Archive for October, 2013

Short Relief: Straighten up, Portland

October 31st, 2013

Marijuana has enjoyed a bit of a roller-coaster ride in the United States.

Halsey Frank

Halsey Frank
Halsey Frank is a Portland resident, attorney and former chairman of the Republican City Committee.

Early-on, the government encouraged the production of hemp for industrial purposes. Then, cannabis became an ingredient in patent medicines. In the early 1900s, labeling laws required that its presence be disclosed. Mexican immigrants reportedly introduced Americans to the recreational use of marijuana when they came to the U.S. after the Mexican Revolution.

Recreational use eventually provoked a backlash. In 1932, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics developed the Uniform State Narcotic Act and urged states to adopt it. In 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, which effectively criminalized marijuana. In the 1950s, Congress started setting mandatory sentences, which it repealed in the 1970s, and reimposed in the 1980s. In 1996, California voters approved the medical use of marijuana.

These days, it seems that public opinion increasingly favors legalization. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized the medical use of marijuana. Colorado and Washington states have gone further and legalized recreational use. In a recent Gallup poll, 58 percent of about 1,000 Americans surveyed favored legalization. The New York Times reports that after 17 years of experience with medical marijuana, California has not experienced the adverse effects that opponents predicted.

On Nov. 5, Portland residents will be asked to approve an ordinance that would legalize the possession

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Corporate Interests in Maine Sink 2014 Marijuana Legalization Effort

October 31st, 2013

Maine: Portland May Legalize Marijuana Possession Next Week

PORTLAND, ME — Next Tuesday, November 5th, voters in Portland, Maine will decide whether…

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Maine Medicaid expansion among 100 bills on table next session

October 31st, 2013

Posted: 5:20 PM
Updated: 12:02 AM

Maine Medicaid expansion among 100 bills on table next session

By Steve Mistler
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — The Legislature will take up at least 100 new bills in its next session, including proposals to expand Medicaid insurance for low-income Mainers, overhaul the troubled MaineCare rides program, lengthen the penalty period for a prior drunken-driving conviction and lift bans on select pesticides in medical marijuana cultivation.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer:
The flower of a variety of marijuana plant that Ron Fousek calls Train Wreck. Fousek started growing medical marijuana about a year ago. He now serves five patients and works about 30 hours per week cultivating the marijuana. Photographed on Monday, January 31, 2011.

Bill Highlights for 2nd session

Sen. President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, has a bill that would change how the state distributes federal anti-poverty education funds to local schools.

House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, has a bill that would expand MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid health insurance program, to over 60,000 low-income Mainers through the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, is proposing pilot program that could allow Maine college students to borrow interest-free tuition money from a state fund, then pay back the fund over the next 24 years by giving a pre-determined percentage of their work wages.

Rep. Michael Devin, D-Newcastle, has a remake of Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal earlier this year mandating school boards to adopt policies that allow military

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Maine to reconsider expanding Medicaid for low-income residents

October 30th, 2013

Posted: 5:20 PM
Updated: 5:33 PM

Maine to reconsider expanding Medicaid for low-income residents

That’s one of at least 100 new bills the Legislature will take up next session.

By Steve Mistler
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA – The Legislature will take up at least 100 new bills next session, including a proposal to expand Medicaid insurance for low-income Mainers, an overhaul of a troubled MaineCare rides program, lengthening the penalty period for a prior OUI conviction and lifting bans on select pesticides in medical marijuana cultivation.

Lawmakers will also consider a bill by House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, that beefs up a rent and property-tax credit program adopted in June that was criticized for providing significantly less relief to low- and middle-income residents than the program it replaced.

In addition, Senate President Justin Alfond will have the opportunity to advance a bill that would change how the state distributes federal anti-poverty education funds to local schools.

The list, approved Wednesday by the Legislative Council, is expected to grow as lawmakers whose proposals were rejected appeal those decisions in November. Gov. Paul LePage and state agencies can also submit bills during the session that begins Jan. 7. The governor’s authority to introduce bills virtually at will likely means new life for Republican proposals rejected by the Democratic majority, including a pair of welfare reform bills sponsored by the House minority leader, Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport.

