HALLOWELL (WGME) – Recreational marijuana could hit store shelves by early next year but as it stands now, there aren’t many places customers will be able to buy it.
So far, about 15 of Maine’s 487 municipalities — or just 3 percent have “opted in” and said yes to recreational marijuana retail sales. Hallowell is one of them.
“Thirty-three people are gonna come to their town. They might stay in their town. They’re gonna eat lunch in their town. Gas up. So there’s an economic impact these towns are gonna receive,” said David Boyer of the Marijuana Policy Project and led the referendum campaign. He said he is a little surprised more municipalities have not opted-in.
“I think these other communities are a little naive to think marijuana isn’t being sold in their town. It is. It has been. And it would be better to put marijuana behind the counter where we check IDs and where it’s regulated,” Boyer said.
“What we’ve heard is many of them are interested in sitting back and seeing how this goes for the 15 that have opted in,” Garrett Corbin of the Maine Municipal Association said.
Corbin said based on reports from other states, those communities could see more crime — and costs — like legal fees and mold problems due to indoor growing. And as it stands now, they won’t get any cut of the new tax revenue, making Maine an outlier among the 11 states that have legalized marijuana.
“Municipalities certainly do not want to take on new activities that they do not have to take on otherwise if it’s going to create a new hole in their budget,” Corbin said.
The MMA was behind an effort to change that at the statehouse — proposing 25 percent of tax proceeds go back to the community it came from. Lawmakers lowered it to 12 percent, before tabling the bill until the next session.
“There’s gonna be places in Maine where Mainers have to drive a half-hour, an hour just to purchase marijuana in a safe, regulated place,” Boyer said.
The state plans to start taking applications for business licenses by the end of this year.