Can Maine Get Marijuana Legislation Right?

By Suhas Ingly 02/18/2014

November 22, 2013 was a dark time for hopes of legal marijuana dispensaries in the Pine Tree State. That was the day newspapers reported that the state’s legislative council had blocked a bill hoping to regulate the cultivation and use of weed strains. The final vote was a deadlocked 5 - 5. Those in favor of medical marijuana will have to sit it out until 2015 before they may have another try.

Although possession of less than 2.5 ounces is decriminalized and treated as a civil violation, anything more than that is regarded as de facto proof of intention to distribute, with a sentence of between 1 and 10 years jail prescribed. If you have the misfortune to be within a thousand feet of a school - or if a school bus was passing by at the time - even a little dust can hurt you

The only exceptions made are for medically prescribed weed under very specific conditions. These include chronic pain caused by illnesses listed in the schedule, wasting syndrome, nausea and seizures. There were vociferous objections when Senator Alford went against the wishes of his constituents, and voted against the motion. The result was that close.

Senate hopeful Shenna Bellows is determined to give it her best in the race for the 2014 Maine Senate just begun. She describes herself as a progressive and a libertarian, and she proved this in her previous role as Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. She is not interested in pulling punches when it comes to the weed dispensary debate.

“I’m not gonna win by being overly cautious or afraid of what people think about who I am or what I represent,” Bellows told Think Progress on January 13, 2014. “I may win by being bolder and more honest about the change this country needs. So supporting marijuana legalization is being smart on crime, because there are real crimes that do harm to our communities.

“And we need to fund our police departments and our local infrastructure. But when we waste government resources in locking nonviolent offenders up and more resources on spying on ordinary Americans, then that is reducing resources available to really focus on those people who would do us real harm.”

Shenna Bellows is vehemently opposed to biased targeting of minority-group marijuana users. During her weed review project, she identified that Maine folk of color are two times more likely to be stopped, searched and arrested for weed possession, despite the fact that white people have a massive majority. For her, this has massive implications, especially given the fact that three U.S. Presidents have used marijuana in the past.

Her potential support in 2015 is not guaranteed, especially as her Republican opponent - who voted against the measure - commands a large majority. Notwithstanding how the people vote, the Pine Tree State is moving unstoppably closer to the day when marijuana will be available to all who need it, whether for medical treatment, or for their pleasure.


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