One of marijuana's biggest problems on its journey to legality has always been NIMBYism, and in Maine the state is giving out money to combat the problem.
The phrase "not in my back yard" has derailed more than a few government initiatives at the local level. People tend to support the building of prisons or mental health facilities, as long as the facilities are not placed in their neighborhoods.
Maine was ahead of most of America when citizens voted to legalize recreational cannabis in November 2016. But, Maine's Act to Legalize Marijuana also allowed towns in the state to vote on whether or not to be a "dry town" regarding dispensaries and social clubs.
Well the funny thing about giving your citizens that choice is that they now have the right to choose, and Mainers are overwhelmingly choosing not to allow dispensaries in their neighborhoods.
In a state that legalized cannabis more than half-a-decade ago, 93% of cities in the state have said 'not in my backyard,' according to the state's Office of Cannabis Policy.
“Maine’s launch of the Adult Use Cannabis Program has been strong,” said OCP Director Erik Gundersen. “But the benefits are still only being realized by about 7% of Maine’s cities and towns."
But Maine has a plan to get those towns to turn their votes around.
Cold, hard cash.
It Pays to Smoke in Maine
Earlier this month, Maine launched a program to "recompensate" cities and towns in the state for the costs associated with launching adult use facilities within their borders.
Maine is setting aside up to $20,000 per municipality that chooses to opt into Maine's Adult Use Cannabis Program. The state launched an online portal for submissions to be reimbursed.
Expenses eligible for reimbursement include attorney's fees, staff research time, draft and revise cannabis ordinances, fees associated with providing notice of election and public meetings, town meetings and elections, and the tabulation and publication of results.
Gundersen also seemed to have a message directed to the NIMBYs in the state who don't want marijuana in their backyard.
“The reality is, no matter if a town has opted in or not there is cannabis being bought, sold, and consumed there," he said.
"The most important thing we can do is to try and ensure that Mainers who choose to use cannabis can do so in a well-regulated environment that safeguards public health and safety in the best way possible. Taking this next, big step to incentivize Maine cities and towns to engage in the regulated adult use market is the most effective way to do just that.”
State of Maine's Cannabis Industry
A spring 2022 study from the Advocates for Human Potential that was commissioned by Maine's OCP found that about 64% of the cannabis consumed by users in Maine come from a regulated or legal source.
The AHP results suggest "Maine is likely effectively curbing the illicit market at a greater rate than most other states."
The report does not explicitly say how Maine has been able to achieve this success, but did find that those who prioritize their weed connect highly and those who are younger are more likely to get their cannabis from dispensaries and have been transitioning to that model since at least January 2021.
The study also found that zip codes with one or more dispensaries were associated with "a significant increase" in legal cannabis purchases.
"This suggests that the presence of an adult-use store may incentivize consumers to access some of their cannabis from the regulated market," the study said.
So it seems Maine's NIMBYs have a choice.
Keep dispensaries out and have their citizens still smoke, but that weed will be from illegal dealers. Or allow dispensaries in the city, cut down on the illicit market, and make $20,000 to boot.