Franklin Countys First News

Legalizing marijuana: ‘The war’s over’

The panel on Marijuana in Maine, from left to right: Maine Attorney General William J. Schneider, Farmington Police Chief Jack Peck, state Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea; state Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington; state Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland; and Peter Christ, a retired police captain and founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Daily Bulldog - Marijuana in Maine forum from MBTV on Vimeo.

FARMINGTON - Unveiled tonight before a crowd of 100 or so at the forum Marijuana in Maine held at the University of Maine at Farmington was the state's first bill proposed to fully legalize, tax and regulate marijuana.

State Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, holds up her bill's proposal to legalize pot in Maine.

When state Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, held up her 22-page draft and announced its intent, the audience applauded. "As of today, I've drafted the first bill in Maine to legalize marijuana," Russell said during the discussion that included Maine Attorney General William J. Schneider, Farmington Police Chief Jack Peck, Jr., state Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, state Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington and Peter Christ, a retired police captain of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which supports the legalization and regulation of all drugs.

Harvell initiated the idea of a forum, which the Daily Bulldog co-sponsored with UMF's Pre-Law Program, to focus on Maine's current medicinal marijuana law, its flaws and where lawmakers should go from here. A 59 percent majority passed the citizen's referendum in 2009 that expanded the medicinal marijuana law in Maine to include pot dispensaries. The first facility opened last week in Frenchville near the Canadian border.

"People have legalized it and the government has recognized it," Harvell said, adding that in continuing to fight the war against marijuana use, we "may lose the war against harder drugs. I feel we need to shift our focus and resources." On Thursday, two bills sponsored by Ben Chipman, U-Portland, who could not attend the forum, sought to reduce penalties for possession but were unanimously rejected by the Legislature's Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, which effectively killed the bills.

Three state reps interested in reforming Maine's marijuana laws are, from left to right: state Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, state Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington and state Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland.

Maine Attorney General Schneider explained Maine's current medicinal marijuana law as being "layered on top of Maine's criminal statutes (possession, furnishing, trafficking and cultivation) and on top that, federal law (which bans all marijuana use)," he said. The bottom line, he said, is that "federal law is always enforceable in Maine."

Police Chief Jack Peck said marijuana enforcement in Farmington isn't "a great priority." Last year, the 22 pot possession cases were either dismissed or resolved with a fine of a couple of hundred dollars. "There were no convictions in last five years for pot cultivation.

The new expanded medicinal marijuana dispensary law "is a little confusing for us," Peck admitted, adding he's never even seen a identification card allowing for marijuana prescriptive use. At that, an audience member jumped up and pulled a card out for Peck to a get a look at it.

Sanderson has introduced LD 1296 – “An Act To Amend the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act To Protect Patient Privacy.” The bill seeks to amend the state’s medical marijuana law and includes eliminating the requirement that patients register with the state.

"We're hoping to clean up the law. It's not about marijuana, it's about your rights," Sanderson said. She referred to the law's original intent of "voluntary registration" that was amended by the Legislature to mandate the medical information of registrants go into a data base at the state's Department of Health and Human Services. Her proposed bill includes a provision to keep those records from being released to federal law enforcement. She also objected to the fees attached for both patient and caregivers to register with the state. LD 1296 will probably go to public hearing next month, she said afterward.

Sanderson said she is "not necessarily a proponent of completely legalizing marijuana" and advised those growing it for medicinal use to work with local law enforcement by inviting police to see their growing operation.

Russell argued for legalizing pot outright, providing regulations for use and attaching a 7 percent sales tax on it. Keeping pot illegal is "creating crime by creating a black market," she said. "We are already in defiance of the federal government," she added. Her bill could go to public hearing next month, she said later.

Christ said current drug laws "put police between you and your doctor." Instead of making drugs illegal, he said regulation works. He gave the example of alcohol regulation as one that could work for all drugs.

"Here's a shocker; prohibition doesn't work," Christ said, adding prohibition "creates crime and violence."

Schneider said if Maine were to completely legalize marijuana, federal law would still hold sway over the state and it's likely that where large amounts of marijuana activity is perceived would probably result in bringing the feds to prosecute it.

"As a society we'd be better off if it's legalized," Peck said. "I never fought with anyone stoned. I've never been to a marijuana overdose."

