as published in the Bangor Daily News: bangordailynews.com/2016/08/07/opinion/contributors/a-no-vote-on-marijuana-legalization-is-a-yes-vote-for-healthy-youth/
This spring, a coalition of concerned Maine parents and community leaders came together to launch the opposition campaign to Question 1, which proposes to legalize the sale and recreational use of marijuana. The coalition is named Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities.
Our coalition name is the crux of our message and opposition to Question 1. We are opposing Question 1 because, if passed, it would fundamentally change our communities by opening the door to hundreds of pot shops and bars on Main streets, putting potent, kid-friendly marijuana gummies and candies on full display and within reach of our youth. This would take Maine in the wrong direction.
Question 1 is an initiative written by the marijuana industry for the marijuana industry. It is being financed and pushed by big, faceless international lobbying organizations and out-of-state corporate interests. It’s Big Tobacco with an intoxicating twist. Their goal is simple: to break ground in Maine to set up a commercial market and to make big profits while leaving Maine families with the bill for increased health care and addiction treatment costs.
With pot shops opening up in our communities, marijuana would literally be minutes away for many Maine youth. It won’t matter whether shops check ID. All a young person would need to do is give money to a willing older sibling, friend or other adult, and within minutes they would have a bag of potent, high-THC marijuana gummies. To make matters worse, it will be virtually impossible for parents to tell the difference between THC gummies and regular candy. This undoubtedly would lead to a rapid increase in incidents of kids bringing marijuana candies to school, a problem faced by Colorado school administrators on a regular basis.
In Colorado, marijuana edibles are responsible for a number of negative health consequences. This July, new research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, revealed that rates of marijuana poisonings of children are skyrocketing in Colorado. Marijuana poisonings have risen 150 percent since the drug was legalized in 2014. More than half of those poisonings involved marijuana edibles, and researchers concluded that legalization is to blame.
Question 1 has extremely weak regulations on pot shops that would lead to youth having easy access. As written, the initiative lists no penalties to pot shops or pot shop clerks if they sell to minors. There are no requirements in the initiative for clerks to be trained to prevent sales to minors. In fact, the initiative actually shields pot shops from any responsibility to determine whether or not IDs presented to them are valid.
Loopholes in Question 1 at best provide weak local control for municipalities wanting to ban retail pot shops. One such loophole provides that if a retail marijuana shop is attached to a marijuana cultivation site, it doesn’t actually count as a retail marijuana shop. This is a problem because under Maine’s medical marijuana law municipalities are only allowed to enact zoning restrictions for marijuana cultivation sites but not ban them outright. The loophole in Question 1 very likely would allow pot shops to still open in municipalities with pot shop bans.
If you are an employer, you should also be extremely concerned with Question 1. First and foremost, research provides a clear link between marijuana and lower worker productivity. From a workplace safety perspective, Question 1 would prevent Maine businesses from adopting and enforcing common-sense restrictions on screening new employees for marijuana use. This would increase the chance that one of your employees is impaired on the job, putting their co-workers at risk, while you shoulder the cost of additional liability.
Question 1 is about one thing only: turning our towns into the next market for Big Marijuana, the next tobacco industry. But Mainers have the power to stop it.
Scott M. Gagnon is the campaign director for Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities and a Certified Prevention Specialist with a decade of professional experience in the field of youth addiction prevention.