Maine: State Lawmaker Taking Third Try At Legalizing Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Portland voters this month legalized adult possession of small amounts of marijuana, and now a Maine lawmaker is hoping that will provide momentum to support her third attempt to pass a bill allowing the sale and taxation of cannabis statewide.

Ironically, the group behind the new Portland ordinance, as well as many medical marijuana caregivers and dispensary owners, don't want to see Portland Democrat Rep. Diane Russell's bill move forward, reports Leslie Bridgers at the Portland Press Herald.

The Maine Legislative Council is scheduled to decide on Thursday if Russell's proposal should be taken up as an "emergency bill" in the next session, which starts in January.

"There's no sense we have an emergency on our hands," said Portland City Councilor David Marshall, a leader in the local Green Party, which pushed to legalize pot in the city.

Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, a trade association of people who grow and provide medicinal cannabis, also opposes the bill. "Time is needed to develop a good law that generates revenue for the state and benefits as many Maine people as possible," reads a letter sent out by the group.

Russell's last two legalization attempts, one in 2011 and one last spring, were both voted down in the Maine Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

Maine: Marijuana Policy Project Invites Project SAM To Promote Sensible Cannabis Policy Reform


In letter to Maine SAM affiliate — which was launched after passage of the Portland marijuana initiative to oppose efforts to regulate marijuana like alcohol — MPP Maine political director highlights shared goals of promoting evidence-based public dialogue and an alternative to Maine's current marijuana prohibition policy

The Marijuana Policy Project on Friday extended an invitation to the new Maine affiliate of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) to join forces to promote sensible marijuana policy reform in Maine.

The national SAM organization announced the formation of the state chapter following Tuesday’s election, in which Portland voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure (67-33) making it the first city on the East Coast to make marijuana legal for adults.

In a letter to SAM state coordinator Scott Gagnon, Marijuana Policy Project Maine political director David Boyer highlighted the organizations’ shared goals:

“In particular, MPP shares SAM's desire for an honest, evidence-based public dialogue about marijuana, and we agree it is time for an alternative approach to Maine's current marijuana prohibition policies," Boyer wrote.

SAM’s November 6 press release stated that the group was being formed in advance of efforts to pass a state law that regulates marijuana like alcohol, and that one of its goals is, "To inform public policy with the science of today's marijuana.”

In response, Boyer wrote:

Maine: National Anti-Marijuana Group Prepares To Fight 2016 Legalization


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The national anti-cannabis group Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) on Wednesday launched a Maine chapter; the group expects a legalization battle in the state in 2016.

State coordinator Scott Gagnon of SAM Maine claimed the group has a "nuanced" approach to marijuana; Project SAM opposes legalization, but Gagnon said it's also against heavy enforcement of the cannabis laws, reports Kathryn Skelton of the Sun Journal.

"We can't arrest our way out of the problem," Gagnon said, which leaves us wondering why the hell the group opposes legalization. It turns out Gagnon is a substance abuse prevention manager for a place called Healthy Androscoggin; he doesn't want marijuana users arrested, he just wants to force them into rehab.

Gagnon claimed the all-volunteer state chapter of Project SAM had been in the works for more than a year. But the timing of its launch wasn't a coincidence; it came the day after Portland voters overwhelmingly passed a measure removing all criminal penalties for small amounts of cannabis.

"SAM and its principles say they support a middle-ground approach, but their goal is simply to maintain marijuana prohibition, said David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the group which organized the Portland referendum. "A majority of Americans are ready to move on and adopt a more sensible and effective marijuana policy."

Maine: Portland Voters Approve Marijuana Legalization With Landslide Vote


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Portland, Maine on Tuesday became the first city on the East Coast to legalize marijuana, with voters overwhelmingly approving ballot Question 1, an ordinance removing all penalties for adult possession of small amounts of cannabis.

Unofficial totals showed the proposal passing with 67 percent of the vote, 9,921 to 4,823, reports Randy Billings at the Portland Press Herald.

