Why the medical marijuana trade show increased my concerns about legalizing recreational use

I was intrigued by a post on the blog Red207 by Jim Fossel. His thoughts on too much out-of-state influence in Maine’s citizens’ referendum process are similar to my concerns about the referendum question to legalize the recreation use of marijuana that will be on the ballot in November. Those thoughts were first and foremost on my mind when I spoke to David Boyer, representing the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA), this weekend the Home Grown Maine Trade Show at the Augusta Civic Center.

CRMLA is linked with the national group, the Marijuana Policy Project.

The trade show itself was a wonderful celebration of the medical marijuana caregiver community and included vendors, educational opportunities, forums, and more. Various organizations involved in the medical marijuana movement like the New England Veteran’s Alliance (NEVA) were also represented. NEVA advocates for the use of medical marijuana for veterans, who can be penalized by the Veterans Administration for making that choice.

Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine (MMCM) hosted the event and graciously invited me to the show and a dinner preceding the event. It was an amazingly enlightening weekend. I met two ladies who were experiencing drastic turnarounds in their battles with cancer, after having been told by their doctors that the traditional cancer treatments weren’t working.  Both had turned to medical marijuana in desperation; both were all smiles about their new leases on life, as were the family members with them.

After one such conversation ended, I looked around the circle that had been listening; and everyone was crying, which made me feel better about the tears in my eyes. Forgive me for making a gender reference, but the circle of tears reminded me of an observation I’ve forgotten to share as I have posted about the push to add addiction to the conditions that can be treated with marijuana. Anytime emotional subjects have come up during my various interviews with members of the community, the men are not at all ashamed to shed tears.

I’ve seen all sorts of men cry:  veterans who have survived unthinkable circumstances, former construction workers, a black belt, men of considerable size, men of more average size, men of all socioeconomic backgrounds. I shared my observation with a group I interviewed in the past, and one of the gentleman told me that he’s learned that real men aren’t afraid to experience their emotions. Another told me that he came so close to death that he cries whenever he hears about another person coming back from that point because he knows exactly what that experience feels like.

At the dinner, I met many Maine small business owners, and not all were medical marijuana oriented businesses. Our state is full of some talented, smart, compassionate and passionate people, like Karen Richards, mom and grandmom of Lincoln, who has started a seamstress business and is actively involved with the medical marijuana community. I dined with Roxanne, Bobbi, and Mallory of Maine Jewelry and Art.

Roxanne Munksgaard is one of the proprietors of the business and is one of the artists recycling copper from the state house dome into jewelry. She had designed some specifically for the event that weekend, and various pieces were being worn by caregivers in attendance. They were lovely.

I met Janet McAllister, widowed mom of three, who has started Hippy Chicks Natural Solutions, a business that focuses on cannabis and other natural oils. She is a walking encyclopedia of the healing properties of frankincense and other natural options. And she was a charming dinner companion.

All the ladies (and gentlemen) I met at the dinner and trade show were inspirational, knowledgeable, AND fun. I was struck, though, by the large representation of women at these events — Maine women running or working at small businesses in Maine. Sure, men were represented, as well, but it was encouraging to see a thriving, small business market centered around Mainers healing Mainers in which so many women are active participants.

Some of the businesses represented are run by married couples, as well — Maine people and families earning a living taking care of their fellow Mainers and hiring fellow Mainers to help them with their small businesses.

Which brings me back to the recreational use referendum question and out-of-state influence on our referendum process. In an earlier blog post, I said I was concerned about the specificity of the language around the market itself, and whether the market was going to be designed in a way that maximized the best interest of Mainers and our small-business economy. A recreational marijuana market will be, if supported by voters, a huge market suddenly appearing where there wasn’t one before — or at least, a legal one before.

The language in the proposed legislation has an overall growth canopy cap, which limits the number of licenses to grow. These licenses will allow holders to grow marijuana within a certain number of square feet and will be broken down into two groups:  small growers and large growers. 60 percent of the licenses are to be designated for large growers.

I had a chance to speak to Boyer about the language after he gave a presentation at the trade show. I asked Boyer how the specific numbers around the market setup were derived — what math were they based on, and who participated in their crafting? He didn’t know.

I asked if whoever crafted the numbers had taken Maine’s economy into consideration when designing the market?  Again, Boyer didn’t know.

I explained that I was concerned that Maine had some unique features to consider when shaping such a potentially lucrative market, which might have been overlooked by national organizations looking primarily to end prohibition around the country. Like our dire need to replace jobs lost in the decline of manufacturing and the fact that small businesses have long played a significant role in our economy.

Maine also has an established tourist market that will only be amplified by legal recreational marijuana use; and we have an established marijuana black market with a reputation for quality marijuana. There’s a great deal to take into consideration beyond the issue of ending prohibition. Here in Maine, it should be more about how we end prohibition, when we do end it.

Unable to address my concerns, Boyer did give me the contact information for Paul McCarrier who is also involved in the movement to see if he could speak to the process behind the proposed numbers.  I attempted to contact McCarrier a few times, but had completed this post by the time he contacted me back yesterday afternoon. We have yet to connect, but when we do, I’ll be sure to share what information I learn.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

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