Here's Something: Maine leaders should resist marijuana bill

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If I had voted to legalize recreational marijuana last November, I’d be mighty disturbed by the draft bill approved last week by the Maine Legislature, which is using a heavy hand as it crafts a law governing how pot can be grown, used and sold.

The wording on last year’s referendum was pretty plain: “Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age, and allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?”

Directives in the draft bill include that growers can’t have more than 12 plants, perhaps 18 if the local authorities expand the limit; marijuana facilities can’t be located within 1,000 feet of a school, unless a town reduces it to 500 feet; marijuana would be taxed at an effective 20 percent rate, rather than the 10 percent rate called for in the referendum; towns can totally opt out of allowing sales or grow operations; only residents here for at least two years can sell the stuff, and drive-through sales, Internet sales and home delivery would be prohibited.

Marijuana advocates say the bill includes many restrictions that seem to go above and beyond the voters’ intent.

I, however, appreciate the lengths the Legislature is going to. Lawmakers are right to be cautious when ushering in this new state of insobriety. But my question is this: Is it too late to stop this madness?

I don’t think so. Not if we resist. Heck, if Democrats, liberals and Antifa can resist everything Trump proposes, why can’t those opposed to legalizing drugs resist as well?

Like Never-Trumpers, I’m a Never-Doper and urge those in power to resist the circus insanity. If the Legislature can’t delay or derail this legislation, the governor should resist marijuana normalization and veto any bill the Legislature sends his way.

I understand resistance is futile when there’s a substantial majority. But, similar to Trump’s razor-thin victory, which robbed him of any popular mandate, the marijuana measure barely passed. It took several days and a recount to certify the official tally as 381,788 in favor and 377,773 opposed. If a mere 2,000 of 1.2 million Mainers had switched their votes, Vacationland would still be a drug-free zone. In fact, the majority of counties rejected it, and the question only passed because of the liberal-leaning population centers in Cumberland and York counties.

Is it sacrilege to suggest a citizens-initiated referendum be dismissed? Maybe, but we all know the process in Maine has been corrupted by out-of-state, big-money interests. We also know the will of the voters is rarely followed by the Legislature as it creates law by tweaking a referendum’s wording. For a recent example of this, legislators and the governor basically nullified last fall’s referendum that imposed a 3 percent tax on Mainers earning more than $200,000.

Since only 50.3 percent of Mainers approved recreational marijuana, there is no popular mandate. And, with the big picture in mind, this is likely a gateway bill to legalizing other illegal drugs, so I see no harm in overturning the referendum.

I’m all for the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I’m no libertarian, though. I feel government is needed to rein in our natural recklessness. Where to draw that line is why we need competent philosopher-kings in power, willing to take the barbs from the masses and to counter the group-think of the day. If ever strong leadership was required, it’s with marijuana.

Dope is not a gateway, casual drug; it is a drug. It’s addicting. It’s bad for one’s health. It’s hard to live in a community if half the people aren’t sober. It’s hard to run a family if the kids think smoking dope is acceptable because the government allows it. It’s hard to live clean if your surrounding culture says some drugs are OK. I especially feel for opiate addicts who are hearing one drug, a pain medication, is harmful and another, dope, is acceptable. It must make it harder to quit.

We need to resist the drug culture any way we can. Some are saying the Maine Constitution allows the governor and perhaps the Legislature to reject any referendum. I can see that being the case since this is a republic, not a democracy, and the courts and other levels of government can strike down unconstitutional referendums. The governor is already talking about resisting this legislation and I urge him to do so.

Our leaders should do what’s right; legalizing and normalizing pot is certainly not right. Resist. And, if they don’t, perhaps a counter-referendum is in order for 2020.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.

  • Brian Kelly

    Marijuana consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All American pastime, alcohol.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Marijuana Nationwide!


    Marijuana is not “dope”. By the author calling it that, he only makes it that much easier for everyone to see his ignorance. Along with the anger and resentment he hold towards this natural plant and it’s consumers.

    If anything, he can say that booze is the real “dope” because it makes people do the dumbest things, often become violent, and then blackout and not remember all the havoc caused by the booze, like true “dopes”.

    Go ask your local street drug dealer for some “dope”.

    You’re not going to get marijuana, guaranteed!

    • Brian Kelly

      Fear of Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Marijuana Nationwide a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

      Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of marijuana legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

      The prohibition of marijuana has not decreased the supply nor the demand for marijuana at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol.

      If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more detriment to our society than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

      Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize marijuana when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more detriment to our society than all other drugs, COMBINED?

      Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and/or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier lives, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

      • Brian Kelly

        The “War on Marijuana” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

        Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our yearly tax dollars fighting a never ending “War on Marijuana”, lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It’s a no brainer.

        The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

        Marijuana is much safer to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

        The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less marijuana “crimes” because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

        Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

        Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

        • Brian Kelly

          In the prohibitionist’s world, anybody who consumes the slightest amount of marijuana responsibly in the privacy of their own homes are “stoners” and “dopers” that need to be incarcerated in order to to protect society.

