National group prepares for Maine “battleground” in fight over legalizing use …

November 8th, 2013 by admin Leave a reply »

LEWISTON, Maine — Anticipating a showdown in 2016, a national group called Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) launched a Maine chapter Wednesday with a local advocate at the helm.

Scott Gagnon, state coordinator for SAM Maine, described the group as having a nuanced approach to marijuana use; it’s against both legalization and heavy enforcement.

“We can’t arrest our way out of the problem,” said Gagnon, a substance-abuse prevention manager for Healthy Androscoggin.

He said the all-volunteer state chapter has been in the works for more than a year. The timing of its launch wasn’t by chance, coming the day after Portland voters widely passed a measure decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

The group behind that effort, the Marijuana Policy Project, plans to organize a statewide referendum in 2016 to legalize the drug for recreational use if the Legislature doesn’t legalize it first.

Gagnon thinks that would be a mistake.

“We’re looking at building up our people power,” he said. “The other side of the conversation is a lot more well-funded.”

New Hampshire, Vermont and Colorado have Project SAM chapters. He hopes to sign on doctors, businesses and civic leaders to the campaign.

“Maine looks to be one of the next battlegrounds,” Gagnon said.

According to Project SAM, which has former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy as a national chairman, its goals include:

— Preventing “Big Marijuana,” which it likens to a version of Big Tobacco in marketing to children.

— Promoting research for medical marijuana uses that don’t involve smoking or psychoactive side effects.

“Legalization has its

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