The council, comprised of the 10 members of legislative leadership, plowed through nearly

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Former Rep. Barney Frank to speak at Maine housing conference

October 29th, 2013

Updated: 9:46 AM

Former Rep. Barney Frank to speak at Maine housing conference

Organizations that work on homelessness will gather to talk about ways to reduce the problem.

By J. Craig Anderson
Staff Writer

Organizations dedicated to reducing homelessness in Maine will have to change the way they operate in an era of dwindling state and federal assistance.

Tim Greenway/Staff photographer— U.S. Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) adresses the crowd during the Maine Medical Marijuana Expo at Fireside Inn and Suites in Portland on February 26, 2011.

That’s the theme of an upcoming conference in Portland on the subject of affordable housing and homelessness, according to its organizers and scheduled speakers.

Speakers at the 2013 Maine Affordable Housing Conference, to be held Wednesday at Holiday Inn by the Bay, will include Maine resident and former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., Barbara Poppe, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness in Washington, D.C., and University of Southern Maine economist Charles Colgan.

Conference workshops will cover topics, including “New approaches and innovations in addressing homelessness in Maine,” “Building partnerships to end homelessness among veterans” and “Fair housing in an ever-changing world.”

Unless the U.S. House of Representatives shifts to Democratic control in 2014, federal assistance will continue to decline rapidly for affordable housing and other initiatives to reduce homelessness, said Frank, one of the event’s two keynote speakers, during a

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Upcoming Maine vote could serve as indicator of whether East Coast is ready to …

October 29th, 2013

The Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that supports legalization, says it targeted Portland because it’s Maine’s largest city and because, unlike many other states and cities, it has an initiative process to get the referendum on the ballot. Organizers hope passage of the Portland initiative could spur similar results in other liberal Northeast cities.

“I think there’s national implications, keeping the momentum that Washington and Colorado started last November in ending marijuana prohibition,” said David Boyer, the organization’s political director in Maine. “This is just the next domino.”

There’s no organized opposition to the referendum, but law enforcement and substance abuse groups are speaking out against it.

In reality, the vote in Portland won’t change anything because people aren’t being targeted by police for possession, said Kevin Sabet, director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a national alliance that opposes legalization and imprisoning people for marijuana possession.

Legalizing pot sends a message to youths that using marijuana is no big deal, when really it carries health risks including an increased heart rate, respiratory problems and memory problems, Sabet said. The Portland referendum is simply a first step toward establishing a marijuana industry, he said.

“People with small amounts of marijuana are not being locked up in jail,” he said. “This is really about a much bigger issue, which is moving toward the retail sales model where we really would be introducing our new version of Big Tobacco in Maine.”

If the ballot measure passes, it will be largely symbolic because it won’t override

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Dropped EBT card leads police to suspected pot thief in Warren

October 28th, 2013

WARREN, Maine — A 38-year-old Warren man remains at the Knox County Jail after being accused of breaking into a local home and stealing $6,000 worth of medical marijuana.

Police say the suspect was caught, in part, because he dropped an Electronic Benefits Transfer card at the burglarized home. The card allows welfare recipients to buy groceries and other necessities.

Douglas H. Robinson was arrested on Oct. 24 and charged by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office with burglary, stealing drugs and violating a protective order.

An affidavit filed by the sheriff’s office with Rockland District Court states that Warren homeowner contacted police when he realized that his house had been entered and medical marijuana was stolen. The homeowner found Robinson’s EBT card on his porch and that led police to Robinson, who admitted to breaking into the home and taking the marijuana, according to the affidavit. According to police, Robinson used the card to jimmy the latch on a door to get into the home.

The marijuana plants had a value of $6,000, according to the affidavit.

Robinson also was charged with violation a protective order because he was found at a Main Street residence in Warren with a woman he was barred from contacting.

He was taken to the county jail in Rockland.