The city ordinance allows people 21 and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, and is seen by many activists as a foot in the door to statewide legalization. The immediate effects, however, are unclear.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck has already said that regardless of the vote, officers will continue enforcing Maine state law, under which possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis can result in fines of $350 to $1,000, along with a civil summons. Selling or providing pot to others can result in criminal charges.

The city should respect the voters and not arrest or fine adults for marijuana possession, according to David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "We call on city officials to stop the bleeding," Boyer said. "It's time for the state of Maine to follow Portland."

Maine: Medical Marijuana Patients Fear Losing Subsidized Housing; Board Stalls Decision


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Some medical marijuana patients in Maine may be forced to choose between their federally subsidized housing and their cannabis, if a state moratorium is not renewed. But the Main State Housing Authority Board of Commissioners on Tuesday decided to delay a decision on the issue for up to another year.

Commissioners and MaineHousing Director John Gallagher expressed "deep frustration" that repeated attempts to get guidance from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development have been fruitless, reports Christopher Cousins at the Bangor Daily News.

"We've asked for feedback by letter, email and directly to [HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan]," Gallagher said to the board Tuesday morning in Augusta. "None is forthcoming. We're still waiting for a response."

The question is whether to allow legal medical marijuana patients who already receiving federal housing vouchers to use or grow cannabis in their homes under Maine's medical marijuana law, passed in 1999.

Maine: Portland Residents To Vote On Legalizing Marijuana Possession


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The voters in Portland, Maine, will decide in November whether to legalize the possession of marijuana in the city.

The Portland City Council on Monday voted to allow residents to vote November 5 on a referendum which would make it legal for adults 21 and older to have up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, reports The Associated Press. It would still be illegal to consume marijuana in public.

Supporters turned in more than 2,500 signatures to Portland city officials back in May. The City Council on Monday decided to send it to voters, rather than simply adopting the ordinance.

The ordinance, if passed, would conflict with both U.S. federal law, which prohibits marijuana for any purpose, and with Maine state law, which allows cannabis, but only for patients who have a doctor's authorization for medicinal purposes.

Possession of less than 2.5 ounces (71 grams) of marijuana is a civil violation in Maine, punishable by a fine of $200 to $400, reports Nick DeLuca at BostInno.

(Graphic: Citizens for a Safer Portland: Marijuana Legalization in 2013)

Maine: Medical Marijuana Is Now Allowed For PTSD


State joins Oregon – which adopted a similar measure this month – and several others in recognizing the benefits of medical marijuana in the treatment of PTSD

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Maine residents suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will soon be allowed to treat their symptoms with medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. A bill adding PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, LD 1062, became law on Tuesday without the governor's signature.

A similar measure was signed into law earlier this month in Oregon, and medical marijuana is currently allowed in the treatment of PTSD in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Mexico.

"There is mounting evidence demonstrating the benefits of medical marijuana for individuals suffering from PTSD," said David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Maine lawmakers should be commended for taking action to ensure veterans and others living with PTSD are able to use medical marijuana to alleviate their symptoms and live healthy and productive lives. They deserve nothing less.

"A growing number of states are beginning to consider allowing the use of medical marijuana in the treatment of PTSD," Boyer said. We hope they will move forward and follow the example that has been set by Maine and other states."

Maine: Marijuana Initiative Backers To Educate Voters At Portland Beer Festival


The Marijuana Policy Project ­– which drew national attention with a pre-beer festival billboard in Portland, Oregon earlier this year – will distribute flyers in Portland, Maine, featuring a young woman explaining why she prefers to use marijuana instead of alcohol

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which is backing the local ballot initiative to make marijuana legal for adults, will use a large beer festival being held in Portland, Maine this weekend as an opportunity to educate voters about the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol.

In March, the organization drew national attention when it posted a billboard with the same message in Portland, Oregon just prior to a large beer and wine festival.

MPP staff and volunteers will distribute flyers near festival events that detail how marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to consumers and to the community. They feature a woman explaining why she prefers to use marijuana instead of alcohol, and asking, "Does that make me a bad person?"

"We want to make this weekend's beer festival just as educational as it is enjoyable," said David Boyer, Maine political director for MPP. "The goal is to get people thinking about the fact that marijuana is an objectively less harmful substance than the one that is being celebrated throughout the city this weekend.

