March 3, 2013

Letters to the editor: Don't rush to make pot legal

In his recent column ("Feeling good about legal pot," Feb. 22), I believe Bill Nemitz's implicit endorsement of Rep. Diane Russell's initiative to legislate the legalization of marijuana for recreational use premature and a potential disservice to the public welfare.

Marijuana
click image to enlarge

Marijuana plants are seen at a grow house in Colorado, where residents voted last fall to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

2013 File Photo/The Associated Press

As a neuroscientist and physician, I know that we are sorely lacking the information necessary to endorse its immediate legalization.

In fact, most recently new neuropsychological and brain imaging studies of cannabis users have reported that significant marijuana exposure in adolescence predicts a decline in IQ and impairment in neuronal pathway connections in the brain.

Since adolescence is the critical time for the completion of pathway development necessary for optimal cognitive processing, such data would suggest that facilitating the access to marijuana during the teenage years could be harmful.

While much remains to be understood regarding the action of marijuana in the developing brain, at the very least our public representatives need to inform themselves prior to walking a slippery slope. There is a difference between making marijuana available as a medical treatment versus the promulgation of its use recreationally.

Maine should take the time to assure that its medical marijuana law is properly implemented and enforced. Moreover, we have the opportunity of learning much from the outcome of legalization of marijuana in two states of our union.

In fact, our national research institutions are poised to gather data on the public health and substance use from both Colorado and Washington over the next several years.

In the meantime, our legal system in Maine might do well to take a lesson from our federal government, which has adopted a policy of "benign neglect" when it comes to the criminal prosecution of state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs.

In the same way, given Maine's limited resources and economic priorities, it would appear more prudent to utilize our fine police resources to focus upon the real crimes and criminals in our midst.

Robert H. Lenox, M.D.

Orrs Island

Feiner's tax proposal would punish successful risk takers

In her commentary "Beast of Burden" (Feb. 10), professor Susan Feiner starts with a false premise and argues to a false conclusion.

People are poor because they took chances, risks, failed.

Take the expenses of the Portland family, two adults and two school-age children. Without children, they would live as well as I do on my fixed income. Why would the professor think any tax system should pay the Portland couple for deciding to have two children?

The professor's false logic continues: "Look again at the top 1 percent of Maine's non-elderly households."

Attempting to raise tax rates on these individuals historically produces negative income. Those $700,000 incomes are able to change their residence to states without income tax -- then they leave Maine for 183 days, paying Maine zero state income tax.

Feiner's false logic would penalize those families who took risks that paid off. Risk-taking made America; my Norwegian ancestors homesteaded northwestern Minnesota, prospered via 16-hour workdays.

Modern risk-taking should be rewarded, whether opening a hyperbaric oxygen therapy center, raising potato starch production or expanding a vegetable stand into a restaurant.

The professor's envy aims to punish successful risk takers because they make too much money. Forbes magazine says corporations have $2 trillion in retained earnings. Executives stopped taking risks, due to higher federal taxes.

Neither the professor nor the federal government has learned Margaret Thatcher's dictum, "Sooner or later the government will run out of other people's money."

Feiner should apply her taxation logic to grade-point averages. Students' 4.0 GPA should be taxed to help the poorest students. The professor should take half a grade point from 4.0 students and raise the GPA of her poorest students. The logic for my GPA proposition equals her logic for increasing taxes on high earners.

Theo Nykreim

Stockholm

LePage's MaineCare stance will halt flow of tax dollars

Gov. LePage's opposition to Maine's participation in the Affordable Care Act provisions for Medicaid expansion will hurt Maine's poor and near-poor, as demonstrated in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last fall, and shift emergency care costs for them to the rest of us and our community hospitals. As a result, Maine's federal tax dollars will be redirected elsewhere.

The governor's opposition is also inconsistent with his attempts to repay several-years-old MaineCare debts to the hospitals.

Voters should urge their representatives to reverse this position, or the governor himself should, as several other governors previously against the new legislation have recently done.

Daniel K. Onion, M.D.

Vienna

Developer, landowner ignore opposition to wind project

Iberdrola Renewables proposes to build a large industrial wind energy facility in Concord and Lexington townships. While specific details of the project have been kept hidden from the public, we know that wind turbines are growing in size with each new facility proposed.

First Wind's latest project calls for turbines 512 feet tall. To put that in perspective, these machines are almost 100 feet taller than the elevation our village center rises above sea level.

Iberdrola hopes to construct an industrial complex, miles long and skyscraper high, in the middle of this quiet, rural area -- a region inhabited by families who purchased homes here because we value Maine's natural resources and the peace and serenity they provide.

The majority of the residents in these communities -- up to 85 percent -- signed petitions opposing Iberdrola's project. Our state senator and representative and county commissioners have supported our stance in writing. We've conveyed our position to Iberdrola and landowner Plum Creek but have been blatantly ignored.

Not only have they disregarded the will of the people who reside here, but Iberdrola just submitted an application to erect a fourth meteorological tower north of Peaked Hill. For what purpose? To expand an already-massive project that has been staunchly opposed by those who will live within its shadow and sound-shed?

We're Maine citizens who have been denied any input in the future of our homes and community. We've done our homework -- studying the science and economics and weighing the benefits and negative impacts. We are not uninformed -- we're educated. And we are Americans. Do our votes and voices still count, or does this foreign developer hold all the cards?

This is a watershed moment. We have spoken. Will anyone listen, or have Maine citizens' liberties gone with the wind?

Karen Bessey Pease

Lexington Township

Greely athletes represent true spirit of community

It was refreshing to read about the exhibition of sportsmanship between Greely and Scarborough high schools after the girls' state hockey championship game ("High School Notebook: Greely's victory with honor," Feb. 18).

This welcome occurrence came after two regrettable episodes perpetrated by several misguided Greely students who engaged in a very rare spectacle of intolerance and bigotry.

They brought shame upon themselves, their school and their community. School officials, to their credit, reacted swiftly to address and remedy these indiscretions.

When Greely players spontaneously shook hands with the team they had just defeated, it served to restore my faith in our youth and helped to expunge the taint of the reprehensible actions of their classmates.

These athletic representatives of Greely exemplify the true spirit of their school and community.

Cumberland can once again take pride in its young citizens.

Sam Kamin

Cumberland

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