Maine Rep. David Boyer (R) has an interesting background for a Republican lawmaker: Before winning his election to the House last year, he led the campaign to legalize marijuana in the state as a staffer for a national cannabis reform organization. When the 34-year-old legislator reflected during an interview with Marijuana Moment on the unique,
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Maine Rep. David Boyer (R) has an interesting background for a Republican lawmaker: Before winning his election to the House last year, he led the campaign to legalize marijuana in the state as a staffer for a national cannabis reform organization.
When the 34-year-old legislator reflected during an interview with Marijuana Moment on the unique, civil liberties-focused platform that ushered him into the statehouse in the 2022 election, he offered an anecdote: Down the road from where he lives, there’s a gun range and a cannabis retailer, and his campaign yard signs were posted in front of both of them.
Boyer is part of a new generation of Republicans who are grounded in a libertarian ideology that allows them to fashion relationships with their Democratic colleagues as they work to move the needle with older GOP members who have historically resisted marijuana reform. And this session, the freshman has helped make progress on the issue in Maine.
The former Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) staffer who led a ballot campaign to legalize cannabis statewide in 2016 had several bills that he sponsored signed into law this session, including measures to remove state prohibitions on gun ownership by people who lawfully use marijuana and doubling the number of plants that a person can grow from three to six, with no limits on how many adults can grow their allotment within a single household.
He told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview last week that the latter policy change means that Maine arguably has “the strongest home grow law in the country.”
Boyer serves on the legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, which has jurisdiction over many cannabis issues. The panel unanimously rejected a bill in May that would have authorized interstate marijuana commerce, a step that other states such as California, Oregon and Washington have taken in recent sessions.
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Asked why he joined his fellow committee members in defeating the proposed reform in Maine, he said that he was keeping the state’s small marijuana businesses in mind. The resulting competition from outside companies would likely threaten them, he reasoned. So while he does believe “ultimately we’re going to have to face it, like with alcohol,” it’s imperative to take a “guarded” approach to the issue.
Boyer’s previous work at MPP informed his experience as he entered the legislature, he said. For one, it meant that he wasn’t naive about the challenges and politics around marijuana. He understood the importance of establishing bipartisan relationships with colleagues and leadership—and he also knew how to talk about marijuana policy in a way that resonated not only with other libertarian-minded Republicans, but also with lawmakers from across the political spectrum.
“There’s somewhat of a generational divide. But I think it’s changing,” he said. “And I think some of the older representatives and senators appreciate younger folks getting involved. We are the ones who are going to inherit these wars and this debt and then the devalued dollar, so we better start taking ownership before it’s too late. So, yeah, it’s been pretty fun, a kind of a wild trip.”
“I started with MPP in 2013, so that’s 10 years ago now, and I definitely didn’t imagine I’d be a lawmaker at the time. But it’s been pretty cool how things have progressed,” he said. “I definitely am glad for my background as an activist and advocate between cannabis policy and then other stuff and learning how politics works and different grassroots strategies and media and all that.”
Additional legislation that Boyer has been involved with would permit cannabis social use licenses, which he hopes will both allow on-site use at marijuana businesses and also license non-cannabis facilities like movie theaters and coffee shops to have designated areas where people can lawfully consume.
He’s also cosponsored legislation that would allow for the therapeutic use of psilocybin mushrooms in medically supervised settings, while legalizing the possession and home cultivation of the psychedelic.
“So that’s pretty cool—and reasonable, especially for like middle class people who can really benefit from it therapeutically” but who might not be able to afford formal sessions, he said.
The Maine Senate did pass a medical psilocybin bill last year, but it was rejected in the House.
Boyer has also cosponsored a bill to broadly decriminalize possession of currently illicit substances. Before he joined the legislature, a similar measure cleared the House but was struck down in the Senate.
“There’s a lot of hope for that and a lot of strong supporters,” he said. However, he doubts that Gov. Janet Mills (D), who formerly served as the state’s attorney general, would sign it or that lawmakers would have the supermajority to override if she did. Boyer said he anticipates that activists will eventually need to collect signatures to put the reform on the ballot.
He also said that he’s heard rumblings about a potential effort to place psychedelics on the ballot, though he’d prefer to see the issue tackled legislatively.
But much of Boyer’s focus has gone to cannabis this session, including another piece of newly enacted legislation that amends state statute to treat marijuana like alcohol for the purposes of bail, conditional release and probation.
When he engages with fellow Republicans in Augusta, Boyer said that his advocacy on the issue sometimes “confuses some folks and makes people think.”
He said that it opens an opportunity to “get to argue that the drug war is big government at its worst, and it’s anti-freedom.” That strategy and messaging, the lawmaker said, seem to be getting some traction—and the bills he passed this session indicate that he’s right.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.