          In their world, any marijuana use equates to marijuana abuse, and it is their God given duty to worry about “saving us all” from the “evils” of marijuana use.

          Who are they to tell us we can’t choose marijuana, the safer choice instead of alcohol for relaxation, after a long, hard day, in the privacy of our own homes?

          People who consume marijuana are smart, honest, hard working, educated, and successful people too, who “follow the law” also.(except for their marijuana consumption under it’s current prohibition of course) .

          Not the stereotypical live at home losers prohibitionists make them out to be. They are doctors, lawyers, professors, movie stars, and politicians too.

          Several Presidents of The United States themselves, along with Justin Trudeau, Bill Gates, and Carl Sagan have all confessed to their marijuana use. As have a long and extensive list of successful people throughout history at one point or other in their lives.

          Although that doesn’t mean a dam thing to people who will make comments like “dopers” and “stoners” about anybody who uses the slightest amount of Marijuana although it is way safer than alcohol.

          To these people any use equals abuse, and that is really ignorant and full of hypocrisy. While our society promotes, advertises, and even glorifies alcohol consumption like it’s an All American pastime.

          There is nothing worse about relaxing with a little marijuana after a long hard day than having a drink or two of alcohol.

          So come off those high horses of yours. Who are you to dictate to the rest of society that we can’t enjoy Marijuana, the safer choice over alcohol, in the privacy of our own homes?

          We’ve worked real hard our whole lives to provide for our loved ones. We don’t appreciate prohibitionists trying to impose their will and morals upon us all.

          Has a marijuana consumer ever forced you to use it? Probably not. So nobody has the right to force anybody not to either.

          Don’t try to impose your morality and “clean living” upon everybody else with Draconian Marijuana Laws, and we won’t think you’re such prohibitionist hypocrites.

          Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

          • Brian Kelly

            Every major poll in the nation shows A Solid Majority of Americans favor The Legalization of Marijuana Nationwide!

            “Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana Support surged 10 percentage points in past year””

            “A solid majority of voters nationwide favor legalizing and regulating marijuana similar to the way alcohol and tobacco cigarettes are currently regulated. Most also don’t believe it should be a crime for people to smoke marijuana in the privacy of their own homes”

            “Americans favor making cannabis legal for adults, according to the findings of a CNN/ORC International survey released late Monday. The percentage is the highest ever reported by the survey, which has been tracking public opinion on the issue since 1973, and marks a 12 percentage point jump in support since the last time pollsters posed the question in 2012”

            It’s time for us, the majority of The People to take back control of our national marijuana policy. By voting OUT of office any and all politicians who very publicly and vocally admit to having an anti-marijuana, prohibitionist agenda! Time to vote’em all OUT of office. Period. Plain and simple.

            Politicians who continue to demonize Marijuana, Corrupt Law Enforcement Officials who prefer to ruin peoples lives over Marijuana possession rather than solve real crimes who fund their departments toys and salaries with monies acquired through Marijuana home raids, seizures and forfeitures, and so-called “Addiction Specialists” who make their income off of the judicial misfortunes of our citizens who choose marijuana, – Your actions go against The Will of The People and Your Days In Office Are Numbered! Find new careers before you don’t have one.

            The People have spoken! Get on-board with Marijuana Legalization Nationwide, or be left behind and find new careers. Your choice.

            Legalize Nationwide!

          • Brian Kelly

            “Marijuana is 114 times safer than drinking alcohol”


            “Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say”

            “Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say New study: We should stop fighting marijuana legalization and focus on alcohol and tobacco instead By Christopher Ingraham February 23

            Compared with other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use.

            Those are the top-line findings of recent research published in the journal Scientific Reports, a subsidiary of Nature. Researchers sought to quantify the risk of death associated with the use of a variety of commonly used substances. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine.”


            “The report discovered that marijuana is 114 times less deadly than alcohol. Researchers were able to determine this by comparing the lethal doses with the amount of typical use. Through this approach, marijuana had the lowest mortality risk to users out of all the drugs they studied. In fact—because the numbers were crossed with typical daily use—marijuana is the only drug that tested as “low risk.”


          • friendship220

            Marijuana is flat out good for you.

            Give it to people for free. It cures many ailments.

            People you don’t want you to have marijuana want you to die.

  • EmperorPenguin

    If you search for philosopher-kings all you will find are tyrants. I hope you avail yourself of the ignorant idea that government is somehow good. It is a necessary evil at best.

  • Brian Jordan

    How are your arguments even the slightest bit different than that of the prohibition movement in the 1920’s?

  • Chew H Bird

    The author needs, in my opinion, to obtain some actual facts prior to writing an article such as this. A real gateway drug is alcohol with its physical addiction properties and effects on the brain that produce damage almost identical to heroin (albeit over a generally longer time frame).

    As for the lack of a mandate, I wonder how many stoners did not get off their couch to vote… Anyone who lived through the 1970s knows that pot is less of a problem for our society than booze.

  • Just Sayin’

    Mr. Balentine admits in this column that he’s a man for whom the ends justify the means.

