as originally published in the Mount Desert Islander, September 16th, 2016
Leading off the referendum ballot in November’s election is a proposal to approve the recreational use of marijuana in Maine. While advocates have been pushing the measure for years, the question remains: Does it make sense — as generations of Americans continue to be ravaged by excessive consumption of alcohol, and while Maine is in the midst of an opioid addiction crisis — to legalize yet another mind-altering drug for recreational use? We believe the answer is “no.”
The citizens’ initiative proposal was included on the ballot only after 11,000 petition signatures that first were disqualified subsequently were validated by the Maine Business and Consumer Court.
The efficacy of marijuana for treatment of an increasing number of debilitating medical conditions continues to become more established. Maine has allowed the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes since 2009, and the state has seen a proliferation of retail dispensaries since then. But legislation allowing the possession and recreational use of marijuana by persons 21 years of age and older, as well as retail sales and cultivation of the drug, has vast implications at every level of society.
Recreational use of marijuana has been approved by voters in Alaska, Colorado, Washington and the District of Columbia, but the results of that legalization and the societal price to be paid have yet to be sorted out.
States where marijuana use, medicinal or otherwise, is legal continue to wrestle with the problem of drivers whose motor skills, judgment, perception and reaction time have been impaired by that use. Unlike alcohol intoxication, which can be measured accurately, marijuana contains several psychoactive or intoxicating constituents that make it difficult to establish intoxication.
The fact also remains that, should Question 1 be approved, Maine’s law then will be in conflict with federal law, under which marijuana remains classified in the most restrictive category of the Controlled Substances Act.
Despite years of discussion, too many unanswered questions remain regarding the societal impact that will result from legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Come November, voters should turn thumbs down on the proposal