Some final thoughts on Question 1 from Montville Maine

The Yes on 1 campaign’s latest ad made me chuckle. In case their over $1 million effort hasn’t hit you yet, the first referendum question on the ballot Tuesday seeks to establish a recreational marijuana market in Maine.

The chuckle isn’t a “that’s really funny” chuckle, it’s more of a head-shaking, “desperation makes people say and do questionable things sometimes” chuckle.

Like recycling an ad (the ad to which I am referring) from the Yes on 4 campaign in Massachusetts. If you click on the link I included in the first sentence, you’ll see the Youtube account is attributed to Massachusetts Marijuana Initiative 2016. That ad now appears on Maine’s Yes on 1 website, and I heard it on the radio — WBLM, I think.

The recycled ad features a sheriff from Washington state talking in favor of the recreational law already passed there. He talks about tax dollars, but not the slow dismantling of the medical marijuana program that has some Mainers greatly concerned. The sheriff talks about arrests being down, but not about the still thriving black market — like the market described in an article from May of this year in The Atlantic titled:

The Failed Promise of Legal Pot:  New laws on marijuana were supposed to boost tax revenues and free up cops to go after “real” criminals. But underground sales—and arrests—are still thriving.

The sheriff also talked about legalization cutting off funds for drug cartels. Okay, that part was actually funny, funny. Maybe they’re smoking drug cartel weed in Washington or Massachusetts.  Up here on the Maine black market, though, if someone were to tell a customer that all he has is some Mexican (at a cut rate, of course), your average Maine smoker would most likely respond with the look of disgust that’s usually accompanied by an “Eww” or a “yuck” or some appropriate expletive.

People come to Maine for good smoke. Maine has a undeniable problem with drug cartel heroin, but not marijuana to the best of my knowledge. We don’t need drug cartel weed when the best smoke’s been up the road for decades.

I also chuckled at the word cartel because I had just spent the better part of Saturday with homesteaders, G.W. Martin and Bridget McKeen of Montville who oppose Question 1.


The Martin/McKeen homestead on Hogback Mountain Montville, Maine.  Photo by Trish Callahan

The Martin/McKeen homestead on Hogback Mountain Montville, Maine. Photo by Trish Callahan

They had used the word cartel, too. Except they were describing their feelings about some of the funders behind Question 1, as in:

These large cartels, philanthropists, businessmen — whatever you want to call them — are sittin’ on barns of cash lookin’ for places to launder it.  And states like Maine are targets.  These groups abuse our referendum system by buying lobbyists, signatures, lawyers and press.  G.W. Martin, Montville Maine

Martin, his wife McKeen, and their three adorable children are Mainers to the nth degree — as hearty, down-home, and hard-working as you can get. Each one, sharp as a tack, too. Their roots trace back generations and the place they call home, Hogback Mountain, is speckled with the properties of Martin’s relatives.

These multi-taskers and gracious hosts “do their best to live by Grange priniciples,” and Martin, who is also a caregiver, says he’s “done better” since having made an extra effort to incorporate them into his daily life. McKeen recited some of the principles including a passage that went “Be faithful in gathering that you may be liberal in dispensing.” She shared another lovely passage about charity being like vines that grow to cover humanities many flaws.

McKeen is the author of a lovely children’s picture book called The Medicine Plants about a Maine family that grows their grandfather’s medicine in their garden along with the other plants.

The Medicine Plants.  Photo by Dennis Hammac

The Medicine Plants. Photo by Dennis Hammac

The Hogback Mountain Farm includes gardens, cows, rabbits, and dogs the family tends to, as well as a growing business selling pre-made greenhouse kits.

Greenhouse kit assembly workspace.  Photo by Trish Callahan

Greenhouse kit assembly workspace. Photo by Trish Callahan

Greenhouse kit assembly space -- Martin and Manchester caregiver Glenn Lewis talk in the background.  Photo by Trish Callahan

Greenhouse kit assembly space — Martin and Manchester caregiver Glenn Lewis talk in the background. Photo by Trish Callahan

The family also holds “agricultural lease agreements” with a variety of local patients and caregivers. These agreements enable people who don’t have the space to grow where they live to grow their own medicine in a secure location. Security provisions and regulation fencing protect the garden, which grew in size this year to 192 boxes serving over 30 growers.

