Healthy Lincoln County

SUPP hosts marijuana meeting

Substance Use Prevention Partnership Coalition examines marijuana initiative
Posted:  Thursday, June 23, 2016 - 7:30am

The Healthy Lincoln County Substance Use Prevention Partnership held a meeting Tuesday, June 21, to examine the proposed initiative legalizing marijuana in Maine that will appear on November’s ballot. Unlike medical marijuana, which is already legal in certain circumstances, the proposed initiative, titled “Marijuana Legalization Act” will remove all penalties for the use of marijuana for personal recreational purposes, permitting adults, aged 21 or older to possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana, or to grow up to six flowering plants, 12 juvenile plants, and unlimited seedlings for home cultivation.

The initiative would also allow retail cultivation facilities and social clubs where adults could purchase marijuana.

The initiative would place a sales tax of 10 percent on retail marijuana and marijuana products.

Kate Marone of Healthy Lincoln County said there are not enough safeguards in the program to prevent marijuana from being purchased or obtained by younger users.

“There are 135 facilities in Lincoln County that provide alcohol on or off premises,” she pointed out. A recent operation showed that many of those were selling to minors by not asking for IDs, or were tricked by fake out-of-state identifications because they didn’t have a good idea of what a driving license from another state looked like. “The same could happen with marijuana, easily,” she said.

Most of the group was under no illusion that minors are finding it difficult to get marijuana, even though it is illegal now. Most high school students know who to buy from, even if they don’t purchase it themselves, school administrators say.

However, the legislation allows retailers to have had some trouble with the law. Heroin and meth dealers, as well as marijuana dealers, who had been convicted of up to a Class C felony, are eligible to become retail marijuana dealers under the proposed initiative.

Programs that had been designed to divert students from the juvenile justice system in favor of substance abuse classes were not being used in Lincoln County, in part because the closest program is in Brunswick, but also because the cost of the infraction for marijuana use for a first-time offender is very low, about $350, and parents are choosing to pay the fine rather than commit to a three-day program in which they have to take part.

However, a similar program, for all high school audiences, whether they have ever used substances or not, is also available and could be presented as an after-school or weekend program. Target audiences might include student athletes, prior to the beginning of sport seasons. A program for younger students, called the Life Skills Curriculum, is being considered for a couple of target schools. Both the Life Skills curriculum for middle school students and the Prime for Life program for high school students have been tested and have some scientific accuracy.

Changing the minds and thinking of people who currently see little wrong with marijuana use, however, will be a bigger challenge, according to participants in the meeting. A parent survey on teen substance abuse in Lincoln County from May 2015 demonstrated that one of the main reasons parents didn’t want their teens using marijuana was that they might get in legal trouble. The survey results indicated that with the potential removal of that concern, it is likely that parental concerns will revert to the level of concern of teen use of alcohol. In the same survey, 14 percent of parents said it is OK for their teens to drink alcohol, and 20 percent said there are no clear consequences for a teen using drugs or alcohol in their homes.

SUPP will not meet in July, but will hold a meeting on August 4 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Waldoboro Town Office.