By Susan Sharon
Maine’s attorney general is again raising questions about how Question 1 could affect children if voters approve it next month.
That’s the ballot measure that would allow the regulation, taxation and sale of recreational marijuana to those 21 and over. The AG has said it doesn’t include penalties for possession by kids. Opponents are now highlighting her analysis as a reason to vote no. But supporters say they have it all wrong.
The very first part of the question puts it in black and white: Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age?
But Maine Attorney General Janet Mills says there’s a problem. In an interview with Maine Public Radio last month she said she analyzed the measure and discovered that it repeals a statute that makes it a juvenile crime to possess marijuana.
“I don’t honestly think people want to pass a bill that intentionally or unintentionally repeals that part of the juvenile code that makes it a juvenile offense to possess a certain amount of marijuana,” Mills says. “I don’t think that’s intended but it’s there. The drafting is terrible and the unintended consequences are huge.”
Opponents are now seizing on the AG’s analysis as evidence that Question 1 “legalizes marijuana for Maine youth.” At a news conference in Yarmouth Thursday, Scott Gagnon of the No On One Campaign issued this challenge:
“In light of this new information we’re calling on the ACLU and Mark Dion and others to rescind their support of Question 1 and to urge Maine voters to vote no on Question 1,” says Gagnon. “We think this is the only ethical and moral choice in light of these revelations.”
Supporters at a No on 1 campaign press event do not want to see pot legalized
Gagnon was flanked by members of the Maine Chiefs of Police, the Maine Sheriffs’ Association, the Maine Medical Association and NAMI Maine, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. In broad terms, they don’t want marijuana candy and other edibles getting into the hands of kids who may confuse it with regular gummy bears, candy bars and other snacks and wind up in the emergency room. But Scott Anderson, an attorney with Verrill Dana who represents the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol calls the notion that the Yes side wants to legalize pot for kids “ludicrous.”
“The notion that this is some sort of subterfuge and some attempt to create a law that will allow six-year-olds to legally possess marijuana is not only not supported by Question 1, not supported by the AG’s prior review of Question 1, but is obviously a ridiculous goal for anyone,” says Anderson. “We’re quite surprised and quite disturbed that this is happening this late in the game.”
Anderson says that in a Guide to Voters that’s been circulated for months now, the attorney general herself made clear that the Question 1 initiative applies to those 21 years and older. As for Mills’ assertion that kids will be able to use pot because the statute addressing juvenile possession will be eliminated, Anderson says it’s simply inaccurate.
“She’s talking about different statutes that deal with what the penalties are for unlawful behavior,” he says. “So it’s apples and oranges.”
For his part Anderson says he specializes in government interpretation and amending of statutes as part of his legal practice. He says there’s one way to interpret Question 1.