A new industry is being born right before our very eyes. We at Legalize Maine like to compare it to a brand new pie being baked in the oven. The aroma is spreading from main street to wall street, and it smells really good.
The big beautiful pie is about to come out of the oven and will be ready to cut into slices. It looks to us like the big money interests and people who are connected politically want to take the whole pie for themselves. All we want is for the small to medium farmer to have a fair slice of the pie.
Over the past 5 years, we at Legalize Maine have been paying close attention to what has been happening in the marijuana industry across the country. We are pleased to see that the general public has finally become aware of the propaganda and misinformation that has been spread since the late 1930’s.
Citizens across the country do not want people who produce and consume marijuana to be considered criminals. They believe the war on drugs has been a monumental waste of tax dollars that simultaneously ruins millions of innocent lives.
The legalization of medical marijuana in 24 states with an additional nine states pending has been the impetus for the change in public opinion. This change in public perception has resulted in four states legalizing marijuana for recreational use, with numerous states putting the question on the ballot for 2016.
The trend is clear, more and more states will be legalizing marijuana in the years ahead. What we are seeing is a brand new industry being born before our eyes. Our concern is what will this new industry look like? Will it benefit the many or just a few?
If you look at the history of medical marijuana in Colorado and Washington, you will see that medicine was produced almost exclusively by small artisan farmers. These cultivators were generally spread out across the state and provided jobs and economic benefits to areas that needed it the most. This was one of the only growth industries where a person of average means could build a profitable business.
Then came legalization, and along with it promises to keep the small artisan farmers in business. That clearly has not happened, as overly cautious regulators have created rules, regulations and fees that require an industrial sized operation just to break even.
Maine currently has what is considered the best medical marijuana program in America. That did not happen by accident, it was due to the hard work of people like Paul McCarrier and Hillary Lister along with hundreds of other concerned Maine citizens. After the 2009 citizens initiative, the proposed government implementation did not look at all like what the citizens voted for.
By working closely with our elected representatives, we were able to keep the program focused on the needs of the patient. That has resulted in a system where privacy rights are respected, the list of qualifying conditions are being expanded and access to medicine can be had through a limited number of dispensaries and a wide network of artisan farmers (caregivers).
The caregiver program in Maine has been very successful, and has been one of the few segments of our economy that is providing new jobs and economic development for hard hit rural areas. When we look at legalization in Colorado, Washington and proposed legislation in other states we see the destruction of the small artisan farmer.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) based in Washington D C, has been instrumental in writing language and funding the legalization efforts in Colorado and other states all across the country. While they mean well in their efforts for criminal justice reform, their track record is clear. Wherever they go, the small artisan farmer is extinct, replaced by multi-million dollar facilities.
We at Legalize Maine realized several years ago that if we hoped to save the small artisan farmer in Maine we would need to be pro-active. MPP has been active in Maine for several years and has made it clear they planned to put a citizens initiative on the ballot in 2016. Based upon what we were seeing around the country we knew that the small artisan farmer, jobs and rural economic development would be dead here in Maine if we did nothing.
We have worked diligently, putting in thousands of man hours over the last few years educating our elected representatives and the public about the economic benefits of legalizing marijuana. We have warned them that doing it in the wrong way will cause the destruction of the current thriving small artisan farmer. To be replaced by a few giant operations providing minimum wage jobs, while the profits will leave the state.
We have spent a lot of time listening to the opinions of all the stake holders in the marijuana sector. That includes law enforcement, government officials, patients, dispensaries, caregivers, and local business leaders to name a few. We also had serious negotiations with MPP over the language. To their credit, they agreed to many proposed changes. In the end we had irreconcilable differences.
We took all of that input and began to draft language last year for what has turned out to be “An Act to Legalize Marijuana”. This act was designed to recognize and support the small artisan farmer in Maine. We submitted to the Secretary of State on February 11, 2015 and received final approval to appear on the ballot on April 28th.
This is the first ballot initiative to legalize marijuana that has been drafted and paid for entirely with local support. Every other state initiative has been funded almost entirely by national organizations with very little funding coming from local people. If you look it up for yourself you will be amazed at where the money is coming from.
We have an experienced organizer, attorney Lynne Williams to direct our signature gathering efforts. Our coordinators cover the entire state and trained volunteers will begin collecting signatures the first week of May.
Unfortunately, we have one more battle to fight besides the general election in 2016. Even though a fair and well thought out initiative had already been submitted, MPP decided to place their own initiative on the ballot for 2016. They have been unable to give a satisfactory reason why, perhaps because they are afraid of the truth.
Our battle goes well beyond the legalization of marijuana. For the past four decades we have watched middle class and working class jobs shipped away from our cities and towns to third world countries. We have seen a drastic increase in rules and regulations that seem to benefit only the largest companies that seek to create virtual monopolies.
Finally, a new industry is being created that is currently benefiting the small Maine farmer. That industry is set to expand and bring with it significant profits. We will fight to make sure the small and medium sized business is allowed to participate.