Sanderson said if a citizen's referendum was passed to legalize marijuana, she'd support the voters' decision. But, she warned, "we'd have to be careful how we legalize it."

"Whatever the voters decide, we'll enforce it," Peck said. However, he added, he didn't agree with the idea of legalizing opiates. "I've seen the heart break. I've cried with some of the parents."

Schneider said he was "shocked" at the suggestion of legalizing all drugs without giving any suggestions for how to regulate it," as Christ had suggested earlier.

"We need to shift our focus away from this fight (against marijuana use). This war's over and we need to find a way out of it," Harvell said.

Maine Attorney General William J. Schneider talks with audience members after the forum. At right is Jacob McClure, of Washington, Maine, who is a member of Medicinal Marijuana Caregivers of Maine.

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68 Responses »

  1. You folks are the reason why I'm proud to be from Maine.

    I was recently on my way back to campus from skiing all day in NH, before being pulled over by a NH state trooper on the border and illegally searched and raped of my rights. I was arrested for having a single stem of pot with nothing to even smoke. I now face a misdemeanor and a hefty fine and can't afford an attorney.

    It's about time we stand up for our rights. As a college student and having grown up in Maine, I'd say about 75% of the people my age regularly use cannabis and we're all A and B students, and the most respectful and peaceful people you'll ever meet.

    I'm sick of hearing people bash on Maine. My response is that us Mainers have learned what matters most most in life and have learned to simplify our lives. We're not a bunch of "thumb sucking" Americans who care about nothing more than being like someone from Real Housewives of Atlanta, rather than own personal freedoms.

    Legalize it. People will sit back, suck their thumbs, and say "oh, that's bad," until a year or two later they have nothing bad to prove of it. I see alcohol abuse on college campuses all the time. But, cannabis? No. If anything, it allows people to see their lives from a different perspective and capitalize on it. I hear from students all the time that it cures their anxiety, depression, and social skills. How can you call an innocent dean's list student who uses cannabis responsibly with his/her friends a criminal?

    I will live and die in Maine. We can make this world go round. I thank you all for your support.

  2. I hope this does work. I wonder how long it will be for the whole country to legalize it state-wise...then it will be more than a little stupid to keep a federal law against pot.

    Most of the people I know of all ages smoke pot, or consume it in some way. There is one person I know that instead of smoking it he will eat pot brownies or other such things that don't include smoking as it makes it harder for him to breath.

    These people are all very peaceful and very smart people. I know a person that since they started to smoke their grades in school have actually gotten better. It doesn't kill brain cells, it doesn't cause death unless of course a person were to be allergic to the plant itself. I wouldn't recommend them to smoke it and if they did happen to know that they were allergic to it most people I know would respect that and go elsewhere.

    It's time for the US to go back to when it was legal. I mean look at our founding fathers. They FARMED it. They SMOKED it. It can be recreational or for medicinal use. Yes you need to be cautious as some people react to it differently, react to different strains differently and if they have a mental illness of some sort it would be best for them to talk to their doctor about it.

    Still that is all a personal matter, as much as it is for girls to use a tampon or a pad during her period.

    I can only hope that the people that vote this in will be informed enough to make it legal. They need to remember, just because you vote and support something doesn't mean that's how you are personally.

  3. Go for it. It will make bundles for lawyers. All the law suits from people who have been made ill or bought defective items because the maker was using pot at the time. Hey, if it's legal then you can not stop workers from using on the job.

    How many people will fly with pilots on pot?

    I say let the weak leadership in Augusta pass the bill. And do you really feel people will pay taxes on it? It will be cheaper to buy off the street.

    How will folks on welfare buy it? Oh yeah, with TAXPAYER monies.

  4. I attended this panel, and honestly I don't feel the bill is going to go anywhere. If they won't even allow medical expansion laws why would they even consider legalizing it. I feel they don't want to do it because there will be to much work and change required to do so. Also this panel and this article did not understand at all where Peter Christ was coming from when he spoke, as Mr. Christ did not articulate his thoughts well. I understood, he is not saying all drugs being legal is a good thing, he is saying if all drugs were legal we wouldn't have these crime causing black markets for drugs. The panel members were very caught up on the "make drugs legal" and didn't listen to anything else the guy had to say. I feel that a few of the panel members didn't really have a clue about marijuana, or why people want it legal. This is where the problem is, the people say one thing, the politicians hear another. How can our representatives makes informed choices for us if they are not informed?

