Healthy Acadia warns against marijuana legalization



BLUE HILL — A Healthy Acadia representative spoke about the dangers of marijuana legalization at the Blue Hill Selectmen’s weekly meeting Feb. 24.

“This all has a societal cost and it’s not inexpensive,” said Denise Black, who is the Drug Free Communities Project Coordinator for Healthy Acadia.

Healthy Acadia is a community wellness organization funded in part from tobacco settlement funds.

Black presented the board and nine Blue Hill residents, as well as Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane, with a slide show about issues facing the state of Colorado since residents there legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012. Colorado allowed retail marijuana businesses to begin operating in 2014.

“Law enforcement has been stretched thin because of this issue,” Black said. Officers who have been certified as drug recognition experts have to be called to road sides to detect potentially marijuana-impaired motorists.

Black offered the group a number of statistics:

  • Colorado ranks number one in the United States for youth marijuana use.
  • One in six teens who use marijuana before age 21 will become addicted to the drug.
  • Colorado saw marijuana-related traffic deaths spike 92 percent between 2010 and 2014.
  • In 2014, Colorado emergency rooms saw a 20 percent increase in the number of marijuana-related visits.

Black also criticized the marketing of marijuana products, such as soft-drinks, gum, candy and other foods laced with one of the active chemicals in marijuana, THC. The packaging and websites are slick.

“It’s kind of like taking a playbook out of big tobacco,” Black said.

Selectman Jim Schatz remarked that the “commodification part is scary.”

While recreational marijuana use is legal in Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, federal law doesn’t allow the sale and use of marijuana. It is illegal under the Controlled Substance Act, according to findlaw.org.

“I think it’s a matter of time before that goes away too — the [federal] prohibition,” Schatz said.

On the November 2016 Maine ballot, voters will likely be asked whether to legalize recreational marijuana.

The Campaign to Legalize Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted over 100,000 signatures to Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap on Feb. 4.

Dunlap’s spokesman said the office would be announcing Wednesday, March 2, whether the initiative would be on the ballot.

If passed, adults 21 and older in Maine would be allowed to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow six plants.

According to Black, recreational marijuana sales would be subject to a 10 percent retail sales tax, in addition to Maine’s 5.5 percent sales tax.

Black said Maine medical marijuana dispensaries are concerned about the 10 percent sales tax because their sales tax rate is higher. If the measure is passed, dispensary customers may skip over to a recreational shop.

The first $30 million in tax revenue from marijuana sales would be used for school construction, according to the proposed legislation. Revenue after the first $30 million would be allocated to Maine’s General Fund.

The Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services’ Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations licenses and regulates marijuana stores and growers.

The initiative also would cap the number of marijuana stores and cultivators until the years 2019 and 2022, respectively.

Municipalities would be allowed to ban retail stores and commercial cultivation within their jurisdictions.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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