Maine: Senate Refuses To Let Voters Decide On Marijuana Legalization


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Maine Senate on Monday blocked a chance for the state's voters to decide for themselves at the ballot box whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

The Senate voted 24-10 Monday morning against sending the question to November's ballot, reports Christopher Cousins at the Bangor Daily News. That followed a Friday vote in the House of Representatives where the measure, LD 1229, sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland), fell four votes short of passage.

LD 1229 would have created a system of regulating and taxing marijuana. After a majority of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee opposed that plan, lawmakers voting with the minority moved forward with an amendment calling for a voter referendum, giving them a chance to decide, on a straight up-or-down question, whether Maine should craft rules to allow the legal, recreational use of cannabis. That was the question being debated on Monday in the Senate.

Some senators argued that the Maine Legislature should act before the issue is forced upon them by a voter initiative, but others seemed mostly concerned with not having their votes recorded as "supporting marijuana legalization."

Maine: Ballot Initiative To Legalize Marijuana In Portland One Step Closer


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A measure to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults in Portland, Maine, is likely to be on the ballot this fall.

A coalition led by the Portland Green Party on Thursday morning handed in petitions with more than 3,200 signatures to city officials, the first step in getting the proposal on the November ballot, reports the Portland Press Herald. The city requires 1,500 valid signatures for citizen initiatives to qualify for the ballot.

The proposal would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, while prohibiting its use in public spaces such as parks, schools, and sidewalks.

The law is vague on how adults could actually get marijuana, but according to Tom MacMillan, chair of the Portland Green Independent Committee, it's "likely" to be available through existing medicinal cannabis dispensaries (which we don't see as likely at all, unless and until the law changes on a statewide level). Distribution would be left up to the Portland City Council if the ordinance passes, MacMillan said.

Legalizing pot could lead to less use by young people, because it could eliminate the black market and make buying cannabis subject to the same type of age checks as alcohol purchases, MacMillan said.

Maine: Residents Push For New Laws To Expand Medical Marijuana

(Graphic: Medical Marijuana Blog)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana patients, growers and dispensary operators are pushing for new laws that would expand the number of patients who are authorized to legally use cannabis.

Between 13,000 and 15,000 Mainers are currently medical marijuana patients, reports Amy Sinclair at NECN. Ten thousand of those buy from the state's eight licensed dispensaries; the rest get their marijuana from private growers, known as "caregivers."

Lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Committee are considering six bills that would allow for more dispensaries, expand the list of qualifying conditions, and increase the number of plants caregivers are allowed to grow.

"I think the question is how can we get more medicine to patients from the dispensary system we currently have," said Tim Smale, executive director at the Remedy Compassion Center in Auburn, Maine.

Atop the wish list is a new law that would expand the list of qualifying conditions for which doctors may authorized the medicinal use of cannabis. Advocates want to expand the list to include post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), opiate addiction and other medical conditions as determined by doctors.

Maine: Lawmakers To Hold First Hearing On Bill To Legalize Marijuana

(Graphic: Medical Marijuana Blog)Group of legislators will join local advocates to discuss the measure at a pre-hearing news conference in the State House Welcome Center Friday

Bipartisan group of 35 legislators co-sponsoring bill to establish a legal market for businesses to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Maine Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety will hold a hearing Friday at 10 a.m. ET Friday, May 3, on a bill that would make possession of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.

"A majority of Americans are ready to move beyond marijuana prohibition, and this bill presents our legislature with a golden opportunity to take the initiative to develop a sensible new approach," said David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "I hope members of the legislature will keep in mind our state motto, 'Dirigio' or 'I lead,' when hearing testimony and casting their votes on this bill.

"Marijuana is objectively far less harmful than alcohol for the consumer and for society," Boyer said. "People are fed up with laws that punish adults for making the safer choice."

Maine: Marijuana Dispensary Workers Protest Working Conditions

(Photo: Steve Elliott
Hemp News

About 25 protesters showed up in Portland, Maine, on Saturday to decry working conditions at Wellness Connection of Maine, the state's largest medical marijuana dispensary group.

