Maine Legislators Hold Hearing On Marijuana

Earlier this week, on May 20, 2015, a group Maine legislators came together to discuss an important issue: legalizing recreational marijuana. The lawmakers were members of the Criminal Justice Committee and they were holding a public hearing on two marijuana reform bills, L.D. 1380 and L.D. 1401.

The bills were introduced by Democratic Reps. Diane Russell, L.D. 1401, and Mark Dion, L.D. 1380, both of whom testified before the hearing.

“Prohibition is a failed experiment, period,” said Dion, who also worked as a law enforcement officer for 32 years. “We do have a major drug problem in this state, but it involves opiate addiction, and we need to bring every resource to bear on that problem.”

“Prohibition began in Portland, Maine. I intend to see it end there as well,” Russsell added.

Although citizens were able to testify before the panel, it was a lopsided affair. The vast majority of those that testified before the panel were in fierce opposition to marijuana legalization; and unsurprisingly, many of them represented law enforcement and other prohibitionist organizations.

“Ultimately, we know that the majority of Maine voters hold these same values of education and healthy communities for our kids,” said Scott Gagnon, director of the prohibitionist organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “The massive turnout in opposition to these bills just speaks to that.”

Gagnon’s comment is interesting because L.D. 1380 doesn’t explicitly legalize recreational marijuana; instead, if passed, the bill would put the issue to Maine voters to approve. If the majority of Mainers do not want to legalize recreational marijuana, why not pass L.D. 1380 and let the people decide?

The prohibitionists in attendance also tried to appeal to the committee’s emotions by presenting Nancy Gillespie, a grieving mother, to the panel. Holding back tears, Gillespie told the panel how two of her sons overdosed on heroin, one of which was fatal, and how marijuana supposedly played a role.

“I was cavalier about the boys’ marijuana use for the same reasons you are being told to be cavalier about marijuana in our state,” Gillespie said. “Look where it got me. Is legalizing marijuana worth the risk?” Given the fact that most marijuana users do not go on to use hard drugs, most people would say yes.

While no one can begrudge a grieving mother for an impassioned, but erroneous, testimony; it is hard not to question the motives of those that urged her to testify.

It is unclear as to whether either bill will clear the committee; regardless, marijuana reform will continue to march on. Independent of the legislature, both the Marijuana Policy Project and Legalize Maine are gathering signatures for ballot initiatives that would legalize marijuana in Maine, much to the chagrin of prohibitionists.

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