I originally wrote this paper for a blog based out of Old Port, Portland, but with school (which is now over for me till next fall!), work, my personal writings, and my personal life I couldn’t commit to writing for them like I should be able to. I still wanted the paper to be viewed and to get feedback, so I would love to have comments!
Marijuana Ordinance Portland, Maine:
What does it mean?: Early this November, a major step in the legalization of Marijuana was taken right here in Maine’s largest city, Portland. Nearly 15,000 people showed up around Portland’s 12 precincts to cast their vote. An ordinance allowing the legalization of possession of marijuana as the hot topic. No one could have predicted the outcome of such a law, many were hopeful, while others were fearful. As it turned out 9,9211 residential Portlandian’s were hopeful, rather than fearful. With 67 percent of voters in favor of Ballot number 1, the nation couldn’t help but notice.
As of now, only two states have legalized marijuana, Washington and Colorado, but Maine made history by being the first state on the east coast to have a city in which bounds you are legally allowed to possess marijuana.
What does the Ordinance actually say? And what does it do? I will talk about this shortly, but let’s first dive into marijuana, the (harmful?) side-effects, and how it has been viewed and used throughout history.
History of Cannabis: A cursory search on the internet of “The History Of Marijuana” brings up “About 161,000,000 results in 0.25 seconds”, the foremost link leading to a detailed account of cannabis, the scientific term for marijuana, and a timeline of recorded history and its use.
Some may not believe it, but marijuana, or pot, has been used medicinally as well as recreationally since 2900 B.C.! That is nearly 5 centuries of recorded use2. Chinese emperors, champions of their time in medicine, saw practical use with marijuana, and often used it in their healings.
But marijuana is supposed to be harmful, isn’t it? In 1936 “Refer Madness” was first released to the general public, demonizing the use of pot. The movie depicted teenagers going insane, being possessed by actual demons, and the decline in humanity in someone because of it. Is any of this founded? Do actual demons inhabit someone that consumes marijuana?
Medical use of marijuana has been legal for a while now, albeit a hot topic, in fact, marijuana was almost always legal up until the 1930’s, when a few people who had a lot at stake, shifted things in the other direction, illegalizing marijuana and still to this day influencing beliefs and mindset; but more on that next.
Marijuana is very versatile, it can be smoked, steeped in tea, or cooked with butter or coconut oil. It is used to increase appetite in patients who need help to eat or stomach food; it is used to soothe pain of the chronically inflicted; it is prescribed to help lull patients to sleep who struggle with narcolepsy or other chronic sleep issues. Should I go on? Why not, for the sake of argument let’s allow marijuana to speak for itself.
Many argue that it is “addicting” and can cause cancer. “The DEA’s general opposition to marijuana is comprised of 1) that whatever medical value it has is already fulfilled by other, equally effective drugs on the market, and 2) that marijuana is highly addictive. Both points can be turned upside down: There is already an abundance of drugs that do the same job as products already on the market, and they receive approval anyway. This seems to run contrary to the DEA’s first argument. And even a cursory look at many of the Schedule II opiates and amphetamines shows that high addiction potential is not a basis for legal classification of drugs. The point is that marijuana is not physically addictive, and even if it was, the DEA would appear to be quite hypocritical arguing this point.3” There is also no evidence that supports that the THC from smoking cannabis is a carcinogen, or cancer causing. What can cause potential problems is inhaling smoke into the lungs were it burns away at the flesh, but that is true of tobacco also, and yet that remains legal. And aforementioned pot doesn’t even have to be smoked, but rather you could drink or eat it (by preparing it in a specific manner), without ever having to touch a pipe or chillum (common marijuana paraphernalia), think of those warnings you have heard of certain brownies.
In fact, not only does THC or its consumption not cause cancer, it is often used by those suffering from cancer. Any one affected will find that cannabis helps alleviate their constant pain, will help them have an appetite when they can’t eat on their own, and helps them sleep on restless nights.
