Marijuana Had A Really Bad Week

Last week was a pretty epic week for America in terms of civil rights and healthcare.  But, if you were someone trying to push marijuana legalization in Maine, you had a pretty bad week.

There was this new report which indicates most of the conditions for which medical marijuana has been approved lack rigorous science to back it up as effective treatment.  The authors discuss how the medical marijuana laws, and their allowed conditions, have been approved on the basis of “poor quality studies, patients’ testimonials or other nonscientific evidence.”  The authors conclude more research needs to be done and that we should not let our policies get ahead of the science.  Thankfully, the Obama administration just eliminated one of the hurdles to research by eliminating the 1999 Public Health Service research review.  This, by the way, is a policy move that has long been endorsed by Project SAM. 

But for me the highlight was the Maine House of Representatives emphatically rejecting Representative Diane Russell’s marijuana legalization bill, LD 1380.  Last Monday, the Maine House voted 98-45 to adopt the “Ought-Not-To-Pass” majority report from the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.  That Committee adopted that report on a lopsided 10-3 vote after a hearing that was dominated by parents, youth, and major health organizations testifying in opposition to the marijuana legalization bills.  This ends the marijuana industry’s efforts to legalize marijuana in Maine in 2015.

There is a larger story here, however.  If you spend any time listening to the pro-marijuana advocates, one of the things you’ll hear them go on and on about is that marijuana legalization is “inevitable.”  It’s going to happen, everyone just jump on the bandwagon.  However, last Monday’s vote represents a 27 vote increase in opposition to legalization compared to a very similar bill in 2013.  Representative Russell’s last attempt to legalize marijuana in the Legislature was LD 1229, introduced in 2013 during the 126th Legislature.  LD 1229 saw the same vote in committee, 10-3 opposed.  But when it went to the House floor, it was only narrowly defeated 71-67.  If there really is this supposed wave of support from the people of Maine, why are more Maine legislators (who tend to want to get re-elected) voting against marijuana legalization in 2015 vs. 2013?

But wait, it gets better…

Dive a little deeper into the numbers and we see that not only did the House reject marijuana legalization 2 to 1, the majority of House Democrats voted against the bill, 39 vs 36.  Why is that significant?  Because just last year in 2014, the Maine Democrats made the legalization of recreational marijuana a part of the party platform.  They made it one of the party priorities.  Yet, here we see over half of the Maine House Democrats say “No” to legalization.  What would cause a majority of House Democrats to go against the party platform?

Perhaps Maine legislators are realizing that most Mainers don’t want this state to become the East Coast Colorado.  Mainers are right to be wary.  As I’ve reported here and here, the experiment in Colorado has had many negative public health and public safety outcomes.  Sure, if you are the marijuana industry, you are making out like bandits.  And that is the point.  That is how marijuana legalization works.  It’s how the tobacco and alcohol industries work.  The legal drug industries make all of the money, and communities are left to deal with the social costs.  This is why we can’t afford to add a marijuana market to the mix.

Mainers get this.  More and more Mainers are speaking out about this, and apparently speaking to their State Representatives about it.  The public health messages are resonating, which is making the legalizers mad.

Like I said, it was a pretty epic week.





Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C

About Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C

Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C is a Certified Prevention Specialist and is the Director of Operations at AdCare Educational Institute of Maine, Inc. He currently serves on the Maine Substance Abuse Services Commission as well as the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention National Advisory Council. Scott volunteers as the Chair of the marijuana policy education and advocacy group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine and is the current Board President of the Maine Council on Problem Gambling. Scott also serves as a Co-chair of the Prevention & Harm Reduction task force of the Maine Opiate Collaborative, the effort convened by U.S. Attorney Thomas E Delahanty, II to address Maine's growing opiate and addiction crisis. Scott is the recipient of the 2015 Maine Public Health Association's Ruth S. Shaper Memorial Award and 2015 Healthy Androscoggin Will Bartlett Award and is also the 2013 recipient of the Maine Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse Prevention Award.