Pubdate: Fri, 04 Nov 2016
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2016 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Alysia Melnick


This paper acknowledges "the U.S.'s long war on drugs has been a
dismal failure." On November 8, Maine voters will have the opportunity
adopt a rational marijuana policy.

Question 1 would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana for adults 21
and over. It contains strong protections for kids, employers and
landlords; provides local controls; prioritizes Maine farmers and
businesses; expands access for all adults; and protects our m-edical
marijuana program that has served patients since 1999.

This initiative is about civil liberties and privacy. It's about jobs
and revenue. It's about protecting children and public safety. And
it's about addressing our addiction epidemic.

In their arguments against the initiative, opponents are unable to
articulate compelling reasons to continue using scarce police and
court resources to punish 1,700 otherwise law-abiding Mainers each
year for marijuana possession. Nor can they explain how stigmatizing
thousands - and saddling them with lifelong records for minor drug
offenses, while foregoing tens of millions in tax revenue - helps our
communities. Instead, they try to scare us by claiming we need these
laws to protect our kids.

But after 80 years, these policies have failed to reduce use or
availability of marijuana for adults or kids. In recent years, we've
seen that legalizing marijuana for medicinal and recreational use has
not increased youth use. In Colorado, which legalized marijuana in
2012, youth use has not gone up since legalization. In fact, with
nearly 30 states permitting some form of marijuana, researchers at the
Washington University School of Medicine found that the number of kids
using marijuana or developing marijuana-related problems is on the

Maine teens already report broad access to marijuana in the
underground market. And it's that market, rather than marijuana
itself, that acts as a gateway. An illegal market connects those
seeking marijuana with dealers who don't ID customers and are
motivated to offer them highly dangerous, addictive drugs.

It's time to bring marijuana behind the counters of businesses that
pay taxes, follow regulations and are responsible to their
communities. Then we can focus our new resources on strategies that
actually work to help our kids avoid drugs and alcohol.

The initiative also has strong local control, assuring communities
that these businesses will operate with transparency and
accountability. Towns will get to decide for themselves whether to
limit marijuana businesses or prohibit them altogether.

To protect small growers, Question 1 sets a maximum size of
cultivation and limits licenses to one per person. Medical marijuana
remains separate and protected under Question 1 and the initiative
gives preference to existing medical marijuana providers who wish to
enter the adult-use market.

At a time when Maine faces devastating rural job loss, Question 1
legitimizes an existing industry in a way that that would create
sustainable jobs across the state, particularly in rural

Colorado's legal marijuana industry has created more than 18,000 new
jobs and generated $2.4 Billion in economic activity. It has
dramatically reduced drug arrests, and generated $135 million in tax
revenue to fund public health and prevention programs, train law
enforcement and address other serious issues - all without negatively
affecting youth use or public safety.

Think about what it could do for Maine.

Question 1 could help us address our opioid crisis by providing a
safer alternative to prescription drugs. Patients who use marijuana to
treat pain are far less likely to use opioids and report better
quality of life and fewer medication side effects than those who do
not use marijuana. Patients treating opioid addiction with marijuana
suffer less during withdrawal and are more likely to complete treatment.

In Maine, anyone willing to break the law can get marijuana, but many
who could benefit - including veterans battling addiction, cancer
patients, and others - face insurmountable barriers to this treatment
option. It's currently illegal for adults in Maine to use marijuana to
address their opioid addiction.

We have run out of time to waste on failed policies. Question 1 shifts
marijuana into taxed, regulated local businesses that ID their
customers, provide jobs and are subject to strict rules that we will
shape - rules requiring childproof packaging, bans on marketing to
kids, safety and potency testing, and, like Colorado, bans on all
edibles shaped like gummy bears or other forms that could confuse or
appeal to children.

It is time for a smarter, safer approach that treats adults like
adults and is based on facts. Question 1 is good for Maine patients,
good for kids, good for jobs and good for businesses. It's good for
Maine, and it's time to vote yes on Question 1.

Alysia Melnick is the political director for Yes on 1.
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