    It’s right there in his first sentence, he’d be disturbed by the steps the legislature is taking to override the will of the voters and the initiatives they voted into law.

    …But because it’s for a decision he’s in favor of, he’s abandoning any thought of being disturbed by governmental overreach and instead is cheering it on, despite how often we’ve seen him speak out against government regulation and overreach thus far on most issues.

    The English language provides a word for people who engage in such behavior: Hypocrite.

  • Nick Maine

    you literary sound like the prohibitionists in the 20’s. i under stand that in your limited interactions with people who openly smoke marijuana you have built an image in your mind from the 60 propaganda. but i feel the need for you to update yourself on this subject is important specially since your going to write about it. what your proposing is a continuation of controlling your neighbors, people who work hard just like, raise their children to be good and thoughtful people just like you, and most likely just like you when they have finished their work for the day they want to relax. instead of a drug which you completely ignore in this article called alcohol which kills thousands of people when mixed with cars but is also the most dangerous to stop and can destroy family’s they chose marijuana. a drug that is much less additive and has zero deaths to its name. now if what you propose is banning all drugs including alcohol and tobacco then fine, i disagree but that’s your opinion. but if what you propose is banning one selected drug with zero scientific evidence based on mis information from over 30 years ago then sir i call you a hypocrite. and i hope when you sit at hope enjoying a cold Budweiser or a local shipyard that you ponder on the fact that you wish to criminalize your neighbor for no other reason then a lack of knowledge and compassion. until then just know that whether you want ” half your community high” or not we don’t care, pot smokers were here in the past we are here now and we are not going anywhere, and there is nothing you can do about it

  • Kathleen Chippi

    The 80 year WAR on cannabis wages on, Re-Branded as ‘legalization’. The language was written vaguely intentionally, so the government could mutilate the voters intent while the marketing/scampaign promised “legalization” and the “end of prohibition”. The ‘new’ ‘legalization’ PROHIBITIONS are STILL based on lies, prejudice and greed. Only when we base cannabis laws (or lack there of) on science, sanity and humanity, will cannabis be lawful.

  • mainereason

    John, what happened to your nanny-state phobia that argued for selling guns and cigarettes to 18 year-olds?

    “The cigarette and cellphone bills are two peas in the same pod. In forwarding the bills to LePage’s desk, the Legislature assumed the citizenry needed to be told how to act, rather than letting citizens make decisions for themselves.”

    Seems you are fine with the government telling us what to do when it is also what YOU want to do.

  • TrueNative

    Marijuana is a plant…period!

    Alcohol, cigarettes, processed foods and pharmaceuticals are drugs and are killing our citizen but they are all perfectly legal.

    Marijuana has improved my life and given me a full life over the past fourteen years. I went from being a 287 pound couch potato who was in constant pain with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol to being someone who has lost more than one hundred pounds. I now hike up to 8 miles a day, bike 15 miles every other day, run 4 to 5 miles several times a week. I climb mountains for fun, can swim a mile and I feel as if I am fully living life again.

    It has helped tremendously with the PTSD that I have suffered from supporting my husband through a ten and a half year nonstop battle with cancer and my son’s brutal shooting and assault. Unlike alcohol that causes one to bury the trauma, marijuana opens the mind so that one can look at the trauma from another perspective and process events, feelings and emotions. My doctor says that I am the healthiest patient that she sees. I smoke and eat edibles throughout the day, every day and have for the past fourteen years.

    This biased opinion piece is nothing but pure BS. Nothing factual and nothing relevant. Many people could be helped by it just like I have been. People with no factual information and no experience with the healing properties of this incredible plant given to us by God should not be writing this crap. You may be keeping a suffering person from getting the relief that they deserve.


  • yessah3

    Where to start as you seem so out of touch with reality. Out of state big money interests, do you mean like the No on 1 folks. Most of their funding came from out of state too. You do realize a majority is a majority. There is no sliding scale on voter initiatives. Ironic that you are talking about addiction and safety. No one has a problem with drinking in front of kids, but god forbid you smoke some marijuana. This is only because society is not used to it. Marijuana is actually better for you than alcohol and less addictive. Do you really think half the people are going to be high due to allowing the sales of marijuana. LOL! You do realize that people are getting it right now right through the black market. Harder to quit for opiate addicts because of marijuana. LOL! OMG, I seriously can’t even believe you think that. First off, most opiate addicts start out with prescription medication…prescribed legally by doctors. You want to stop something, stop that. Marijuana is actually a safer and non addictive form of pain relief. You might want to learn a little before you start spouting off on issues you clearly are ignorant on.

    By the way, where has resisting marijuana got us…hundreds of thousands incarcerated, a thriving illegal black market funding drug cartels and for what…no decrease in use. You may not be able to see the marijuana market, but it is there whether it is legal or not. So why not make it legal, defund drug cartels, put some more money in the state coffers, have police focus on real crimes, create some needed jobs in this state for a plant that folks have been using for thousands of years without issue.