Getting high to get well, up for vote
Ten years after Maine's original referendum allowing prescribed patients to grow their own medicinal marijuana passed, there is a new bill on the ballot this November, seeking to expand the current laws. If passed, the bill would add to the list of conditions for which doctors can prescribe marijuana, as well as legalize the creation of non-profit dispensaries.
Jonathan Leavitt, the head of the Maine Citizens for Patient Rights, has spearheaded the initiative for new laws. Leavitt's group collected the signatures to get the issue on the ballot and is the only group that is registered to raise and spend money on Question 5, according to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.
"Our job here is to make a law already on the books actually function for patients," Leavitt said. "This is about making sure people have their medicine." In addition to allowing for the opening of dispensaries, the bill explicitly lists the conditions that would qualify a patient to be eligible for a prescription. The Waterville Morning Sentinel summarized this list as "glaucoma, AIDS, Crohn's disease, Alzheimer's disease and other conditions that produce pain that has not responded to other treatments for more than six months."
So far, there has been zero organized opposition to either Leavitt's and his organization's work, or Question 5. Leavitt told The Morning Sentinel, "our polling indicates this is not a controversial issue anymore." This is certainly true on the Hill; no student groups or organizations have taken any efforts to nudge voters in either direction. Students around campus have responded to the issue with resounding apathy. It is important to note, however, that this law does not directly apply to many college students, as there are few students who would qualify as sick enough to warrant a marijuana prescription.
The Colby Democrats, the Colby Republicans and the League of Progressive Voters have all decided against taking any kind of a public stand on the issue.
Benjy Ogden '11, head of the Colby Republicans and Maine state resident, did, however, offer his personal thoughts on the issue.
Ogden, a lifetime resident of Maine, says he does not like "seeing pictures of medical marijuana being blatantly misused in California...where doctors are given more freedom to prescribe it, [and] many will give it for [less serious conditions, such as] a migraine...While people who need it should be able to get it, there is a fear that expansion into non-terminal and/or cancer-related disorders and the opening of commercial dispensaries will shake the quiet, clean lives many of us [native Mainers] seek for our children and ourselves."
Roy McKinney, head of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, told The Morning Sentinel that he believes dispensaries would lead to misuse and increase crimes such as robbery or loitering. "We were looking at the public safety ramifications of having legalized dispensaries of marijuana, regardless of what the underlying issue is," he said.
Last May, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a case claiming that the California medicinal marijuana laws should be abolished because they conflict with federal law. According to the California branch of the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws, "there is no state regulation or standard of the cultivation and/or distribution of medical marijuana." As a result, law enforcement cannot distinguish between legal and illegal marijuana grows. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) frequently reports large scale drug dealers who claim their grows are medically and legally sanctioned.
Regardless of your stance, the Colby Democrats, Colby Republicans and League of Progressive Voters all urge eligible voters to show up to the polls on November 3. The League of Progressive Voters will also be helping students register to vote and will be offering free rides to the polls on October 23 for anyone wishing to vote early.