Maybe you agree with medicinal use of marijuana, but are against its recreational use, for which you might have some ground to stand on. After all, by legalizing it, we are only allowing children and youngsters to come in closer contact with it, and as science has proved, smoking at a young age can cause memory loss, can stop brains from fully maturing, as well as other development issues. However, on the other hand, alcohol and tobacco consumption can cause the same if not worse side effects, and yet any adult 18 years or 21 years of age respectively can purchase these harmful consumers. More than that though, caffeine and sugar can cause equally detrimental results to teens, and yet we happily supply those seeking it, the opportunity to consume such things.
“It is estimated that in North America between 80 and 90 percent of adults and children habitually consume caffeine.4” When you consider how many millions of people that would encompass, it seems silly to keep something illegal for the sake of someone potentially becoming addicted to it, as anything has the potential to become addicting. As it stands (and this is a difficult test to judge as there are numerous factors), only an estimated 9 percent of daily marijuana consumers will become “seriously addicted.5”
As every story has two sides, what is the other side to “Refer Madness?” After all someone had to budget the film, had to propagate it, and support it, but why go through all that effort and money if cannabis is seemingly a healthy alternative to other drugs, over the counter or not?
Back in the ‘30’s one man stood to lose a lot, possibly everything, with the continued use and growth of hemp, the plant from which cannabis comes from, that man was William Randolf Hearst, and he essentially single-handedly controlled the newspaper media at the time, and relied heavily on the growth and use of tree pulp to earn his money. “Since hemp is an annually renewable source, which requires minimal chemical treatment to process, the advent of hemp pulp paper would allegedly have been better for the environment than the sulfuric acid wood-pulping process. Hemp had many champions, who predicted that its abundance and versatility would soon revitalize the American economy. William Randolph Hearst, media mogul, billionaire and real-life model for Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, had different ideas. His aggressive efforts to demonize cannabis were so effective, they continue to color popular opinion today. In the early 1930’s, Hearst owned a good deal of timber acreage; one might say that he had the monopoly on this market. The threatened advent of mass hemp production proved a considerable threat to his massive paper-mill holdings — he stood to lose many, many millions of dollars to the lowly hemp plant. Hearst cleverly utilized his immense national network of newspapers and magazines to spread wildly inaccurate and sensational stories of the evils of cannabis or “marihuana,” a phrase brought into the common parlance, in part due to frequent mentions in his publications.6”
Does it change anything?: Having studied the effects both good and bad associated to marijuana, how does this affect you, and what exactly does the Ordinance passed on November 5th say?
You can read the actual ballot for yourself here, http://sethkoenig.bangordailynews.com/files/2013/11/marijuana-question.jpg
“Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck says not much will change as a result of the city’s vote. ‘State law pre-empts an ordinance of this sort, a local ordinance of any sort,’ he says. The other reason Sauschuck says it won’t change much is because Maine is one of 13 states that has already decriminalized marijuana possession. It’s just a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $1,0007.
That doesn’t, however, mean that they will go out patrolling for offenders. The ordinance allows legal possession of up to 2.5 ounces (people generally only buy an 1/8th an ounce at any one time), and only in the comfort of their own home, or apartment (if the landlord has been consulted and agrees).
Buying cannabis is still illegal, and if someone is busted for smoking it, can have charges pressed on them, as it still remains illegal on a state and federal level. Although it doesn’t seem like much has changed, to those seeking legalization, the ordinance is seen as a great step forward.
Since the ordinance didn’t seem to change much, the logical question is, what’s next? With this year’s election come and gone, another step won’t be taken for a while, but you can be sure that more cities in more states across America will start to follow in Maine’s foot steps towards first, decriminalization of marijuana consumption, and then secondly, towards outright legalization.
Any who feel passionately for one side or the other can find ample causes, foundations, organizations, and blogs to follow or support to help their side. For my humble opinion, seeing as cannabis was legal before the 1930’s, I believe that we will see an increase of pro marijuana activists, and as is the case with Gay Equality, Maine will be one of the state’s leading the way.
But please, don’t let history repeat itself and take just one man’s word for it, study it for yourself, clear your preconceived notions, good and bad, and discover the truth of the matter for yourself.
“The Union: The Business Behind Getting High” by Canadian filmmaker Brett Harvey
And the following cited works: