On Jan. 30, Maine joins seven other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing recreational marijuana for those 21 years and older.
This means that devoted potheads and anyone curious about exploring a mind-altered state can legally enjoy edibles, grow up to six plants and possess as much as 2.5 ounces of dried marijuana.
It’s a long-sought victory for those who want to feel “chill” without fear of civil penalty and the guilt of knowing their habit is helping to fuel the illegal drug trade. It’s a massive defeat for those who must live alongside the high and unsober.
Watching Sen. Jeff Sessions testify during his recent attorney general confirmation hearing, it dawned on me that this guy is our last hope. Maybe Sessions can sober us Mainers up and save us from the damage a slight majority of voters inflicted last November.
Not only was the vote close (381,768 to 377,773), but the attempt by the state Legislature to craft a law based on the referendum has been difficult and dizzying to say the least.
The state attorney general had to fix an error that would have legalized dope for minors. And the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee last week endorsed a bill, L.D. 88, that would ban drivers or passengers from being high while operating a vehicle. The committee also banned retail sales of marijuana until February of next year.
Why weren’t these stipulations spelled out in the referendum itself? Perhaps the will of the voters was to allow teens and drivers to get high?
If the Legislature can tweak and interpret this referendum any way it wishes, maybe the referendum process isn’t as sacrosanct as we think. And because we’re going to end up with a law that has only a shred of voter intent behind it, then maybe this whole marijuana legalization is a sham and devoid of any mandate from the voters.
So, because the government should defend sobriety, and because we should support teachers and police officers and social workers and everyone who fights on the front lines of a culture that is embracing recreational drug use, I hope Sessions will enforce the federal ban on marijuana.
Conservatives value states’ rights and hate to see the feds butt in with their zeal for regulation. But when states do wrong, the argument for states’ rights weakens. Legalization of recreational marijuana rises to the level of federal intervention.
Honest Abe Lincoln knew slavery was wrong and forced his will on Southerners, the majority of whom wanted slavery and went to war to defend their sinful lifestyle. The feds stepped in again when a new generation of corrupted Southerners embraced Jim Crow laws, which ostracized blacks and made their lives miserable for about 100 years after the Civil War.
While the use of dope pales in comparison to the evils of slavery and systemic discrimination, the feds need to supersede the will of Mainers who have become brainwashed to think marijuana is OK.
Marijuana is not OK. Sobriety is not a small thing. We need to be sober at all times because we never know when we’ll be called upon to help our fellow Americans. Would it be OK for an on-call firefighter or EMT to toke up on a Friday night? What if a call came in? What if it were your house that was burning? How about a dentist or doctor using marijuana before surgery – your surgery?
I came to this realization that society requires sobriety on a hiking trip. My hiking buddy was bitten by a rattlesnake and needed medical help quickly. We hiked back toward the closest town, and luckily there was a guy at the trailhead sitting in a pickup truck. The only problem was the man was awfully tipsy, if not drunk. We accepted the ride, and though I thought he was going to drunk-drive us off the road several times, we all lived to tell the tale.
I realize this guy thought he was innocently retreating to a quiet woodsy spot to forget about life for a while, and never thought he’d be called upon to help anybody in a real medical emergency. But we needed him, and he was barely able to help.
Yes, the horse is out of the barn when it comes to legal recreational marijuana in Maine. That’s regrettable, and 50.26 percent of Maine voters have that on their conscience. But Jeff Sessions, a sober man in every manner, it seems, is the guy who can spare us the misery of this citizen-enacted marijuana monstrosity.
Edited Jan. 24, 2017, to correct a reference to “2.5 ounces of dried marijuana.”
John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.