It is understandable to be ambivalent about legalizing marijuana. Ambivalence about executing and upholding the law, however, is not. This is the scenario Maine lawmakers face this year.

Several years ago, a citizen-initiated petition that allowed marijuana to be administered for medical purposes was approved in Maine. Since then, the statute has languished on the books as a popular concept, yet one without any accompanying legislation to actually implement it.

This could now change. Legislators will hear LD 975 today, another citizen-initiated effort to round out Maine’s medical marijuana law with some implementation, most notable among them the creation of dispensaries to provide marijuana to registered patients with legitimate medical needs.

The bill is sure to cause controversy among those concerned about the social ills of marijuana, with just cause. Increased access to anything will cause its increased use. Establishing a marijuana dispensary will cause more people to smoke marijuana; in fact, that is the overall point of the bill.

Yet this important social sentiment is wound around a fundamental obligation to respect the law, and respect the will of the people. A vast amount of Mainers, first through the ballot-box and then with petition signatures, have expressed their support for legitimizing the medical use of marijuana.

This the backdrop to today’s public hearing. Lawmakers will certainly hear about the problems with marijuana, and recent trends of decriminalization, through reductions in criminal penalties or the raising of quantity thresholds for illicit possession.


These issues are largely secondary, though. While the bill before them is a referendum, it is not a referendum on marijuana. It is, however, a question of influence for citizen-initiated petitions. If lawmakers can weaken such measures simply through inaction, how potent a tool are they?

Since Maine has a medical marijuana law enacted by its citizenry, it is arguable to say legislators are then obligated to provide the infrastructure to implement it. They haven’t agreed with this contention, which is why another citizen-initiative is on their doorstep. So this question is forced:

When the citizens speak, how does the Legislature listen? How LD 975 wends its way through the State House will provide an interesting answer.

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