The protesters said Wellness Connection is ignoring their complaints about working conditions and their attempts to unionize, reports Beth Quimby at the Portland Press Herald. Saturday's protest in Portland followed a similar event Friday in Hallowell.

The protest, which lasted about an hour, included handing out leaflets to passers-by. It followed months of controversy centered around the dispensary chain.

Wellness Connection, a nonprofit the operates dispensaries in Portland, Brewer, Thomaston and Hallowell, serves about 2,400 patients and has about 40 employees.

In February, the workers had staged a brief walkout. The Maine Department of Health and Human Resources conducted an investigation last month, finding 20 violations of state law and policy, including Wellness Connection's use of pesticides on its cannabis plants.

The state reached a consensus agreement with Wellness Connection after the organization signed on to submit weekly status reports and allow frequent inspections.

Maine: Medical Marijuana Lobbyist Wins Dinner With Governor

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A political lobbyist for a medical marijuana trade group in Maine will be dining with Governor Paul LePage after making the winning bid at a benefit auction for a dinner for four with the governor.

Paul McCarrier, a lobbyist for Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, bid $1,000 at a Thursday auction to benefit the Legislative Memorial Scholarship Fund, report Steve Mistler and Michael Shepherd at the Portland Press Herald.

McCarrier told the Press Herald he wouldn't be lobbying Gov. LePage. He said he made the bid on behalf of a MMC group member who supports the governor and has been asking to get him a meeting with LePage.

The winning bid came in after others, including Democratic lawmakers, drove the bidding up to $875. When McCarrier bid $1,000, nobody made a counter bid.

"We were tempted to keep going," said Ericka Dodge, spokeswoman for the Senate Democrats," but we figured the marijuana folks deserved it."

"That's a whole scholarship," said Rep. Stacey Guerin (R-Glenblum), who ran the auction. Guerin said McCarrier "made quite a name for himself."

(Illustration: The Weed Blog)

Maine: Concerns Raised About Pesticides On Medical Marijuana

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Maine Department of Health on Monday said its investigation of Wellness Connection of Maine, the operator of four of the state's eight medical marijuana dispensaries, had revealed 20 violations of state law and program rules, including pesticide use and security breaches.

But on Tuesday, the Portland Press Herald, the same newspaper which had run the headline "State: Marijuana supplier used pesticides, violated rules" ran another story by the same reporter, Michael Shepherd, headlined "Dangers of pesticides on cannabis pretty hazy."

It seems five of the nine pesticides that state officials say were used by the medical marijuana dispensary group contain active ingredients that are safe for many uses and are federally approved for tobacco, according to Maine's official pesticide toxicologist.

However, the state still says it can't vouch for the pesticides' safety on marijuana, because not much is known about the chemicals' interaction with cannabis when smoked.

Regulators don't set standards for pesticide use on marijuana, because it is illegal under federal law; that's why Maine prohibits all pesticides in its medical marijuana program.

Congresswoman Co-Sponsors Bill To End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

There is a truth that must be heard!Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) Co-sponsors Congressional Bill to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

Bill would allow states to set marijuana policies without federal interference

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-District 1) this week joined the effort to end marijuana prohibition and start regulating marijuana like alcohol at the federal level. Rep. Pingree, as well as Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), signed on to co-sponsor H.R. 499, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013, on Monday, joining a bipartisan group of supporters in the House. There are currently 14 co-sponsors of the bill.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) on February 5 introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013, which would remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol at the federal level. It would also remove marijuana from the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and place it in the jurisdiction of a renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, Firearms, and Explosives.

Maine: Drive Launched To Legalize Marijuana In Portland

Photo - Maine: Drive Launched To Legalize Marijuana In PortlandSupporters to highlight the fact that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol, and it is illogical to punish adults for using the safer alternative

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marijuana policy reform advocates will hold a press conference on Thursday, March 21, to announce the start of a citywide signature drive to make marijuana possession legal for adults within the city limits of Portland, Maine.

The petition, filed earlier this month by the Portland Green Party, would make possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana legal under city ordinance. The Portland Green Party will also be coordinating the signature drive for the initiative.

