Someone once asked me about Mainers’ stubborn streak. Let’s face it, sometimes we dig in our heels when people from away come around with their fancy ideas that sound like snake oil sales pitches. I replied that it’s easy to see that stubbornness as a negative, but it’s important to put it into context.
That stubbornness fuels that legendary Yankee ingenuity that enables Mainers to solve just about any problem even if they don’t have exactly what they need to do so. That stubbornness fuels our famed work ethic; it’s what keeps noses to the grindstone to get the job done well and efficiently.
It’s the remnants of DNA so stubborn that it came together as communities and whooped the world’s most powerful military a couple hundred years ago. And I’d like to think, it’s the remnants of DNA so stubborn that it can come together as communities and send powerful out of state money packing.
Since my first blogging rants about Question 1 in 2015, I’ve been getting kind of obsessed with the extent to which out of state funders are controlling our political discourse. It’s not just referendum questions, but all the PACS supporting candidates and even state legislative leadership PACS.
Personally, I’m beginning to believe big money in our political process is ultimately our country’s biggest addiction problem. Further, I’m too cynical to believe candidates and elected officials are going go cold turkey and do much about cutting themselves off.
Maybe, just maybe, voters can force their hands, though. Maybe, just maybe, communities of concerned citizens coming together to have conversations is more powerful than expensive,out-of-state-funded propaganda campaigns.
Here in Maine, we have a chance to find out. Groups supporting Question 1, a proposal that establishes a recreational marijuana market in Maine, are spending hundreds of thousands of out of state dollars — we’re talking over a million, now, folks — roughly one dollar per Maine resident — the political equivalent of being mentally waterboarded with out of state money.
Meanwhile, a statewide collective of volunteer activists opposing the question, have been hosting and participating in events in communities all over Maine. Hillary Lister of Augusta has registered a group called, Maine Matters Vote No, which has been working with less than $10,000. Maine Matters Vote No operates separately from the other opposition group that is also working with significantly less money than the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group supporting the proposal.
Combined, the two opposition groups are working with roughly $60,000 compared to proponents who have garnered over a million dollars — definitely a community vs. big money face-off.
Lister and other activists have been putting up signs, holding informational events, staging pop-up protests, and participating in debates and panels.
Their intent has been to enlighten people as to the details and potential ramifications of the legislation through community-based conversation. I’ve interviewed many of them regarding their views (click here and here), and share many of their concerns. Interestingly, all are for ending marijuana prohibition, but all are passionate about doing so that protects the best interests of Mainers — something they say Question 1 fails to do.
It’s an eclectic bunch — a variety of ages and backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. Some are longstanding activists on the Maine marijuana scene, folks like Lister, Don Christen, Shanna Souza, and Glenn and Catherine Lewis. Some are newer additions to the Maine movement like Dennis Hammac.
Lister has been involved in marijuana activism for about ten years. In a phone interview she told me the decision was linked to personal experience. She had been living with friends in Belgrade, a husband and wife who were medical marijuana caregivers/patients and in their 70’s.
A raid on their marijuana grow was conducted while the husband was in the hospital so traumatized the wife, Lister was motivated to get involved. She frequently testifies before legislators and state officials and was an active proponent of the 2009 initiative that expanded access to medical marijuana.
There’s folks like Roxanne Munksgaard of Bangor involved. Munksgaard, marijuana activist and metalsmith at Maine Jewelry and Art, hosted a recent informational event at the Bangor Public Library, as well as a pop-up protest in downtown Bangor. I’ve met Munksgaard a few times, and like Hammac, she’s a force of nature.
And a pleasure to talk to! In a phone interview Munksgaard said the movement “is all about conversations … people talking to people.”
The movement includes caregivers like Chet and Angela Mae McNamara. Chet is a recovering opiate addict who had been on methadone. With Angela’s support and her marijuana infused baked goods, McNamara was able to come off methadone.
In an interview at a protest this summer, McNamara said that he slowly weaned himself down on methadone while increasing his medical marijuana intake. I forgot to get a day count when we messaged each other this week, but at the end of July, he was three months clean of all opiates — which means this post should include a congratulations shout out to Chet because his six month anniversary must be right about now!
These folks have done their research and are thorough in their concerns. They’ve read the proposed legislation and studied the impacts similar legislation has had in other states. At a recent panel discussion at UMF, a Yes on 1 panelist Roger Birks asked the opponent activists present why they were talking about what is going on in other states and about what might happen down the road. It seemed like Birks was suggesting that critical analysis was a bad thing.
I was watching the live feed online, hollering at my screen to answer, “Because that’s what responsible communities do before they make major decisions. They analyze available evidence, weigh possible ramifications, and have conversations before reaching a decision.”
If any state has communities strong enough, stubborn enough to kick big money out of our politics so we can think for ourselves, it’s Maine. The folks behind Maine Matters Vote No think Question 1 is a good place to start.
I’m including a list of upcoming Question 1 informational events and their locations. Consider attending one, even if you don’t have a strong viewpoint one way or another. These events are a great opportunity to learn about the marijuana movement in Maine and to see what the power of community can do.
Info session on Question 1 — Lewiston
USM Lewiston-Auburn College, 51 Westminster Street, Lewiston
Info meeting on Question 1 and Maine Cannabis Laws — Rockland
Wednesday, Oct 26, 1-3 pm.
Public Library, 80 Union St, Rockland
Info meeting on Question 1 and Maine Cannabis Laws — Lincoln
Thursday, Oct 27, 6pm
Waterfront Event Center, 8 Prince St, Lincoln
Info Session on Question 1 and Benefit for Bob and Andre’s cancer treatments —Alton
Sunday, Oct 30, 2-6pm
Happy Acres Dance Hall, Alton
Info Session on Question 1 — Skowhegan
Tuesday, Nov 1
Alices Restaurant, 101 North Ave, Skowhegan
Community Views and Social Justice Discussion on Maine’s cannabis laws, decriminalization, and Question 1 — Waterville
Wednesday, Nov 2
Pugh Center, Colby College, 4250 Mayflower Hill, Waterville
Protect Maine’s patients and growers – BBQ, gathering and info session on Question 1
Saturday, November 5
Inside Out Garden Supply, 1766 Federal Rd, Livermore
Endnote to English majors and historic battle buffs: This post is intended as something of a rallying cry. I was torn whether to start with the Revolutionary War or a Battle of Agincourt analogy as today is St. Crispin’s Day, and Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech is perhaps the best rally cry of all time.
Excerpted from the speech –imagine Kenneth Branagh (not hard for this girl) delivering it with full force and clenched fist raised at the end:
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words—
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester—
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.