The Universal Notebook: Maine goes to pot

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

Drug use is one of those subjects like religion that begets endless hypocrisy. Lately, politicians in Maine and D.C. have been turning themselves inside out trying to deal with the fact that 64 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana. Naturally, moralizing hypocrites stand in the way.

“Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” Jeff Sessions infamously declared while he was still in the U.S. Senate. Now that he is U.S. attorney general he is in a position to make life difficult for pot users even in a state, like Maine, where it is legal.

Obviously, the self-righteous Sessions doesn’t know what he is talking about. Lots of good people both grow and use marijuana. Half of U.S. adults have tried pot and 55 million adults currently use it. Heck, even 51 percent of straight-laced Republicans support legalization, although only 14 percent actually smoke dope.

Sessions’ hypocrisy is most obvious in the fact that he is a big supporter of the tobacco industry and tobacco is the No. 1 preventable cause of death in this country, responsible for 480,000 deaths a year. Alcohol, another legal recreational drug, is the third largest preventable cause of death, taking 88,000 lives a year. (Obesity is second, killing 300,000 Americans annually.)

Thirty states have legalized marijuana use, as Maine voters narrowly did in November 2016. But you still can’t legally buy recreational marijuana in Maine. In part that’s because in November 2017, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill to tax and regulate recreational cannabis sales because of conflicts with federal laws. There is a moratorium on legalization while the Legislature’s Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee writes the rules, but earlier this month the committee punted – voting to ban marijuana social clubs, essentially bars for pot smokers – until 2023.

I voted for legalization, but I really don’t care how legalization plays out. As long as folks who grow and smoke pot aren’t getting busted, whether it’s legal or not makes no difference. But Sessions and most of the Republican Party are clearly out of step with the American people, who, despite the election of Donald Trump, are becoming more permissive on social issues.

A Gallup poll back in May 2017 showed 91 percent of Americans find birth control “morally acceptable,” while 73 percent approve of divorce, 69 percent approve of pre-marital sex, 63 percent approve of gay/lesbian relations and 62 percent approve of childbirth outside of marriage.

As self-appointed guardians of public morals, Republicans like Sessions and LePage try to force their own puritanical beliefs on everyone else. The will of the people means nothing to the nasty new breed of Republican. Not only has LePage been doing his best to muck up marijuana legalization, he is also the chief reason that, amid an epidemic of opioid overdoses and deaths, Maine has yet to make the antidote drug naloxone (also known as Narcan) available without prescription.

The Maine Legislature passed a bill to do so in 2016. LePage vetoed it. It then became law without LePage’s signature, but wider availability of Narcan has languished because former Republican state Rep. Joseph Bruno, a major LePage booster and chairman of the state Board of Pharmacy, has refused to approve rules for dispensing it. Even  Mary Mayhew, the former Department of Health and Human Services commissioner and a gubernatorial hopeful, who usually kisses LePage’s ring, has come out against the unconscionable delay in releasing the life-saving drug.

LePage made his moralistic view of addiction frighteningly clear back in 2016, when he vetoed the non-prescription naloxone bill.

“Naloxone does not truly save lives,” LePage objected, “it merely extends them until the next overdose.”

LePage’s view is that an overdose antidote just enables addiction. Better to let addicts die like dogs in the street than treat addiction like an illness rather than a moral failing. In LePage’s simplistic, black and white moral universe, as in Sessions’, good people don’t get addicted to prescription painkillers and then end up using heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to acquire than Oxycontin.

But that, too, is a conservative crock. If you don’t know a good person who got addicted to painkillers after using them legally to combat pain, you’ve lived a rather sheltered life. And if you’ve ever been administered morphine or prescribed Oxycontin, you should understand how easily good people can succumb to the instant relief from pain and suffering. One second you’re in agony and the next you haven’t got a care in the world.

And that relief from suffering, of course, is the appeal of most drugs, as it is of religion. It’s a response to the human condition and it’s none of the government’s business as long as no one else’s rights are being violated. Conservatives are always squawking about getting the government off our backs. Well, let’s start with Sessions and LePage.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

  • Moishe the Beadle

    Let’s just move beyond smoking pot like Obama to doing crack cocaine. My guess would be that if the Beemer read the “Snapping of the American Mind” by David Kupelian he might not be so enthusiastic about promoting more drug use. But, why bother doing research when feelings and what voters want are so much more important?

  • Mainer1

    The problem the left now has is that their shrieking temper tantrum surrounding the 2016 elections have now officially escalated into something else: TREASON. The Democrats lost, the people have spoken. The reason Democrats were defeated across the board in 2016 is their propensity towards lies and their lack of substance beyond anything but mindless violence, identity politics, worship of Jihad, abortion on demand, and the planned decimation of U.S. sovereignty. Since their 2016 election rejection the Democrats have doubled down on each and every one of these things and blocked the will of the American people. They will continue to slap the U.S. middle class in the face and they will continue to lose. Our efforts need to be focused on eliminating these treasonous chumps from our genome through criminal prosecution and rebuilding our government.

    • EdBeem

      The legitimacy of the 2016 election is what’s being investigated by Mueller. The American people may well neuter Trump in November by sending Republicans packing. Anyone who does not want the FBI investigating Russian interference in our elections has no business talking treason. The crime, collusion and treason is all on the right. That’s why Trump is so desperate to derail the investigation. He and the GOP are destroying this country from within.