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Editorial: No on pot, WPO; yes on streets, schools, public works, waterfront …

October 28th, 2013

From pot in Portland, tar sands in South Portland, and waterfront access in Harpswell, to school renovations in Freeport and Bath, voters in several cities and towns we cover face important local ballot questions on Nov. 5.

Here is where the owners and publisher of The Forecaster stand on these community issues.

South Portland

Voters in South Portland must make two significant decisions, one with national and international implications, the other with implications for the services provided by city government.

We support one proposal, but oppose the other.

In the short time since it was conceived, the Waterfront Protection Ordinance has divided the city, and indeed much of greater Portland, into two equally zealous camps: proponents, who hope to keep Canadian tar sands oil from being piped through South Portland on its way to overseas export markets, and opponents, who claim the ordinance heralds an ice age for waterfront businesses and workers whose livelihoods depend on the movement of petroleum products from ship to shore.

We believe the oil industry has overstated the potential negative impact of the WPO. But we also believe the proposed ordinance could have been written in a way that more tightly defines what it will do, without the need for after-the-fact interpretation by lawyers, judges or city officials.

We also believe tar sands oil is an unhealthy and dangerous product that requires more oversight and precaution than either the oil industry or its federal regulators have demonstrated they are capable of providing (just ask the folks in Mayflower, Ark., and along the

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Post-traumatic stress disorder sufferers qualify for medical marijuana

October 26th, 2013

October 12

Post-traumatic stress disorder sufferers qualify for medical marijuana

The new law, which went into effect Wednesday, is expected to bring many new patients into Maine’s medical marijuana program.

By Alanna Durkin
Associated Press

AUGUSTA – A new state law allowing veterans and others suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to be prescribed medical marijuana will help them live a normal life, advocates and veterans say.

Under the law that went into effect Wednesday, PTSD joins cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis C and others on the list of conditions patients must have to qualify for medical marijuana use in Maine.

Hundreds of Maine veterans already use marijuana to treat PTSD, but they weren’t previously able to get it from their doctors, said Paul McCarrier, legislative liaison for the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine.

“This unties the hands of doctors to allow them to treat their patients,” he said.

Retired Marine Corps Sgt. Ryan Begin is one of those veterans already using the drug. Begin lost 4 inches of his right arm, including his elbow, from an IED explosion during his second tour in Iraq in 2004. He started using medical marijuana to deal with the pain, but it has also helped manage his PTSD, which caused flashbacks and nightmares, he said.

“It balances me,” the 33-year-old Belfast resident said. “Instead of being on a roller coaster … you’re more even keeled. … You don’t get too far up, and you don’t get too far down.”

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Teen faces charges after Jeep strikes utility pole in Corinth; passenger taken …

October 25th, 2013

CORINTH, Maine — A teenage boy is facing multiple charges, and a 16-year-old girl was brought to the hospital Friday after a Jeep struck a utility pole, according to state police.

The driver, a 17-year-old boy, lost control of his vehicle containing three passengers at around 11:30 a.m. on the West Corinth road. Trooper Chris Cookson would not identify the driver because of his age.

One of the passengers, Cheyanne Andrews, was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor with injuries not considered to be life threatening, Cookson said.

The trooper said the Jeep was traveling at a high rate of speed in the southbound lane on Route 15 and lost control shortly after making the right turn onto West Corinth Road.

The driver was wearing his seatbelt, but the passengers were not. They included a 17-year-old boy, 18-year-old Nicholas Ferro and Andrews, who was the only one brought to the hospital. Cookson said the driver had a restricted license, meaning he could not carry passengers who were not family members.

The accident draped power lines across the road and knocked out electricity to more than 1,700 Bangor Hydro customers in the area, the company said earlier Friday. No update on electricity restoration was available.

The driver is facing multiple charges, including three seatbelt violations for the unbuckled passengers, an expired inspection sticker, carrying passengers beyond intermediate restriction, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving to endanger and possession of tobacco by a juvenile, Cookson explained.

Corinth and Hudson firefighters assisted

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