In Maine, it should be as easy to open a store selling recreational marijuana as it is to open a store selling beer. But it is not, and there is a simple reason for it.
State and local authorities do not like the pot.
Of Maine’s nearly 500 municipalities, only about 50 allow adults to legally purchase weed. Half a dozen or more have banned such sales outright. And yet, Augusta’s bureaucrats seem puzzled because they don’t collect more tax revenue from recreational smokers.
After a year of legal sales, adult outlets across the state have sold approximately $ 70 million worth of product, a fraction of the $ 250 million in annual sales of medical marijuana. And it is likely that this figure represents an even smaller fraction of the money made on the black market, which does not appear to have suffered at all since legalization.
Not only is the recreational pot not available in large parts of the state, but where stores have been allowed to open, the product is priced much higher than offered by medical marijuana caregivers and traders. of the black market. This is because medical pot is relatively unregulated and illegal weed avoids all license fees and inspections except for the slight possibility of arrest. But the ganja used for fun is shrouded in miles of paperwork.
To remedy this disparity, the legislator studies certain bills, but, as is so often the case, the measures in question seem designed to make the problem worse. Rather than relaxing the onerous rules that require tracking every THC molecule intended for recreational use, from creation to inhalation, a large contingent of our elected officials want to impose similar restrictions on medical pot.
To be fair, there is some justification for increased monitoring of caregivers. A significant percentage of them have a thriving side business of selling to people who do not have the required card indicating that a doctor has recommended marijuana as a treatment for one or more illnesses. There is considerable overlap between the caregiver community and the criminal community.
Some in the state government believe the answer to this problem is to crack down on medicinal pot by forcing this segment of the cannabis sales force to adhere to all the rules and regulations imposed on hapless retailers. Among the proponents of this approach are the prudish, the prohibitionists – and the black market.
Increasing government oversight of medical pot will have the exact opposite effect its supporters are seeking. Getting this product to meet more stringent guidelines will increase costs, thereby forcing the price of legal weed – and driving customers back to illegal dealers, who have cheap and readily available weed.
A better approach would be to model marijuana regulation on the effective craft beer sales management system. These contractors have a relatively easy time licensing and a high rate of compliance with the (mostly) reasonable rules in place. You may have noticed that craft beer smugglers are a rare breed.
In such a configuration, adults who wish to indulge themselves could visit “tasting rooms”, where they could taste the products. They might even enjoy a drink and snack while doing it, THC infused or not. They might pay a little more than the price of the pot on the street, a premium that might be justified by increased quality control and reduced risk of unpleasant interactions with law enforcement.
It wouldn’t be worse than paying eight dollars or more for a draft beer.
Marijuana patrons might even play cornhole. Watching stoners and disoriented tourists test their impaired hand-eye coordination by throwing bean bags in random directions should be entertaining enough to attract paying spectators.
The point is, Maine could have a thriving retail pot industry, which satisfies the desires of its sizable clientele, while contributing significantly to the tax base. All it will take is for government officials to shake off the mindset that sees anything that could remotely be seen as fun as a threat to the future of civilization.
If you think I’m the type to cross the line, email [email protected]