After a long wait, Maine’s adult-use recreational marijuana market got up and running this past fall. Things seem to be going smoothly enough, although it’s hard to judge with so much else going on.
Money is certainly rolling in. There were $1.4 million in legal sales in the industry’s first month, the Portland Press Herald reported in November. The state earned almost $141,000 in tax revenue from the sales.
NPR recently reported data allaying some of the concerns surrounding legalization. There does not appear to have been a crime wave (or substantial drop) in places that have legalized marijuana. A CATO Institute study found that “Post‐legalization, trends in many states tracked the national trend while violent crime in Maine and Nevada decreased by 90 and 178 crimes per 100,000 compared with the national trend post‐legalization.” A National Bureau of Economic Research paper acknowledges that the fraction of fatal accidents in which at least one driver tested positive for THC increased nationwide by an average of 10 percent from 2013 to 2016. For Colorado and Washington, states that legalized marijuana in 2014, these increases were 92 percent and 28 percent, respectively. But the study also found that control groups in places that had not legalized marijuana saw similar changes in marijuana-related, alcohol-related and traffic fatality rates overall. So perhaps the issue is drivers making terrible decisions, not so much the legality of the substances themselves.
As with alcohol, it is illegal to open and use marijuana in a vehicle or to hop in the driver’s seat after partaking. The odor billowing from some vehicles has us doubting full adherence to the law. Also, the prohibition against public consumption should mean that no one is smoking in parks where children play or outside local businesses. But some do, and that, unfairly, can give all recreational users a bad name. A little respect and common sense could go a long way.
With the legal adult-use market still in its infancy, it will take time to see just how things shake out in Maine. This is especially true during a pandemic, when some Mainers may be turning to pot, alcohol and other substances in hopes of easing anxiety, depression, boredom and other issues. Unhealthy coping mechanisms can have serious long-term effects, shifting from the sphere of recreational use to risky use. We hope that is not the case with marijuana.
In November 2016, Hancock County voters narrowly favored legalizing recreational use, 50.6 to 49.4 percent, mirroring the statewide split of 50.3 to 49.7 percent. Many Mainers are still on the fence. It would behoove anyone interested in the success of the industry and public acceptance of marijuana use in general to help nip problems in the bud.