Franklin Countys First News

Politics & Other Mistakes: Reefer (red-tape) madness

Al Diamon

Getting a license to sell marijuana in Maine is easy.

In much the same sense that negotiating peace in the Middle East is easy.

Here’s all you have to do:

Fill out a state application of 835 pages that specifies you are of good moral character, sound mental health, have never been exposed to coronavirus, eat at last five helpings of fruit or vegetables every day, do not cheat on your income taxes and can recite the Cyrillic alphabet backwards in Croatian. Also, you have to swear under oath that you never smoked pot when it was still illegal.

If the bureaucrats at the state Office of Making Things Nearly Impossible deem your filing to be complete, they’ll eventually issue you … no, not a license. That would be too simple. Instead, you get a conditional license that allows you to … well, it doesn’t actually allow you to do anything.

You now have to take your conditional license to a city or town and fill out another application – this one is only 490 pages long (although some municipalities are allowed to add additional questions on the Middle East peace process and quantum physics). Once that’s done, the local government will decide if you’re too shady to be selling cannabis in their downtown.

In the unlikely event, you receive a positive response (possibly as a result of a substantial bribe), you can start selling weed. Just kidding. You aren’t even close. You have to take your municipal approval back to the state office that gave you that conditional permit, and see what they think of the deal. Then, maybe, possibly they might give you a license.

Of course, that’s nowhere near the end of it. All that license qualifies you to do is submit yourself to a regulatory regimen that, by comparison, makes getting a permit to dump hazardous waste in the local drinking-water supply seem like child’s play.

You can’t just bag up some joints or box up some edibles, slap on a price tag and open for business. Because if you could do that, the state wouldn’t know nearly enough about what you’re up to.

Under Maine’s rules, every molecule of THC must be tracked from the moment it comes into existence until it turns up in somebody’s bloodstream. This requires high-tech tags that can be monitored by satellites or the unmarked police van parked down the block. There’s also a proposal before the Legislature to establish a special unit in the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency to keep a watchful eye on you, your suppliers, your customers, your relatives, your pets and your role in Middle East peace negotiations.

Failure to comply exactly with every syllable of the legal restrictions can and will result in your being forced to watch “The Masked Singer” without benefit of hallucinogens.

But let’s suppose you’re the sort of person undaunted by petty obstacles. You have the perseveredness to meet all these criteria and prepare to open for business. Even then, you still may face a substantial fine because “perseveredness” isn’t a real word.

OK, you pay up and turn on the “OPEN” sign. More pitfalls await. You can’t sell to anyone under 21. You might be prohibited from doing business with undocumented aliens. You’d be wise to avoid potential customers who’ve been accused of sexual improprieties. You’ll want to screen out Russian agents seeking to manipulate your sales data for political purposes.

Nevertheless, suburban potheads are soon flocking to your door, and you’re making big bucks. But don’t be too hasty in spending any of it. First, you have to pay sales tax which is calculated based on a formula derived from the point spread on XFL games. Then, there’s income tax. Worker’s comp. Insurance. And a substantial loss due to your being a cash-only business, which means you get robbed every other day.

You must have been stoned to get into this mess. Because it doesn’t take an MBA to realize, it makes more sense to keep selling weed on the black market.

Middle East peace plans may be emailed to

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11 Responses »

  1. Al:

    I understand that it would take more of your time to research the actual requirements for licensing, but a fact-based article would be more useful than a humor-based article.

    You also failed to mention the vested interests of those already in the market to preserve this regulatory status quo. When, not if, recreational legalization occurs, those businesses smart enough to have jumped through all those regulatory hoops are going to want to light them on fire to protect their market share from the likes of Phillip Morris and Spicoli's rolling joint store.

  2. Oh just ruined my future!! I don't know the Cyrillic alphabet and I don't speak Croatian...

  3. Hi Al and All, What we don't see here is the fees these folks have already paid to get into this process. The state bureaucrats have in hand money while they push the coin down the road and argue amongst themselves. Now the best estimate is sometime this summer. Stay tuned to see how we can fleece budding retailers some more.

  4. Sounds like Al is pissed because he will actually have to get off his butt and do some work to get his license.

  5. Luke, in all fairness, this article is in the Opinion section.

  6. It’s laughable that the geniuses in Augusta think they can regulate pot sales. And dragging their feet on licensing so long after legalizing is only helping illegal suppliers get established.

  7. Amanda, in all fairness to Luke,, "HIS " comment is also an opinion written in the opinion section..
    Was there a problem somewhere?

    Al can't help himself.
    It's all fair game.

  8. Government ineptitude on display again. And some people, maybe 50% of the population, want to give these
    Same people complete control of our healthcare and complete control of preventing climate change, etc..
    Go figure??? BTW, i am not a pro pot person, i have no horse in this race. Just pointing out the obvious!!!

  9. I'm sure it'll be like most of the state's that have gone though this. State will tax the product so high that the black market is where a large number of customers will go. That will go on for a couple of years, then maybe the law makers will pull their heads out of the sand and reduce the tax burden and close out the black market and collect more revenue then they had been in the pass. Get off your butts and speed up the process, you can get a medical marijuana card online, so what's the problem it's already legal.

  10. Ah, the Anonymous Overpunctuater strikes again! If you read luke's first paragraph rather than scanning comments for a sparring partner you might understand.

  11. People wanted it regulated like alcohol and tobacco, well, they got it. To get a liquor license the same rules apply, store placement, licensing by both the state and municipalities, multiple other permits are required as well, multiple inspections, the whole thing is just one big pain in the butt. but that is how they separate the wheat from the chaff, if people are willing to go through the permitting process, then they are probably serious about starting a business.