LePage: New England governors say Maine drug laws are not tough enough

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage is again turning his focus to the opioid epidemic.

LePage and the other New England governors are gathering at Harvard Medical School to discuss what’s being done to fight the region’s addiction crisis. In at least two states — Maine and Massachusetts — lawmakers have enacted strict new limits on opioid prescriptions, an initiative for which LePage said Maine is taking the lead.

“We have cut prescription opiates here in Maine over the past couple of years by 40 percent,” said LePage this morning during his weekly radio appearance on WVOM. “The protocol set up by the CDC is really working. The next step is to find a way to get the illicit drug off the streets.”

LePage, who two months ago said he was frustrated enough with what he calls slow progress on fighting drugs that he’s “done with drugs, period,” had a softer tone this morning.

“The New England governors are taking it very seriously and we’re all meeting together to find common ground to move in one direction,” said LePage. “It’s all about you learn as you go to deal with this major problem.”

Asked about how Maine confronts drug dealers from outside Maine, LePage said the state needs to enact harsher penalties.

“Believe it or not, other state governors are saying our laws are too lax,” said LePage. “They don’t like sending them to Maine because they get out too soon.”

LePage suggested that he is interested in holding other states financially responsible when their citizens are incarcerated in Maine for dealing drugs.

“That’s the next issue, is who’s paying,” he said.

LePage also reiterated his stance against increasing availability of life-saving anti-overdose medications such as Narcan. This year, the Legislature made it legal for pharmacists to dispense Narcan to friends and families of drug addicts despite a veto of the bill by LePage. 

“What the Legislature has done is put Narcan in the pockets of every person in the state,” said LePage today. “Do you realize when you do drug busts now you get Narcan? You can work with someone and give them a hand up and do it one time, but you an count on a relapse. … When you get to the third time there comes a point when enough is enough.”

LePage said the responsibility for kicking an addiction falls on the addict.

“Until they’re ready, you’re wasting a lot of time and a lot of money,” he said. — Christopher Cousins


Collins pressures drug companies to preserve access to Narcan

LePage isn’t the only one focused on Narcan.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has co-authored a letter to five pharmaceutical companies regarding their efforts to preserve access to naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug known by the trade name Narcan.

Collins’ letter, which she co-authored with Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, comes after national reports that the cost of the drug is skyrocketing and that hospitals have had difficulty procuring enough of it.

Collins and McCaskill asked the companies to answer “what actions [they] are taking to ensure continued and improved access to naloxone, an explanation for price changes in [their] company’s naloxone product, and a description of the available resources and tools to prevent barriers to access and shortages of this critical and live-saving medication.” — Christopher Cousins

Breaking down donations in the Portland Senate primary race

Hat tip to the BDN’s data guru, Darren Fishell, once again. Darren has created an interactive graphic to illustrate where donations to Democratic primary opponents Benjamin Chipman, Charles Radis and Diane Russell have come from.

The short answer is that Russell has raised the most by far and included in that total are far more donations from outside Maine than the other two candidates. Check it out:

If you’re reading the Daily Brief in the email newsletter version (and if you’re not, click here to sign up), I’m not sure how that embed will work so here’s the link. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list


A few words that speak volumes

I saw this bumper sticker on a truck yesterday. I’ll just post it here without further comment so you can draw your own conclusions.

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Here’s your soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.