December 18, 2013

Letters to the editor: Slow, small a good recipe for legal pot

The needs of medical users need to be protected in the rush to approve recreational use.

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

click image to enlarge

Above is the flower of a variety of marijuana grown for medical use. A reader worries that legalization for recreational use could harm medical patients.

2011 File Photo/Gregory Rec

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


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 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.

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