Advocates will announce the details of the petition and highlight the fact that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol, and it is therefore illogical to punish adults for using the safer alternative.

Scheduled to speak at the event are Portland City Councilor Dave Marshall, Zachary Heiden of the ACLU of Maine, Tom MacMillan of the Portland Green Party, and David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

WHAT: News conference to announce kick-off of citywide signature drive to make marijuana possession legal

WHEN: Thursday, March 21, 10 a.m. EST

WHERE: Portland City Hall, State of Maine Room (2nd Floor), 389 Congress St.

WHO: Tom MacMillan, Portland Green Party Chair

Maine: Municipal Marijuana Legalization Measure Circulating In Portland

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More than a decade ago, Maine set a precedent for the acceptance of marijuana use, when in 1999, state voters decided to exercise their right to approve medicinal cannabis; there have been no serious federal repercussions.

Overall legalization is inevitably coming to Maine. Citizens favor the idea statewide, but support is especially strong in Portland, where more than 70 percent of voters have twice in the past 14 years supported contradicting federal law regarding marijuana, reports Tom MacMillan at The Portland Daily Sun.

An ordinance being circulated by the Portland Green Independent Committee, chaired by MacMillan, is designed to protect otherwise law-abiding citizens of the city from police action, and free the Portland Police Department from enforcing an unjust law, allowing them to focus all their efforts on actually protecting and serving the community.

"The Portland Green Independent Committee has taken up this issue because of the lack of action on the state and federal level," MacMillan said. "Passing this ordinance here in Portland will be an historic step forward for marijuana legalization efforts both in Maine and nationwide."

Maine: For wounded veteran, medical marijuana's been a godsend

'My mood’s stable now,' says Ryan Begin of Jackman, who fought in Iraq

By Michael Shepherd, Maine Today

There is a truth that must be heard! AUGUSTA -- Ryan Begin was checking a report of an improvised explosive device in Iskandariya, Iraq, on Aug. 1, 2004.

Then the U.S. Marine Corps corporal saw one. It detonated, blowing apart his right arm.

More than 30 surgeries later, Begin said he has regained some use of his arm. But the psychological damage has taken a harsher toll, including drug addiction and violence.

Begin told doctors in federal health centers high-grade medical marijuana was his only hope for tamping down the innumerable nightmares, flashbacks and fears that followed him from the battlefield.

"My mood's stable now -- no peaks and valleys, just stable ups and downs," he said.

His mother, Anna -- "a little bit apprehensive" about medical marijuana at first -- is a believer.

"When he started the marijuana, it was like having my son back," she said.

Doctors in the federal veterans' health care system aren't as convinced. The substance remains illegal under federal law, and guidelines for federal health centers don't support medical marijuana.

That ended Begin's relationship with the federal health system.

Battle scars

Today, Begin is unemployed, and one of 1,807 patients registered with the state to use marijuana medicinally.

United States: States Leading Way on Industrial Hemp

by sfnoggin, Daily Kos

There is a truth that must be heard! Last week, Maine's Senate passed LD 1159 on a vote of 25-10. The bill would establish a licensing regime for farming industrial hemp. The State of Oregon is also on the verge of passing industrial hemp legislation. If the bills succeed, these states would join fifteen others that have passed hemp bills.

There's no doubt, it's our federalist system that is enabling this long stigmatized agricultural crop to rise from the ashes.

Follow me over the bump.

As many of you know, since 1937, this highly versatile crop (uses include food, fuel, building material, textile, and energy to name a few) has been linked - via the Marijuana Tax Act - to the recreational and medicinal strains of the same species: Cannabis sativa L. But make no mistake, they are genetically distinct and nothing like the other.

The battle has been long. The last legal hemp crop grown in the U.S. was harvested 50 years ago. In 1970, with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act, farming hemp in the U.S. was effectively outlawed. And since then, the courts have offered no relief claiming only Congress can change the status quo.

Nonetheless, with the hemp renaissance's onset in the 80s - and the 90s when states began introducing hemp legislation - grassroots efforts have led to a growing hemp ground swell headed straight towards D.C.

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