This scene, from a Sacramento, CA dispensary, is coming to Maine soon. (Photo: Sacramento Bee)
Becomes 3rd State to License Medical Marijuana Providers; Vote Seen as Latest Advance Spurred by Obama Policy
In a landmark vote, Maine voters today approved Question 5, making the state the third in the country to license nonprofit organizations to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients and the first ever to do so by a vote of the people. With 49 percent of the vote tallied, the measure was cruising to an easy win with 60.2 percent voting “yes” and 39.8 percent voting “no.”
Under the measure, the state will license nonprofit organizations to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients and set rules for their operation. While 13 states permit medical use of marijuana, only Rhode Island and New Mexico have similar dispensary provisions, both of which were adopted by the states’ legislatures. Maine’s original medical marijuana law was passed in 1999.
“This is a dramatic step forward, the first time that any state’s voters have authorized the state government to license medical marijuana dispensaries,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., which drafted the initiative and provided start-up funding for the campaign. “Coming a decade after passage of Maine’s original marijuana law, this is a huge sign that voters are comfortable with these laws, and also a sign that the recent change of policy from the Obama administration is having a major impact.”
In October, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a formal policy indicating that federal prosecutors should not prosecute medical marijuana activities authorized by state law.
Question 5 also expands the list of medical conditions qualifying for protection under Maine’s law to include several conditions that are included in most other medical marijuana states, including intractable pain, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (“Lou Gehrig’s disease”).
A Maine law approved in 1999 by public referendum allowed an individual suffering from one of four specific conditions to grow, possess and use small amounts of marijuana if a physician determines the effect of the drug may be beneficial.
Campaign manager Jonathan Leavitt of the organization Maine Citizens for Patient Rights told the Bangor Daily News earlier Tuesday evening that he was confident Mainers would approve the measure.
“This confirms what our polling has told us all along,” he said. Leavitt said he expected some advantage in the southern part of the state, but “only a small percentage.”
Leavitt acknowledged that his group had run a low-profile campaign. “The credibility of this issue is so strong, we didn’t need to convince anyone that this was the right thing to do,” Leavitt said.
Big Surprise: Pot-Hating Cops Whine About Outcome
Question 5 passed despite being opposed by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Maine Office of Substance Abuse, the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Maine Prosecutors Association.
As usual, there was some sour-grapes whining from pot-phobic cops. Kennebec County District Attorney Evert Fowle, who also is president of the Maine Prosecutors Association, told the Bangor Daily News Tuesday night the measure would prove difficult to enforce because of its complexity and breadth.
“It’s a very poor law,” he said. “This was written by self-proclaimed marijuana activists. … The ultimate goal of the people behind this law is to legalize marijuana.”
Regardless, he added, “We’ll do our best to make this law work and respect the will of the voters.”
Make sure you do that, Evert.
Marijuana Policy Project
With more than 29,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit MarijuanaPolicy.Org