2018-01-12 / Letters

List of questions for MLI Committee to ponder

Dear Sen. Katz and Rep. Pierce, It is my understanding that you will be reconvening the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee in early January 2018. As a Maine voter, I have a number of questions about your committee’s objectives:

1.) Who gave the work order for the committee to reconvene in January for more work on the original vetoed bill? The governor? The Legislature? The Maine attorney general? The marijuana industry? The committee itself?

2.) Will your committee be addressing point-by-point the issues noted in the governor’s veto message about your earlier bill. In his veto, the governor’s topic headings provide detailed reasons behind his veto. The governor’s issues need to be addressed by the committee in any new work, or, if ignored, they offer an almost certain rationale for yet another veto. The US department of justice continues to uphold the federal illegality of marijuana. Failure of the MLI Committee to address this issue in its original bill was at the top of the governor’s list of reasons for why he vetoed your original bill.

3.) US Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions has very recently and very publicly stated that “marijuana is still illegal” and that the department of justice is currently working on the task of law enforcement. The US surgeon general has also recently made a similar statement about marijuana being illegal and having no officially recognized medical use.

For reasons of public hazard, the surgeon general oppose recreational marijuana. Will these statements by two of the top federal officials and by our governor in his veto be the starting point for the MLI Committee’s proposed new agenda?

Marijuana’s continuing illegality is an unavoidably central and dominant theme in all of this.

It makes one ask directly, wasn’t the November 2016 citizens’ initiative that legalized marijuana itself an illegal public call on Maine citizens to violate federal law? Isn’t the MLI Committee also in danger of violating federal law by proposing a new state law that violates federal law?

It would seem essential that you first address these very important federal and state legal issues before you plunge into management and regulation?

4.) Will your committee be seeking direct advice and consultation from these two key federal officials, the attorney general and the surgeon general? I was informed by my senator, who sits on the committee, that without asking him, you already had a pretty good sense of Sessions’ position. But guesswork about Sessions’ approach to federal marijuana law – for the purposes of crafting a well-grounded law for Maine – seems an inadequate approach for creating a law.

A mistaken guess by a legislative committee could have crippling consequences for a bill/law. Doesn’t Maine need to follow federal marijuana law, as interpreted by a new federal administration?

Without such guidance the committee might be in danger of creating a bill that would be an act of rebellion by the state Maine against federal law.

5.) At the grass-roots level we have heard about various options for the legislature to deal with the recently vetoed marijuana bill:

• A moratorium of sufficient length to allow for thoughtful planning for a safe, well-crafted bill.

• A brand new bill starting from scratch.

• A patchwork bill that would tweak your original bill. Can you clarify the goals and directions for the reconvened committee and for the public?

Many of us would opt for a well-designed moratorium that would be used to obtain federal guidance, and subsequently to reflect on a new bill incorporating fed-state legality considerations, public safety, enforcement (with teeth), preventing medical marijuana from spilling over its boundaries, administrative feasibility, taxation and systematic input from grass-roots families, public health officials and educators.

Key public health questions, which might receive excellent support from the surgeon general are how to identify and control the risks of harm from recreational marijuana? Which sub-populations in Maine are at greatest risk? How is risk distributed demographically? How is risk distributed geographically? What kinds of services are necessary to identify problems, limit their spread, intervene in active problem cases and provided physical and medical rehabilitation? In brief, any bill/law must give consideration to primary, secondary and tertiary prevention services.

6.) Please, take adequate time to do your legislative work. Be not afraid of the black markets. Black markets will be with us long after a law is passed, undercutting market price and avoiding taxes.

Don’t let this boogie man frighten the committee into crafting a quick bill for Maine on a topic that needs federal consultations on the law and subsequent planning for the ages for Maine.

Your response is earnestly sought by those with a special interest in the safety and health of Maine families and children. Please, also incorporate this letter and responses to it, as testimony, in your committees’ work.

Jerry Collins

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