Marijuana legalization forum marked by division in medical marijuana community

Good morning from Gardiner. I spent last night at the forum on Question 1 organized by CBS 13 and the Bangor Daily News, which was marked by division among medical marijuana activists on the benefits of legalizing recreational use of the drug.

The panel was traditionally divided: Representing legalization proponents were Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, and Alysia Melnick, while Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson and prevention specialist Scott Gagnon, the chairman of Smart Approaches To Marijuana, represented the opposition.

Question 1 would allow Mainers to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, while giving the state regulatory power over cultivation and retail stores and assessing a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana products.

If it passes, Maine would join four other states that have already legalized marijuana. But Maine is among the half of states with systems that allow patients to use medical marijuana bought from state-licensed dispensaries or caregivers — those who can grow it at home — for certain conditions.

Though the bill makes no formal changes to that system, some caregivers think legalization would erode their program, and members of that community caused a stir at Thursday’s forum, which featured a live audience.

It made for a strange dynamic: Milo caregiver Dennis Hammac, whose unaccredited detox facility treating people addicted to opiates was just featured by Vice, and conservative activist Penny Morrell of the Concerned Women of America in Maine wore “No on 1” stickers.

Melnick said the referendum would lower costs and open the market to some people who could use medical marijuana, but haven’t been able to a get a doctor’s recommendation for marijuana. Some doctors are prohibited from recommending it because of federal rules.

“In one vote on Nov. 8, we can change that,” she said.

But it was Gagnon who got applause from caregivers and traditional opponents with a retort: “The idea that we need to pass Question 1 to grant greater access to medical marijuana, well, let’s work on the medical marijuana law because that’s what it’s there for.”

The hour-long debate is worth a watch, and it shows that this issue is more complicated than the legalization debates that we’re used to. — Michael Shepherd

Bangor: Maine’s political capital (for eight days)

Maine’s 2nd Congressional District is gaining attention in presidential politics as Republican nominee Donald Trump opened up a wide polling lead there in September, threatening to be the first member of his party to win Maine since 1988.

Bangor, the second-biggest city in the district, will see visits from each campaign over the next eight days.

Quick hits

  • The Bangor Daily News endorsed Clinton over Trump on Friday. Our editorial board calls the election a choice “between voting for someone committed to a life of public service who has the experience, the intelligence and the temperament to lead the nation versus someone who is committed only to himself, who lies constantly and who regularly displays a lack of self-control.” The Portland Press Herald has also endorsed Clinton. No major newspaper has endorsed Trump, which is unprecedented, according to Yahoo. But does it matter? Political science research shows that newspaper endorsements can be effective when they’re surprising — if an editorial board breaks with its normal party to support another candidate. Many of these endorsements aren’t surprising, as Trump is breaking political norms.
  • The BDN and AARP are bringing U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and former Sen. George Mitchell to Bangor this month, too. They’ll be part of the Dirigo Speaks series, with Collins, a Maine Republican, speaking on Tuesday at Husson University. Mitchell will follow on Oct. 20. The events are free and you can register now— Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • Are you a beautiful white woman? Prove it, difficultly: A man wants “a pretty white female to talk to” platonically and “you must provide proof you are beautiful” by making “a video showing you juggling 4 red balls, one green ball, while wearing a party hat, standing on one high heel and the other in the air, wearing a t-shirt saying TRUMP SUCKS.”
  • Do you want a past-prime salad? Someone is giving away a salad allegedly from an Ellsworth restaurant, saying “I’ll be more than happy to keep it in the back of my fridge just like (the restaurant) did for me.” Elvis also once addressed salad. Here’s your soundtrack— Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.