Congratulations to my No on 1 friends!

No — I haven’t taken one too many tokes on my medical marijuana. Yes, I know that the unofficial results show that Question 1 was approved by voters (mostly southern and coastal voters) by a slim margin. And yes, I know the recount beginning next week will not likely overturn that outcome.

Still though, the No on 1 folks deserve congratulations for a game very well-played. In an earlier post I declared Kellyanne Conway the MVP of the presidential election cycle — if there is such a thing in that travesty of democracy. Here in Maine, I’d give the award collectively to the No on 1 team.

A gathering of protesters outside the campaign office for supporters of Question 1.  Photo by Trish Callahan

A gathering of protesters outside the campaign office for supporters of Question 1. Photo by Trish Callahan

They were in full court press every day in the months leading up to election day.

Two groups comprised the opposition:  Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities and Maine Matters Vote No. The first group represented the more traditional anti-marijuana viewpoint that deems marijuana a dangerous drug and spent just over $160,000, as of 10/25/16.

Maine Matters Vote No — the true MVP’s — was a pro-marijuana volunteer grassroots effort that saw the language of the proposal as potentially dangerous to Maine’s medical marijuana program and Maine’s economic best interest.

The group spent it’s $14,000 on “signs, stickers, one set of ads on WTOS, a website and video,” said Hillary Lister of Maine Matters Vote No. Caregivers, patients, and average citizens made up the group’s ranks.

Roxanne Munksgaard of Bangor. Photo provided by Munksgaard from her phone.

Roxanne Munksgaard of Bangor. Photo provided by Munksgaard from her phone.

If you saw my Facebook feed and email contacts in September and October, you’d think these volunteers were running a million dollar campaign. I don’t think a day went by when there wasn’t a pop-up protest, an informational meeting, a social media event, or a sign dispersal somewhere around the state.

The passionate Mainers on the No on 1 team were up against an actual multi-million dollar campaign, over $2 1/2 million funded mostly by national special interests. I called it a face-off:  big money vs. community, and even though they lost, community made it a much closer game than it should have been.

Question 1 opponent G.W. Martin.  Photo by Trish Callahan

Question 1 opponent G.W. Martin. Photo by Trish Callahan

A team working with a combined $174,000 was able to convince 49.83 percent of voters that the team with the $2.6 million message didn’t have Mainers best interest in heart. Even in losing, their accomplishment is significant — significant enough to give some credence to their concerns.

Between the end of September and the end of October, the opposition cut the approval margin from 15 percentage points to 9 percentage points. On election day, the approval margin was only .34 percent — something I hope garners legislative attention. Pushing the percentage of votes needed for passage of referenda to 60 percent might not be a bad idea.

Imagine the outcome had the No on 1 team been the ones with $2.6 million.

If Lister’s data is correct, legislators should take note of the vote distribution, as well. Lister said very few towns north of Brunswick supported the measure, and she’s interested in tracking “how the voting fell along a geographical line” during the pending recount. Like so many of my readers and contacts, she quipped about the support coming mostly from “northern Massachusetts.”

No one I know calls it southern Maine anymore. Everyone I know bemoans the politics of “North Boston”  or “Northern Massachusetts” and  feels resentful that north Boston decided we should have recreational marijuana and handed the development of the market to the out-of-state interests funding the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

According to Lister, the poorer, economically stagnating communities in central and northern Maine did’t agree.

Pro-legalization Question 1 opponents, like Lister, have argued that the language of the proposal designates 60 percent of licenses in a very limited growth canopy for large grows (30,000 sq.ft.), an operation well beyond reach for local small growers. It’s like reserving 60 percent of lobster boats for out-of-staters/big money interests.

Should the recount uphold the initial vote outcome, members of the 128th Maine State Legislature will be hearing from the No on 1 team, asking them to rewrite the legislation. I’m sure they already are, and I hope they’re listening carefully. This scrappy team of constituents deserves their respect.

A law rewritten by their elected officials that addresses their concerns would make a great MVP trophy.

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Giving Thanks for the Maine marijuana community:

I was thinking of the many blessings for which I am grateful and realized that my list got extra long this year. In January while listening to legislative testimony, I became intrigued by the idea of treating opiate addiction with medical marijuana. Following this intrigue has been a cornucopia of blessings including meeting dozens of people who are part of the medical marijuana caregivers and patients network.

Ryan Begin in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Augusta, Maine. (Photo by roger Leisner/The Maine Paparazzi and used with his permission.  Thanks Roger!)

Ryan Begin in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Augusta, Maine. (Photo by roger Leisner/The Maine Paparazzi and used with his permission. Thanks Roger!)

This network is vast, generous, inspirational, and strong. I’ve met people who rebuilt their health with medical marijuana and are trying to do the same for others; and I’ve met some of the people they’ve helped. I’ve interviewed veteran activists, and a mom who moved here from Connecticut to treat her daughter with medical marijuana. This mom said once caregivers heard what strain worked best for her daughter, donations started arriving.

She struggled to recall if she ever had to pay for her daughter’s medicine. 

Susan (L) and Cyndimae Meehan.  Photo by Kristy Haslip of Wildflower Photography and used with her permission.

Susan (L) and Cyndimae Meehan. Photo by Kristy Haslip of Wildflower Photography and used with her permission.

As I was thinking about all these amazing people on Thanksgiving, I realized I could get stranded just about anywhere in Maine, and as long as I could reach one person on this network by internet or phone, it wouldn’t be long before someone nearby showed up to make sure I was okay — with medicine in hand.

I wish I could list each amazing person I’ve met by name, but I would have to write a post of only names! You all know who you are, and I’m sure there are more of you to meet still, and knowing you all are out there makes me grateful.

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Endnote:  Anyone interested in more information about the recount process can contact Hillary Lister at: hillarylister@mainematters.net.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

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