To the Editor:
Halloween has come early this year, hasn’t it?
The most recent specter raised by the small but vocal crowd opposing Question 1 (which would legalize adult-use cannabis in Maine) is a claim that the legislation sets the table for giant corporations to sweep into the state and monopolize the fledgling cannabis industry. Facts would indicate otherwise.
It is instructive to look to the states that already have legalized adult-use cannabis.
Colorado, with a state population of 5.1 million to Maine’s 1.3 million, first legalized medical cannabis in 2000. Coloradans approved adult-use cannabis in 2012. The first retail stores opened in 2014.
Colorado’s cannabis industry reported revenues of $128 million for August 2016 alone. The one significant difference the Cato Institute policy analysis noted, pre- and post-legalization in every state in the study, was the revenue from sales tax. It exceeded all predictions.
So the Centennial State now has a new, billion dollar industry. That entire billion dollar industry is made up largely of small businesses, with a handful of medium-sized businesses in the mix. But mostly small operations, or operations that started small.
Jim Lord and his modest chain of LivWell stores grosses over $40 million a year. He employs more than 500 people, pays above-average wages for the industry and offers a generous benefits package. This is the kind of success story we can see take place in Maine if we approve Question 1.
State laws currently vary to such a degree that, while it is possible for some cannabis companies to do business in multiple states, it is not as simple as Dunkin’ Donuts or Target expanding into new markets. Regulations seem to be ever-changing, the paperwork is voluminous, and it is so expensive it makes your hair hurt.
California and nine other states are voting on legalizing cannabis this November. Along with Maine, California, Nevada, Arizona and Massachusetts all will be voting on recreational, or adult-use, cannabis. I have a hard time believing Maine is top on the list for corporate creep.
According to the latest Pew survey, 57 percent of adults in the U.S. think cannabis should be legal, with just 37 percent convinced it should remain illegal.
It’s no longer a question of if Maine will have legal, adult-use cannabis, but when. The bill behind Question 1 is a good piece of legislation, which can be made better by industry leaders, Maine politicians and other stakeholders working together. The small business people of Maine deserve the opportunity to get into this new and exciting field.
It may come as a surprise to some, but the cannabis industry of today is about compassion and relief, not so much black T-shirts and bong hits. To paraphrase, the 1980s called, and they want their stoner stereotypes back.
Scientific research – and the experience of people in states that wisely legalize adult use – will bear out the great potential cannabis has not just to make people feel good, but to help them feel better.
We live in a hard world. Cannabusiness represents a new industry based around the concept of helping people find relief, with compassion. It is still early enough that Maine’s entrepreneurs and small business people have the opportunity to get involved. Please consider giving others access to that opportunity, even if it has no appeal for you personally, by voting “yes” on Question 1 this November.