By Don Hutchins, Contributing Writer
UMF students and supporters for Maine’s No on Question 1 campaign organized an informational event for the campus and local community on the evening of October 19th to discuss particular concerns regarding the legislation including the, “regulate,” like alcohol model and how the bill may affect the Maine Medical Marijuana Program, caregivers and students at UMF.
Moderated by political science professor Scott Erb, a group of experts provided great insight and perspective on whether or not Mainers should vote to, “allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons of at least age 21; and allow cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing and sale of marijuana and marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance.”
Dennis Hammac, a caregiver and owner of Genesis Farm (recently featured on VICELAND ’s “Weediquette,” for their opiate-addiction cannabis treatment program) does not support the bill, and noted that Yes on 1, “would ruin the medical program, just like it did in Washington State,” -partly due to contributions from the same supporters of Washington’s recreational program.
Roger Birks, a caregiver who helped write the legislation with the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, defended the bill against Hammac’s claims, noting the differences between Maine’s proposed 10% marijuana tax in comparison to Washington’s 37% tax– among other differences. “All adults should have the right [to this plant] without sanction,” Birks said. “It’s time.”
Hammac and Birks both agreed that even when passed, bills moving forward to legislators are notoriously chewed up, and come out differently on the other side than when they were entered.
Donny Christen, a local activist and founder of Maine Vocals, a cannabis activism network, also agreed and further noted that Maine’s had legalized marijuana since medical cannabis passed in 1998– long after Maine became the first state to decriminalize the plant in the late 1970’s.
In terms of politics, Birks concluded, “there are always good things and bad things that happen,” and that individual political activity is key. “We need to fight to protect our medical program,” he affirmed– unlike what happened in Washington, where activism declined and a number of guidelines changed in light of recreational oversight.
Local activist Hillary Lister agreed, although she stressed pre-emptive caution in sweeping legislative matters such as Question One. It became notably apparent that not a single person in the room opposed legalization and regulation of cannabis: much of the current divide is a matter of how.
In response to UMF sophomore Isaac Michaud’s questions regarding how the bill will impact students on-campus, Lister explained that due to the federal prohibition of cannabis, a state-level legalization effort would not change the guidelines for lawful campus conduct. If Yes on 1 passes, students still may not possess or use marijuana on UMaine property and public toking would equate to public intoxication, with relative consequences. Michaud found the event “informative” in developing perspective of the issue his political season.
As concern of the regulatory aspects expanded to include OUI testing, cultivation and transportation limitations and speculation on how to differentiate marijuana from alcohol while regulating them as one, local caregiver Glenn Lewis said “they’re [eventually] gonna wanna meld the two programs because they both have the word ‘marijuana,” referring to the viability of two parallel systems: medical and recreational. He also noted legislatures declining interests in keeping two programs running, especially when one’s introduced with greater tracking, regulation and federal oversight.
UMF student and Maine state legislative candidate Lance Harvell attended the event and felt that the discussion took on the air of a passionate familial feud–like talking politics at the dinner table–rather than the strictly political discourse that divides other issues like the presidential race. Harvell’s worked alongside members of the panel towards medical cannabis and hemp policy in the state of Maine, and noted, “this war’s been over… society’s ended it.” At the event’s end, he concluded, “it’s how we finish it [that matters] now.”
Throughout the intimate discussion, a number of topics and realities were entertained and dissected. It was often implied that in industrial-sized, production-based systems, it rarely bodes well for the little guy. “Hate me if you want for [voting no on one]… I’m here to help the people in Maine,” Hammac stated in reference to the opposition. Birks noted “60+ additional caregiver applications per week,” along with growing patient applications throughout the state, which proves that Maine’s caregiver model is successful.
With our current system equating penalties for, “usable possession,” of cannabis without certification or doctor’s recommendation to a traffic violation, 21 American states having decriminalized, 25 and counting legalized medicinal, and only four states and the District of Columbia having legalized recreational cannabis; as an informed voter, the choice is ultimately yours on whether this bill passes come November 8th.