Why did the governor have to go and sound like a gentleman?

I hate it when that happens. I heard tell that Gov. Paul LePage had been spreading some misinformation about the medical marijuana program in an interview with WVOM last Tuesday.

Of course I immediately thought he was throwing yet another slow pitch right up the middle of the plate so I went to the audio archive (Governor LePage, 4/11) ready to take a swing.

But no, the governor had to go and sound like a gentleman throughout most of the interview, which sucks as far as getting a humorous hit in goes. Worse, I didn’t disagree with everything he said.  As a matter of fact, I have to give him two thumbs up for hammering home the point about Maine having too many school superintendents.  I’ve long agreed with him on that one.

Worse still, the incorrect and/or insufficient data he gave at the end of the interview regarding the number of caregivers and tax revenue was the same misinformation I’ve heard lobbyists and others repeat in the halls of the State House.

So while I could hammer on the error considering the medical marijuana is a state program under his jurisdiction, I can also understand how the governor came to believe what he was saying.

Darn it.

And frankly, darn all those folks who like to spin information to meet their special interest needs even if it means misleading elected officials. For shame.

I was glad radio hosts George Hale and Ric Tyler gave my friend and fellow Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine member Catherine Lewis a chance to give more accurate information a couple days later, also available in the audio archive (Catherine Lewis, 4/13).

As usual, Lewis was an articulate, knowledgeable advocate for the program. Among the discrepancies she cleared up was a repeated falsehood about the number of caregivers rising dramatically immediately after the vote to legalize a recreational marijuana market. Supposedly this increase is due to people trying to prepare for the recreational market via the medical market to avoid taxes and potential limitations on recreational licenses.

Lewis correctly stated that there were more than 3,800 caregivers in Maine and that the number had only increased by 43 since the election in 2016. Lewis also cleared up an issue regarding medical marijuana sales tax and whether the state can accurately assess whether or not all caregivers are paying.

The state can’t because there is no designation for medical marijuana sales in the tax code. Lewis went on to add that she has personally helped a few hundred caregivers set up their businesses, including getting a tax number, and she has also helped caregivers with general tax and business issues.

Therefore Lewis is confident in asserting that there are plenty of caregivers paying sales and other taxes, as well as employing a total of almost 300 additional people across the state. She went on to play devil’s advocate and added that if only 25 percent of caregivers were paying sales tax, the total would be almost $2 million dollars.

Lewis firmly believes more than 25 percent of caregivers are compliant with taxes, and among those who may not be, many are working with the state to become compliant.

Lewis and the interviewers also talked about the necessity of maintaining a separate medical program, even though a recreational market will soon be established. Lewis stressed the different level of care and products and privacy necessary to serve the sickest of the sick with a variety of ailments, not the least of which being late stage cancers.

Then Lewis matched LePage’s gentleman-ness with a very ladylike invitation for the governor to come to a roundtable of patients and caregivers. I’d even like to see the governor visit her caregiver and alternative wellness business. Such a visit would change the governor’s life for three reasons — three reasons I’m even more of an ardent supporter of medical marijuana after years as a legal and illegal patient.

First, I’ve never seen Catherine fail at opening someone’s eyes to the importance of supporting access to medical marijuana. Beyond articulate and knowledgeable, she is charming and a natural healer. I’ve seen Lewis comfort new patients coming to terms with shockingly terminal diagnoses with her immediate support, medicine and information.

I’ve even seen Lewis create the desperately needed respite of laughter for these patients dealing with the darkest of times.

Second, we live in dark, confusing times, and it can feel like hope is hard to find. I find hope every single time I interact with the medical marijuana community. Every single time. Who wouldn’t with all the support and all the amazing stories of recovery from late stage cancers, mental illnesses, addictions, and more?

Third, pride. In my last post I wrote about how much individual and community pride was generated by manufacturing in Maine and the imperative of bringing more of that pride back. Well, the medical marijuana program generates pride all over the state.

Caregivers are proud of their ability to help their patients, and their patients are proud of their ability to feel more in control of their health.

I think the Maine medical marijuana program and its participants would make the governor proud, too, if only he had a better understanding of it.  I hope he takes Lewis up on her invitation.  I know he won’t regret it.

It might even change his life. Caregivers and the program have changed mine with more than just quality medicine.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

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