Daily Archives: November 5, 2009

Maine voters pass medical pot law unlike California law

With all the noise about Question 1 on the Maine state ballot earlier this week, I forgot to mention that voters also passed a law making Maine the fifth state to allow retail medical pot dispensaries.

The vote when 59 percent to 41 percent.

Supporters claim the Maine law will not turn the state into the “Wild West” as they say it has in Los Angles where there are an estimated 800 dispensaries, not all of which are selling their product to the ill as the California law is intended. Maine law enforcement officials, of course, say there was not enough in the way of oversight and controls in the referendum.

Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Director Roy McKinney told the Associated Press, in a story published yesterday in the Bangor Daily News, that the potential exists for a dispensary to become “nothing more than a storefront for the criminal activity of drug dealing, which is the experience in California.”

 “If there isn’t sufficient oversight, inspection, audits, etc., the potential is there for criminal activity to flourish,” he said.

Ethan Nadelmann of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance doubts Maine will have the same problems found in California. The Maine state government must license a dispensary, which California law does not require. And the Maine law narrowly defines the illnesses for which marijuana can be prescribed, while California doctors have broader latitude in recommending pot’s use.

“You aren’t going to see hundreds of dispensaries popping up all over Maine,” Nadelmann said. “You’re going to see a more regulated system.”

My experience is that law enforcement tends to overstate such pronouncements. My experience is that “advocates” also tend to overstate counter-pronouncements, so it is usually a tie.

Others said the dispensaries in Maine most likely pop up in the more liberal areas – such as Portland, Maine – than more conservative areas.

By the way, Colorado, New Mexico and Rhode Island are the other three states that allow for dispensaries.

Maine has allowed the use of medical marijuana since 1999, but did not provide for dispensaries. Patients suffering from the effects of cancer, AIDS and other really awful diseases could possess a couple of ounces of the drug and a half dozen plants.

I have written this before elsewhere, so it should not come as a surprise what my feelings are. If a family member was suffering from the ravages of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, whatever, I would do what I could to ease that suffering. And if pot was the answer, then pot is what they would get, whether there was a law to prevent it or not.

I was proud of Maine voters when they allowed the use of medical marijuana by seriously and terminally ill patients. Having dispensaries makes sense.

Homeless, hungry may have tough winter from Cali to Maine

It is not a long stretch to believe that the poor, hungry and homeless from Maine to California will have a rough winter because there are just fewer people able to give a buck here and there to charities trying to help a growing legion.

I think I got small peek at that image as I came out of a Target store in Stockton, Calif., last night. Just outside the door was a man collecting for some charity. I have seen him there before, but the hand-lettered sign always threw up a red flag for me so I nodded at him, glanced to the ground and picked up my pace as I walked to my car.

But as I neared it, a man perhaps in his 60s or 70s and weighing in at about a buck and a quarter, approached. He was wearing faded jeans, a tattered baseball cap and a sweatshirt not thick enough to ward off the chill of the November night. He had a worn and worn out quality.

I do not recall what he muttered to me, but I could tell he was asking for money. I told him that I could not give him anything; I did not bother to tell him I had been laid off for the past nine months and that I was at Target to get just basics, including a couple of candles to use at night to help keep down the electricity bill.

The guy – he may have glanced at the two bags I was carrying or just at his feet – apologized again and again for having asked me for a couple of bucks and shuffled off. I got into my car, started the engine and glanced over to see the wisp of a man bending at the waist to talk to someone sitting in a car; he was asking the occupants for a couple bucks, too. Again, no luck.

I feel horrible that I could not give him a few dollars, but I have not seen a paycheck in a couple of months and money is tight. (Please, friends, do not send money; “money is tight” is far from having no money at all. I am getting by on a shoestring and a prayer, as they say, but I am getting by. For now.) I just do not have the money to give to complete strangers. I know that sounds cold, but …

After I got back at my apartment I thought about getting back in my car and driving back to the Target parking lot to find the guy and give him a buck or two, money I could not really spare. Or a meal. But I did not.

I never have been big on giving money to panhandlers, especially since one sort of burned me last year. A guy stopped me as I was driving out of the very same Target’s parking lot and gave me a story about his car being out of gas and being unable to drive his family back to his Tracy home. I gave the guy a $5 bill and thought nothing of it. Until months later when the very same guy stopped me in another nearby parking lot and gave me the very same sob story. I told him that I recognized him and that he had given me the very same story about six months earlier. He denied it at first, but then quickly walked away and out of the parking lot. I suppose he thought I would call the police on him.

I am pretty sure the fella last night was not a professional panhandler like the guy from a year ago. That makes me feel worse for not digging into my pockets for a couple of crinkled bills.

Or he could have been just better at his con.

For years I used to send monthly checks to Habitat For Humanity. It was not about the religious message of the group, but the whole idea of giving worthy needy families a roof over their heads. I stopped sending money to the organization when things got a bit tight financially a couple of years ago. I later got a new job that paid better and I could have restarted the donations, but I did not. I do not know why, I just did not.

It is likely that charitable nonprofit organizations will continue to have a problem rising funds the rest of this year and into the next. Unemployment still remains high and many businesses remain at the brink of failure, meaning that individual and corporate giving likely will be lower than normal.

Once I get a new job and get back on my feet I will be more willing to find a way to give to a nonprofit or volunteer for an agency. At least, I hope I will.

Since being laid off I have looked for work in a couple of different fields, including for nonprofits. I have been visiting Idealist.org and other nonprofit job websites every other day or so to check job postings. I also have read some of the online articles on the website and a few months ago bought and read “The Idealist.org Handbook to Building a Better World: How to Turn Your Good Intensions into Actions that Make a Difference.” It has not made me into a bleeding heart, but the past couple of months have made me realize that I want to make something better of all this, even in a very small way. I am not sure how – yet.

Giving a few bucks to a panhandler may help that person in the short term, but there may be other ways to help by giving money, in-kind donations or time. This is how you can help if you are able:

Maine Attorney General: Get some tips on making donations before giving money, in-kind donations or time. Always check out a charity before giving money, property or time.

Charity Vault: It provides links to charities based on categories and communities. Be sure to check each charity before giving money, property or time.

Maine Charity Network: This is another clearinghouse of links to charities, most of which are global. This might not be the best place to look if you are looking to give locally.

Idealist.org: This is, according to its website, “an interactive site where people and organizations can exchange resources and ideas, locate opportunities and supporters, and take steps toward building a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives.” It is a very good spot to start. Search “maine” and links to more than 500 organizations pop up.