  5. This goes to A.Vet, alcohol is legal and you cannot drink on the job, So everything you just said is void.

  6. I was just talking to an Australian gentleman about this issue, bring proud of where the issue has taken us in Maine. But he brought up the fact that the US government will never let this fly at the federal level because they control the world drug trade and prohibition is good for the high price of all drugs. The Australian people had once decided that they would make all drugs available for free at certain clinics to anyone who felt they were an addict. So you could get mariuana, meth, heroin or cocaine at any publicly funded medical clinic.... the people wanted this and so did the police and that converted to a huge push for this at the polls. Nobody was against it because the police said that prohibition of drugs was how they spent 75% of their resources and all the violent crimes were involved in this illegal drug trade. However in the 11th hour the US sent in a delegation and the prime minister of Australia suddenly changed his mind and vetoed against it. So this theory suggests that the U.S. profits from illicit trade because the price remains high and who else can act with such impunity?

    I say legalize and let whoever (the feds) resist this and reveal who they are.

  7. To those who keep saying what about all the stoners and potheads that will flock to maine... you should probably READ something before you assume everyone is waiting for it to be legal and then jump all over it.

    There are many countries that have decriminalization in place and others that chose to fully legalize and not one of them has as much abuse as the prohibition countries. So explain that for us since you know everything and clearly don't need to read facts any more.

  8. Unfortunately, those people who don't have any actual experience with marijuana will never consider it anything but an illegal drug, grouped with cocaine, heroin, and the like. All they know is their system generated stats; that drug use has gone up, and that treatment for marijuana addiction has gone up recently. That is the only leg they think that they have to stand on, yet it is actually caused by the prohibition laws themselves, and perpetuated by the police state that we live in.
    @USM student, I live in a ski town in NH and can guarantee you that the Police's main goal is to get you for anything they possibly can. It's a business, it's their job security, it's their sole motivation. Protect and Serve is the furthest thing from their mind.
    @ A Vet, There are already thousands of people around you driving under the influence of pot, and many more under the influence of far more dangerous things, Ambien, Oxycontin, Valium, Stimulants, etc.... Those are chemicals that really mess with your system, and ability to function and react normally. If you think there aren't some pilots using drugs or strung out on stimulants, you're very wrong. Also, the black market price for pot is horribly inflated because of the risk of criminal penalties. When (I say when) it is legal, it will be much cheaper in the store.

    Aren't we in an economic and energy crisis? If everyone just smoked a little herb and took some time to enjoy life, the world would be a better place. Isn't time the most valuable and irreplaceable thing there is? Why should we spend the time, money, and aggravation prosecuting someone like USM student for having a few twigs in his car? Does that sound right to anyone? ANYONE??

    Wake up everybody! You prohibitionists are in an ever shrinking minority and if we 'potheads' have to wait for you to die, at least we'll wait with smiles on our faces, but we don't have to wait quietly and let your lies be spread anymore.

  9. A vet, you cant go to work drunk, and if i knew my pilot was flying me while he was drunk on LEGAL alcohol i would get off the plane, demand my money back and call for the removal of said pilot's license.

    Just because it would be legal doesnt mean it can be used at work or that it wont be tested for on drugscreenings for a job. In my line of work, the culinary industry, if you cut yourself bad enough where medical care is necessary they WILL have your urine analyzed on the spot. And if it comes up positive chances are you will be fired; the same goes for drinking government regulated alcohol.

    As far as being cheaper on the street, youre wrong yet again. When alcohol was illegal 80+years ago it was hard and expensive to obtain and consume. Blackmarket prices on everything are higher than if it were government mandated. It would be at least half the price than if you bought it on the black market. And thats not an opinion, kind sir, its a fact.

    Finally, the jail system wouldnt be half as crowded if MJ were legal. There is one marijuana arrest every 36 seconds in this country, leading to an approximate 700,000+ arrests EVERY YEAR! This is too much time, energy, and money being spent by the government to keep weed under wraps, and that doesnt even include the mundane and obsolete Drug Enforcement Agency's efforts.

