Maine could become one of the few states in the US to allow cannabis social clubs and on-site consumption at dispensaries if a new bill is passed by the legislature. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. David Boyer (R-Poland), aims to create a regulated and controlled environment for adults to consume cannabis legally and safely.
What are cannabis social clubs and why are they needed?
Cannabis social clubs are establishments that would allow customers to purchase and consume cannabis on the premises, similar to a brew pub or a cigar lounge. They would require a separate license from the state and follow strict rules on ventilation, age verification, and employee training.
Boyer said that cannabis social clubs would benefit both residents and tourists who want to enjoy cannabis without violating any laws or policies. He said that many people who visit or live in Maine may not have a place to consume cannabis, such as hotel rooms or rental units, and may resort to public or illegal consumption.
“It would provide a controlled and regulated environment for adults similar to a brew pub that allows you try different beers and then take some home,” he told members of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. “This would help ensure public safety and reduce the likelihood of public cannabis consumption in inappropriate places.”
What are the arguments for and against the bill?
The bill, LD 1952, has received mixed reactions from lawmakers, regulators, and advocates. Some of the arguments in favor of the bill are:
- It would create a new industry and generate tax revenue for the state.
- It would reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with cannabis use.
- It would offer a safer and more social alternative to alcohol or other drugs.
- It would respect the will of the voters who legalized cannabis in 2016.
Some of the arguments against the bill are:
- It would pose health risks to customers and employees due to secondhand smoke and poor air quality.
- It would increase the chances of impaired driving and accidents on the road.
- It would conflict with the existing law that prohibits indoor smoking of tobacco and cannabis.
- It would send a wrong message to the youth and the public about the harms of cannabis.
John Hudak, director of the Maine Office of Cannabis Policy, is one of the opponents of the bill. He said that the bill does not address the serious public health and safety issues raised by permitting the public consumption of a substance that impairs critical thinking, memory, judgment, balance, and coordination.
“This bill simply does not address the serious public health and safety issues raised by permitting the public consumption of a substance that impairs critical thinking, memory, judgment, balance and coordination,” Hudak said.
What are the current laws and trends on cannabis social clubs and on-site consumption?
Maine legalized cannabis for adult use in 2016, but the implementation of the law has been delayed and amended several times by the legislature and the former governor. The original law included provisions for cannabis social clubs, but they were removed in 2017 and 2018 to secure the votes to override the veto of former Gov. Paul LePage.
Currently, Maine allows adults 21 and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and grow up to six plants at home. They can also purchase cannabis from licensed dispensaries, but they cannot consume it on the premises or in public places. The state has issued 34 licenses for retail stores, 17 for cultivation facilities, and 10 for manufacturing facilities as of January 2024.
Maine is not the only state that is considering cannabis social clubs and on-site consumption. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, 14 other states have some form of legal on-site consumption, including nearby Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland. Some of the states that allow on-site consumption are:
- Alaska, which allows licensed retail stores to have designated areas for consumption.
- California, which allows local governments to authorize on-site consumption at licensed retailers or microbusinesses.
- Colorado, which allows local governments to license social consumption businesses or events.
- Nevada, which allows local governments to license cannabis lounges or special events.
The bill is expected to face further debate and amendments in the coming weeks. If passed, Maine would join the growing trend of states that are expanding the rights and opportunities for cannabis consumers.