Some of the boxes used for the agricultural lease agreements at Hogback Mountain Farm.  Photo by Trish Callahan

Some of the boxes used for the agricultural lease agreements at Hogback Mountain Farm. Photo by Trish Callahan

Martin drew me into his views on Question 1 conversing in that classic Maine style — too good to change.  His words:

It’s huntin’ season in Maine and every Mainer knows not to shoot the first one ya see. Let this one walk right on by — vote no one 1 … Grandfather said a workin’ man got no reason to lie. Next time a fella starts spoutin’ ‘yes on 1,’ take a look at his hands. If they’re sot, he ain’t never run a chainsaw, turned a wrench or shoveled out a barn and he sure the hell ain’t ever lugged a green bucket.  G.W. Martin

G.W. Martin.  Photo by Trish Callahan

G.W. Martin. Photo by Trish Callahan

Martin is for ending the prohibition of marijuana, however. He just thinks this proposal goes about it the wrong way — his words again:

Don’t put the cart in front of the horse. The proper road is to further decriminalize adult possession while setting limits on home cultivation, then adjust our legal system by reducing current sentences and removing fines. Only then well we be able to fairly create a system to market cannabis, allowing sale beforehand is speculation and designed to launder money.

Martin’s thinks the biggest problems with the proposal will come further down the road as the market evolves from beginnings that favor larger growers. As I’ve written before, the language behind Question 1 designates 60 percent of the grow licenses in a limited canopy space for large growers.

Martin sees the market evolving in ways he feels Mainers won’t like. His words:

Mainers can’t compete with South and Central American cane fields mechanically planted with auto flowering female plants cultivated and harvested year round, C02 extracted, centrifuged and converted into hash oil in upgraded rum distilleries. Sent to the United States and around the world in palletized buckets of electronic cigarette filler to the same distribution system that currently exists for every store that sells tobacco and alcohol. This is the end game if we open the door.  G.W. Martin


Cartel is also a word used by activist Hillary Lister in her public comment about Question 1, available on the Secretary of State website. In that commentary, she wrote:

The initiative creates a cumbersome government contract process to award limited licenses for industrial marijuana operations, favoring large out-of-state investors. Increased scale of production creates financial incentives for cartel involvement.  Hillary Lister of Augusta

One of LIster’s primary concerns with the Question 1 language is that it sets a growth canopy limit with seed to sale tracking and designates a majority of the licenses, 60 percent, for larger growers. Complying with current seed to sale tracking systems, which are lucrative systems for developers awarded government contracts, is expensive and time consuming for smaller growers in states where such system have been implemented.

Lister worries such regulations will be cumbersome and cost prohibitive for the few small growers who will be competing for the 40 percent of small grow licenses in the limited canopy. Further, she points to Washington as an example of how such regulations crossed over into the once separate medical marijuana program in that state. Lister’s words in a written statement to me:

Central to the proposed law is an 800,00 square foot cap on the total canopy area of cannabis being cultivated commercially in the state. The purpose of the cap is to ensure compliance with federal directives to prevent diversion of legal cannabis to the illegal market by making sure no more cannabis is produced than could be legally purchased.

Under Question 1, the canopy limit and tracking would only initially only apply to recreational producers. However, in Washington, the only state where this limited canopy-cap model of regulation has become law, tracking became a requirement for both recreational and medical producers in order to ensure tax compliance and calculate how much canopy space should be licensed.

Once Washington regulators gathered and analyzed tracking data, they determined that the limited recreational canopy space was more than enough to provide for both recreational AND medical cannabis consumers. As a result, medical growers and processors have been required to shut down or apply for a very hard to obtain recreational cultivation license. Patients who cultivate for personal use now must be on a state registry and had total plants allowed reduced to only four. If more than one patient is cultivating on the same property, the patients must use costly tracking software and equipment required of commercial cultivators.  Hillary Lister


Endnote: There’s folks out there who get upset when they hear George Soros is behind something political; and then there’s other folks who get upset when they hear the Koch brothers are behind something political.  I’m thinking all us folks should be concerned whenever there’s a juncture between the two. 

And, there’s a juncture behind proponents of Question 1:  It’s no secret an organization affiliated with billionaire George Soros has contributed significantly to the Yes on 1 campaign. Recently I learned that a board member for the Koch brothers’ group Americans for Prosperity, Frayda Levy, is also a board member for the Marijuana Policy Project, the other major out of state contributor to the Yes on 1 campaign.

The interests of Soros and the Koch brothers coming together? As a devotee of neither the left or the right nor of the elites controlling the two, I find that disconcerting.


Final endnote — I promise! Anyone interested in the goings on at Hogback Mountain Farm can contact the folks there at 207-505-1271.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.