Drug Law

Maine's Pro-Marijuana Vote Should be a Sign to Lawmakers

| by NORML

Conventional wisdom dictates that if the people lead then our political leaders will follow. Of course, when it comes to marijuana law reform, conventional wisdom seldom applies.

In a result that should come as a surprise to nobody — except for perhaps certain members of law enforcement and state lawmakers — Maine voters today overwhelmingly approved Question 5, the Maine Marijuana Medical Act. The measure amends existing state law by: establishing a confidential patient registry, expanding the list of qualifying conditions for which a physician may recommend medicinal cannabis, and by allowing for the creation of non-profit state-licensed nonprofit dispensaries to assist in the distribution of medical cannabis to qualified patients.

Of course for anyone following this issue, the result should not come as a surprise. Voters at the polls overwhelmingly approve marijuana law reform — virtually every time they have the opportunity to do so. Yet, over and over again voters have this opportunity because their cowardly elected officials continue to inexplicably punt on the issue.

In Maine, for instance, lawmakers voted unanimously in April to put this issue before the voters rather than legislating it themselves. They did so even though state voters had previously (and by more than 60 percent) approved patients’ rights to use medical marijuana, and despite the fact that the current proposal had virtually no organized opposition aside from law enforcement.

It was the same story in Colorado, where over 70 percent of Breckenridge voters elected today to amend the town code to remove all criminal and civil penalties, including fines, on the private possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. Should anyone have been surprised? Not really. Over 70 percent of local voters said ‘yes’ to a similar statewide (but unsuccessful) measure in 2005. Nonetheless, this past August the Breckenridge Town Council elected to dodge the issue when it came up for a vote — opting instead to send it before the voters.

Elsewhere in Colorado today, state police and politicians were conspiring to halt the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries. Law enforcement and local politicians are engaging in similar efforts in southern California.

Yes, you read that right: cops and politicians are trying to undermine the very same reforms that the public today just embraced.

When will they ever learn?