    So, A Vet, i recommend you research the harms marijuana prohibition causes and how it affects the nation before you spew your Tea Party/Republican opinions to the educated people.

  10. Outstanding Maine. Thank you for taking the first steps to redemption. Hows the job market there?

  11. Sorry Alex, but those using pot now, are breaking the law, so do you really believe they will pay taxes on pot? That they will become law abiding?

  12. Dear A Vet,
    I have a question for you, are cigarettes taxed, is alcohol taxed? YES, and people still buy them everyday. Regulating pot would just make it more convenient for people who consume it, and I am positive people wouldn't mind paying a tax on it because it would still be cheaper than getting it illegally. Also, are all people law abiding citizens? We would like to think so, but not everyone is. Do you where your seatbelt every time you are in a car? I know I don't always. Does everyone always drive the speed limit? NO. There will always be something in society for people to over analyze and pick apart. Let's be peaceful.

  13. The so-called "War On Drugs" isn't a war on drugs, it's a war on marijuana. And more specifically, it's not a war on marijuana, it's a war on stoners, on heads, on people that use reefer: YOU and ME - peaceful, job holding, tax paying, otherwise law abiding citizens.

    "Booze is GOOD and reefer is BAD": that's the message that's been pushed on Americans for the past several decades, and mainstream America has drunk the kool-aid.

    It's way past time for change.

  14. I think it's great. Mark my words; "the states to legalize will increase revenue by flocks of your average everyday working joes moving in, while the states left behind will near wither away." People want more freedoms, less taxes going to non-sense, the people will have spoken when they leave there policed states to join in on the future.

  15. The laws for crime were already on the books before the drug war. it's long been understood that,stealing,killing and destroying were crimes.

    The only thing that the drug war did was what taxes couldn't. It made police depts rich.

    I drive all over the country and there was a time not long ago when PDs drove a fleet of autos for years. Now they not only have new cars but, the finest and sportiest new cars with the finest new toys [all that violate constitutional freedoms ] and new PDs being built in every city. All bought and paid for by CASUAL SMOKERS[you the citizen] not DEALERS [the supposed target].

    The average home value confiscated according to federal stats was $50,000. No drug dealer lives in a $50,000 home. That's barely a double wide trailer. Maybe a guy that bought his best buddy a bag and got labeled a dealer for confiscation purposes. But, hey, congress new this when they passed the laws.

    The victims were the blue collar working class. Asset rich and cash poor. [No cash to defend itself against the gov't on a baseless claim of drug profits]. We all know rich men bring the drugs into this country but, the poor man gets robbed by uncle sam & his nephews.

    I hope history is as kind to them as it was the Catholics and their crusades. I hope names are named in the classrooms so, every future american remembers this witch hunt and the evil behind it.

    That said it's a long road to freedom. This should teach every american that freedom isn't free. Even in a nation where most ppl making our laws were born and bred free, there are still fascists willing to sellout their own house.

    The bible says that in the last days men will be delivered up to judgment by the political system[beast] by those of his own household......and to think ppl still don't believe in this book's truth even though we are being betrayed before our eyes.

    There's 542 traitors in washington dc and no one can see for the smoke.

  16. The culture surrounding the 1960s has had a long term negative impact as far as legalization goes. A Vet is a great example of someone who sees mj users as potential Commie renegades. The culture here in America has evolved and A Vet would probably be shocked at how many professional people use mj at the end of the day as a safer substitute for alcohol. Certainly working under the influence of any substance is dangerous, but people do that all the time, regardless of the laws. One could smoke as much as possible and still not be as impaired as after a few beers. In a dangerous job I would rather have a full crew of mj smokers, than to have 1 alcoholic worker. The reefer madness mentality is out of date, several studies now show that not only is mj not harmful, but it actually shows signs of fighting cancer. Mj is also the only substance out bodies are naturally designed to respond to. Every addictive substance hijacks brain receptors, but mj receptors exist throughout our bodies and always have. It was made for everyone, by God, and made illegal by ignorant men.

  17. Watch the documentary THE UNION

  18. Way to go, Maine! Good job. Bravo the state representatives for fighting against an expensive, immoral, and failed marijuana policy; and fighting for individual freedom. There is still hope for the USA!