SCOTT GAGNON, of Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities, speaks at a Yarmouth press conference on Thursday.

SCOTT GAGNON, of Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities, speaks at a Yarmouth press conference on Thursday.

YARMOUTH

If passed, Question 1 would legalize the possession and use of marijuana by children in Maine, said Scott Gagnon of Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities at a Thursday press conference in Yarmouth.

Question 1, the marijuana legalization act, would legalize the possession and use of recreational marijuana for those 21 years and older. Opponents of the ballot question, however, now claim that it would also make it legal for children to consume marijuana.

“We’ve had some brand-new legal review of Question 1 from the Attorney General’s office and this new information reveals that a core promise that the ‘Yes on 1 campaign’ has been making is completely false and has been since the start of their campaign,” said Gagnon. “According to this new legal analysis, Question 1 will make it legal for young Mainers under the age of 21 to buy, possess and use marijuana. Let me repeat that: Question 1 legalizes the possession and use of marijuana by youth.”

In a follow-up interview, Gagnon said that he was not in possession of the “legal review” in question, but was made aware of it through “No on 1” coalition member Stephanie Anderson, Cumberland County’s district attorney. A spokesman for the Office of the Maine Attorney General confirmed that no legal review or official statement was provided to the “No on 1” campaign.

The “legal review” that Gagnon mentioned appears to refer to comments presented by Attorney General Janet Mills to the Maine Prosecutor’s Association, of which Anderson is the director. Anderson appears to have made Mills’ concerns public, first on Wednesday on the “Ray Richardson Show.”

The document outlining those concerns states that “the initiated bill purports to allow only people over 21 years of age to buy and consume marijuana, however, it says nothing about people under the age of 21. Nothing in this bill makes it unlawful for a child to possess marijuana — there are no penalties.”

The gist of the attorney general’s comments concerns the repeal of the civil violations for adult use and possession of marijuana in the legalization act. While ostensibly, Question 1 legalizes recreational marijuana only for individuals 21 and older, it repeals the penalties that apply to juveniles as well as adults.

“On page 28 of this 30- page initiative, where this provision is buried, Question 1 repeals the civil violations of the possession of up to 2 and half ounces of marijuana,” said Gagnon. “However, it is that very statute that establishes marijuana possession as a juvenile crime under the juvenile code. Civil violation gone, off the books, so goes the prohibition on youth possession and use of marijuana. Question 1 does not replace the civil violation with any language governing possession and use of marijuana by minors.”

“The attorney general is wrong. This measure legalizes marijuana for adults 21 and older, period,” said Scott Anderson, an attorney for Verrill Dana who has worked on Question 1. “Maine law already makes it illegal for people under 21 to use marijuana, and this proposal doesn’t change that. In fact, it will protect kids far better than the current system does.

“Question 1 unequivocally states that marijuana will only be legal for adults. The question that voters will see in the voting booth asks if we should allow adults who are at least 21 years of age to possess marijuana. We welcome Maine voters to read the initiative to see if there is any ambiguity,” added Anderson.

Mills was not in the office and unavailable for comment on Thursday. However, both Mills and Gagnon have questioned whether repealing penalties for the possession and use of marijuana by minors was intentional.

“The effect is, it makes it legal for anybody of any age; 2 years old, 20 years old, 80 years old, to possess up to two-and-a-half ounces of marijuana,” Mills told WCSH6 on Thursday. “That’s disturbing to me, and I have to think of something more than a drafting error because they deliberately wrote a 30-page bill.”

“The question for me then has to be to ask the ‘Yes on 1’ campaign, was this gross negligence, or was this provision deliberately buried in this 30-page bill in the hopes that Mainers would never find it?” said Gagnon.

Thursday’s press conference in Latchstring Park in Yarmouth included remarks from Gordon Smith, executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association; Jenna Mehnert, executive director of the Maine chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, as well as the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, which opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana.

[email protected]timesrecord.com

QUESTION 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot, the marijuana legalization act, would legalize the possession and use of recreational marijuana in Maine for those 21 years and older.


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: