I’m rather tired of writing about Trump and Clinton, so let’s delve into Maine’s always exciting referendum scene — two questions this year will certainly get a lot of attention.
Question 1: Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age, and allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?
The full text of the proposal is rather complex, limiting the amount of marijuana anyone can have, and putting in place a number of restrictions designed to both support public health and protect small business.
To me, this question is a no-brainer. Yes, marijuana should be legal. As a drug, cannabis, besides having real medicinal value, is far less dangerous than alcohol. The CDC estimates that 88,000 people die from alcohol use each year. Add to that the domestic abuse, non-fatal car accidents, and alcohol induced violence, and it is clear that it is a very dangerous drug. Marijuana, on the other hand, has no direct link to death. There are cases where high heart rates and other side effects contributed to someones’ death, but compared to alcohol the drug is virtually harmless.
When smoked, marijuana has negative effects much like tobacco, though cigarette smokers generally smoke a lot more. And, of course, vaping (using a vaporizer that burns at a lower temperature, thereby not releasing the more dangerous parts of the plant – ones that can lead to health problems but don’t get you high) is a healthier alternative.
Edibles are also popular, though in Colorado since marijuana legalization this has created a problem. If parents aren’t careful, a child might see a marijuana laced chocolate chip cookie or a brownie and decide to eat it. That hasn’t killed anyone, but the number of cases in the ER have increased. It’s not a high number – and it could also be that people are now more forthright about why a child is having symptoms. When pot was illegal they might be afraid of having their child taken away – leaving an illegal drug out where children can get it. With it legal, the consequences aren’t so dire.
But we all have vices. Humans from time immortal have used plants and substances to enter at least mildly altered states of consciousness. If someone chooses pot over the far more dangerous substance alcohol, they should not be considered a criminal! But dangerous as alcohol is, I don’t think anyone wants to bring back the prohibition!
So yes on question one!
Question 3: Do you want to require background checks prior to the sale or transfer of firearms between individuals not licensed as firearms dealers, with failure to do so punishable by law, and with some exceptions for family members, hunting, self-defense, lawful competitions, and shooting range activity?
Proponents of this measure argue that there is a loophole in the law – that individuals can trade and sell firearms without the background checks that are required at gun shops. This means anyone who really wants a gun can find a way to get one without a background check. In a world of terror threats and school shootings, they argue, this is a loophole that should be closed.
Though I can see the logic to that position, it is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.
My view of the law is that in as much as possible, individuals should be able to freely interact and exchange personal favors and objects without government interference. In fact, government should only interfere with private liberty when a significant social good can be achieved, or if a societal problem can be mitigated. Even then, the bar is high – too much government is not a good thing.
In this case, individual liberty would be sacrificed with no real gain. There is no reason to increase the scope of government. Maine is a safe state. People have guns, they buy and sell guns, they hunt, they target practice, and yet in terms of gun violence our rates are low, and there is no evidence of anything bad happening that this law would have prevented. There is no reason to increase regulation. So no on question 3!
And in any event, it’s more interesting to talk about cannabis and firearms than Donald Trump!