

Marijuana has now been legal in Maine for a year and a half. Though enacted at the end of January 2017, ever since voters approved of Question 1 in November 2016 the de facto law of the land, here in Vacationland, has been that if you have it you can use it. If you can grow it, it’s freely yours for private consumption or to share with others. If you obtain it from someone else that’s A-OK as well, as long as it’s a gift and no money changes hands.

As to all the hubbub from those fearing a drug-induced rampage undermining The Way Life Should Be, as far as I can see nothing’s changed. Life as it is goes on the same. Eighteen months have now passed without any noticeable Reefer Madness breakdown of social norms, and I’ve no doubt that such fears will remain unfounded when Maine finally finds itself implementing open sales of what has now been officially condoned. Except for the ultimate blessing of taxed regulation, the decriminalization of cannabis is now a done deal statewide.

The legality of growing, owning and using came about immediately, but the ability to buy and sell remained a bridge too far for those politically uncomfortable with making what had been an ungoverned socioeconomic reality into a mainstream form of sanctioned commerce. The prospect that “dealing” was suddenly about to become respectable wasn’t going to go down so easily.

Then, just when some began thinking that defeat was to be ultimately snatched from the jaws of victory, capitalism’s mojo finally succeeded in tipping the scales of justice.

The original ballot measure was no landslide mandate. 50.26 percent of voters approved the measure against 49.74 percent opposed. After delay upon delay from within and without the legislature, a finally acceptable version permitting commercialization was overwhelmingly passed by Maine’s House of Representatives, 109 to 39, and in the Senate 28-6.

As of May 2nd, Augusta’s seemingly endless tampering and cankicking of the issue came to an end. The will of the people has been at long last legislatively respected. Not completely, not to the full satisfaction of most, and still displeasing to many others, but sufficiently so as to enable those supposedly representing that divided electorate’s will to cobble together enough like-mindedness to handily override the governor’s veto. Except for the establishment of “social clubs,” the essential commerce side of legalization was negotiated towards an eventual reality still waiting to actually happen somewhere down the road. As now projected, sometime next spring Mainers will finally be allowed to purchase “adult use” marijuana here in Maine. No one will need to get a note from their doctor so as to selfprescribe its very real medical benefit or to just derive the merits of its notorious “recreational” attributes.

Unlike tobacco, they needn’t risk cancer in obtaining the desired effect. Unlike alcohol there’ll be no assured destruction of brain cells. Yet, unlike those long permitted indulgences, in doing so they’ll still be in violation of possessing and using a Schedule 1 classified drug as determined by an antiquated draconian federal law.

Where permitted by local ordinances, new businesses will eventually open and those over 21 openly defying federal prohibition will be able to choose from a selection of highly crafted tailor-made cannabinoid offerings from legitimate businesses similarly ignoring federal statute. Like the sale of tobacco and alcohol, currency will be exchanged, commerce will be transacted and taxes will be collected. It’s anticipated that $85 million in retail sales will be generated in the first year.

Somehow that statewide economic development, boosting always inadequate state coffers, has been a hard sell to those usually willing to compromise almost anything for enhanced economic opportunity.

Maybe it’s the increased taxation that bothers so many conservatives. State sales tax will be 10 percent, added to a 21.5 percent excise tax on an entrepreneurial profitability that was previously unfettered.

Coming of age and as a young adult, I smoked pot. Never habitually. Not even all that frequently, but as a very enlightening socialization of the time. Quitting cigarettes I curtailed weed as well. Many people I’ve known throughout middle age chose to continue. Clueless to me, most changed from smoking to less overt means of administration. In mainstreaming, pot lost its counterculture trappings.

Now marijuana will be marketed as only big business can maximize. Think: “Lobster Pot.” Part of the new law specifically addresses preventing an immediate takeover of Maine’s production and sales by outside corporate entities.

Most opposition to pot’s legalization seems to rest largely upon the reflexive conservative notion that progressive change is fundamentally wrong in daring to say that what’s been in place is in any way incorrect. To agree to marijuana’s legal acceptance is to admit that one’s belief in its prohibition has been on the wrong side of justice. Being wrong is a difficult acknowledgment for anyone, but especially for those whose long-held entrenched positions, when finally defeated, are repeatedly proven to have actually stood in the way of an optimum realization of our collective pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

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