I am writing to praise Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, for his thoughtful approach to the issue of legalization of cannabis.

I work with patients who use medical cannabis and am reminded daily of the benefits of this amazing medicine, while patients battle cancer, Parkinson’s disease, psychological trauma, intractable pain and many other horribly debilitating conditions.

Through their use of medical cannabis, I have seen patients reduce or eliminate prescription pharmaceuticals, including addictive opioid painkillers, and return their lives to the normalcy they crave.

These patients work with Maine dispensaries, or small growers, who assist them in navigating the complexities of selecting an appropriate cannabis strain and delivery medium (vaporizing, smoking, edible, topical). We counsel them to start slow, and start small, when beginning to use this medicine.

Portland’s passage of recreational use of cannabis by voters, though largely symbolic, increased my concern about current medical cannabis patients. What will legalization for recreational use mean for current patients? How will their needs be protected under legalization?

I was surprised to see, immediately following the Portland vote, that there had been a bill proposed to the Maine Legislature to legalize recreational use statewide.

Currently, recreational use rules are being worked out in the state of Washington, whose voters legalized recreational use last year. They are grappling with how to protect those who rely on its pre-existing medical cannabis program, and that program appears to be in danger of disappearing.

Sen. Alfond, and a bipartisan group of his colleagues in legislative leadership, wisely chose to defer on considering legalization in 2014, instinctively understanding the mantra of “start slow, start small.”

Sen. Alfond and his colleagues were right to allow the dust to settle, and allow time for Maine to learn from Washington state’s experience.

Tyler Robinson
Portland

 

Critics of ‘midtown’ project need lesson in government

This letter is in response to a Dec. 10 Press Herald article titled “Portland delays decision on major Bayside development.” That piece describes public comments at a Planning Board meeting related to the so-called “midtown”project of Miami-based developer The Federated Cos.

Unfortunately, the detail described is accurate. It is unfortunate because, as the article highlights, most of the comments came from project opponents who fail to understand the nature of power exercised by various local government bodies.

The Planning Board does not take legislative action; it administers previously established local laws in a quasi-judicial manner.

Therefore, when opponents stated the project would be “too big” for Portland, without referencing any applicable regulation or standard of review to support this assertion, the commentary became a plea for legislative action, which is beyond the power of the Planning Board.

What is or is not “too big” has already been established in a detailed manner by local law flowing from legislative action of the City Council in pursuit of comprehensive planning visions. It is not up for debate before the Planning Board, therefore.

It will be a shame if these emotional pleas influence the outcome of a project the broader city has already supported in general terms through permissive regulations.

Because of that, a Facebook page has been formed to counter the negative sentiments expressed thus far, as well as introduce a degree of logic and sound planning insight. That page may be accessed at https://www.facebook.com/ portlandersforsustainability.

A few years ago, Portland was cited by the Brookings Institution as having some of the worst sprawl in America; opposing centralized and compact housing near major thoroughfares, especially when done in contradiction of expressly stated and democratically adopted city goals, therefore makes little sense.

To be anti-midtown is analogous to being pro-suburban cul-de-sac. For the sake of urban sustainability, midtown should be supported.

Patrick Venne, Esq., M.C.P.D.
public administrator; land use attorney; planner

Portland

 

Recent decisions show city no friend of public transit

Earlier this month, the Portland Winter Farmers’ Market opened in a new location in East Bayside. The market publicized its move widely and exuberantly, emphasizing that the new site would be more accessible because it offers, as a poster states, “Tons of Free Parking!”

However, there is no public transportation access whatsoever to the new market location on the Saturdays that it operates.

This would never happen in any major city in which people understand the value of a mass transit system and there is a civic culture that encourages its use.

With decisions such as this and the seemingly inevitable midtown project, which includes construction of two towering parking garages in Bayside to accommodate 1,100 vehicles, it is clear that Portland has made a policy choice not to move in a progressive, environmentally friendly, pro-transit direction.

Drivers are subsidized with “tons of free parking,” while transit riders are left out in the cold.

Ellen D. Murphy
Portland

 

Story on tea party tax plan called a ‘powerful’ expose

I want to congratulate the Press Herald for its magnificent and powerful expose of the Republican-tea party-libertarian-rightist agenda for America (“Washington County residents have mixed reactions to plan to eliminate taxes,” Dec. 5).

The Press Herald, in partnership with The Guardian and the Texas Observer, has brought to the people relevant information that is desperately needed at this time.

Hopefully, these articles did not fall on deaf ears and will not be filed away any time soon. Hopefully, they will be perpetuated and expanded.

The people are slowly waking to their current plight – waking to what is happening. What they do not understand is why it is happening.

That is where the Press Herald comes in. By publishing penetrating articles like this one, you keep democracy and the free press alive. Congratulations.

Michael T. Bucci
Damariscotta