Should Maine Legalize Marijuana?

The topic of marijuana has been a hot for quite some time, as for years, states have allowed for medical use in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act. The federal legislation prohibits the use of marijuana for any purposes. Since 1996 however, a movement has started to grow across America. California would become the leader in a trend of allowing for medical uses, with Maine joining as the fourth state in 1999. Now in 2012, a new movement has taken off. On November 6th, Colorado and Washington fully legalized marijuana use, nullifying federal prohibition. Now Maine will consider becoming the third state to fully legalize in the upcoming legislative session.

Democratic State Representative Diane Russell is introducing legislation that would legalize marijuana. It would also impose a tax on it, as well as on products for recreational use. A recent Portland Press Herald article, “Maine lawmaker seeks to legalize marijuana”, discusses the legislation and reaction from various individuals.

While there is no official response on record from the Republican Party, the House Democratic Office communications director seemed to imply that the party itself would not focus on Representative Russell’s legislation, telling the Portland Press Herald “Democrats are going to be focused on legislation that helps rebuild Maine’s economy and strengthens the middle class. That’s where we want to focus our energy this session.” Decriminalizing marijuana, freeing up resources spent by law enforcement on prohibition, and taxing usage would not help Maine’s economy?

Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, believes chiefs would oppose the bill because it will get in the hands of children. Either law enforcement officials are not paying attention to society or do not believe in the work police do, because many young people already get their hands on it. It has been illegal for decades and teenagers still use it, and police have been unable to completely eliminate its usage. In fact, the prohibition endangers children because it creates a black market that often draws in young people and involves them in drug trafficking and gangs.

One point opponents of legalization always fail to acknowledge is that narcotics abuse is more dangerous to Mainers. Whereas marijuana does not claim lives, narcotics abuse does. The former is merely a plant, whereas the latter is a chemical substance. In fact, a 2011 Bangor Daily News article titled “Maine tops nation in prescription drug abuse”, made note of a report from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which found that Maine tops the nation in narcotics abuse. Shouldn’t Schwartz and police chiefs start supporting the prohibition of narcotics?

Decriminalization supporter Democratic State Representative Mark Dion weighed in, stating federal law must change before Representative Russell’s bill can be considered. Representative Dion told the Portland Press Herald, “this issue is a classic example of a federal and state conflict that can only be resolved in Washington.” If this is the case, then he must also oppose Maine’s medical marijuana laws, which also are at conflict with federal law. Are we to tell sick patients that they cannot seek the treatment they wish for their condition? Are we to shut down the caregiver industry?

Nullification is, of course, the ideal answer to this situation. It’s nothing new to Maine. When Maine legalized medical marijuana in 1999 and expanded the law over the years, it rejected federal law. It did the same when it defied the REAL ID Act in 2006, as well. Maine chapters of organizations like Campaign For Liberty, Republican Liberty Caucus, and Tenth Amendment Center have all supported past nullification efforts in the state.

So what is the answer to the legalization question and Representative Russell’s proposed legislation? Yes. The federal prohibition laws are unjust and the states have a right to nullify, as they have to allow for medical usage in Maine and elsewhere. It will not endanger children to allow adults to use recreationally, when young people already obtain it in a thriving black market. What does endanger children, however, is the black market that draws them into the criminal world and introduces them to a dark social underworld. For the sake of children, eliminate the black market. Beyond this, the tax revenue will further help them by aiding higher education funding. It’s time to overcome the political scare tactics surrounding marijuana and legalize it. Colorado and Washington have and the apocalypse has yet to arrive out west.