  • poppypapa

    So, Eddie, I hope that when those grandkids of yours visit for a reading session on the couch you have the brownies hidden well out of reach.

    And that after they go night-night, you and your daughters and their spouses keep the smokes to a reasonable limit commensurate with your various ailments and recreational desires.

    Before you know it, you might be able to supplement your writing income with a neighborhood version of what used to be a “Lemonade Stand.”

    • EdBeem

      You really are a badly confused and simplistic fellow, Poppycock. No one is advocating drug use, especially among young people. But I also don’t want my adult children and grandchildren being arrested and jailed if they do happen to smoke a little pot some time. I know lots of people who have grown and smoked pot for years and I would say it has done less damage to them than a lifetime of legal drinking. So let’s bring back Prohibition. That single malt scotch is not good for you. Trump doesn’t drink, so you shouldn’t either. As I said above, I find it typical and hypocritical that anti-government conservatives like yourself want the government telling people they can’t smoke pot, or marry who they love or decide if and when to have a baby. Trump and his supporters will turn this country into a police state if we let them. So we will not. It will be all over in November when America buries the rotting corpse of the GOP in the midterm elections. Unless, of course, The Russia investigation inspired white trash America to violence. I have said all along that the election of Donald Trump is the greatest existential threat this country faces.

      • Chew H Bird

        It seems to me that plenty of politicians on both sides of the spectrum have issues with legal weed. The fact these elected officials have been unable to understand that regulating, distributing, taxing, and dealing with the tragic fallout from physically addictive alcoholic substances bears significantly more risk to the general public (drunk drivers anyone), that weed is absolutely idiotic.

        While I personally more libertarian and could care less what people to regarding their substances of choice (as long as they do not harm others), change of that magnitude will not ever happen within our current social structure. That said, legalizing weed is far less risky than allowing legal consumption of alcohol (I have not touched either substance since the 1980s) that failing to implement a common sense program of management based on alcohol sales and distribution simply demonstrates the incompetence of many of our elected officials.

        All I want is for our elected politicians to work for the people who vote them into office regardless of whether they wear red, blue, or are independent.

      • poppypapa

        Striking out at “white trash America” now Eddie? How becoming of you.

        I wonder how many white trash live on your street, in Brunswick, and are near you when you visit the fruits and nuts section at Hannaford, and the gaggle of blue hairs rush you with their praise.

        By the way, you might try using a paragraph break every now and again. I understand professional writers are starting to do so, and you don’t want to fall behind.

        Not doing so suggests that your anger is doing the typing, not your rational mind, should you have one.

        BTW, what do you think of the recent revelations about Russian meddling in our elections?

        • EdBeem

          Lashing out at old women now, are we Poppy?
          I’m afraid there is no other way to describe Trump followers, 99% of whom are ignorant, prejudiced, evangelical, gun nuts, white nationalists and rednecks.
          Every time I reply to your twisted comments I am instantly reminded why I usually don’t. You are always insulting and personal.
          If you are talking about the Nunes memo, it’s just a lying buttkisser’s opinion containing no evidence of anything. Trump’s colleagues have been lying abut their Russian connections and pleading guilty to lying to investigators. Trump, Trump Jr., Flynn, Pappadopoulis, Page, Manafort, Kushner — all guilty as sin.
          I expect the good people of the US to rise up in November to bury the rotting corpse of what’s left of the GOP. I also expect the unstable Trump to try to start a war to avoid losing power. He’s a creep and criminal. He needs to be removed from office by any legal means.

          • Lucy Ball

            “I’m afraid there is no other way to describe Trump followers, 99% of whom are ignorant, prejudiced, evangelical, gun nuts, white nationalists and rednecks.” You are also “insulting” … moved to the right town.

          • poppypapa

            Twisted comments? Surely you jest.

            So 99% are white trash, huh? Guess that includes me, my wife, and you wouldn’t believe how many of my friends and relatives, just for starters.

            So where did you get your law degree, and how about sharing with the rest of us those documents you have access to that we don’t?

            I guess it’s your privileged “journalist” status, right?

            Please let me know what else I can say to get you to continue losing your marbles in public; it’s like sport for me.

            And congratulations on not being able to keep a promise.

          • EdBeem

            Yes, you’re absolutely right. I should never bother replying to your comments.

        • EdBeem

          BTW, no need for two paragraphs. It’s the same thought.

          By the way, you might try using a paragraph break every now and again. I understand professional writers are starting to do so, and you don’t want to fall behind. Not doing so suggests that your anger is doing the typing, not your rational mind, should you have one.

      • poppypapa

        You know Eddie, since you are so sure what “white trash America” might do, I was remiss in not asking your prediction of your own behavior, and that of your fellow radical progressive extremists will do if your election prediction does not bear out.

        You might as well go on the record here since you have a weekly bully pulpit, and love to remind us of your sound mind and dutiful integrity. Will you add yourself to the legions who have left the country as they promised? Or something else?

        BTW, bless your little heart for calling those who vote different than you white trash Americans. And thanks for giving us Nancy Pelosi and Chucky Schumer.