By: Jess Ward, Staff Writer
When people find out that I moved to Maine from Colorado, one of the first questions that they usually ask is if I smoke weed. The association between the two is not unfounded, since Colorado was one of the first states to completely legalize recreational marijuana. Amendment 64, which proposed new laws to legalize weed, passed in 2012 and has since been implemented in cities and counties all over Colorado. Despite being federally restricted, Colorado’s state government has persisted in upholding its defense of marijuana both recreationally and medicinally.
I smoked weed for the first time when I was 16 and have not looked back since. My friends and I smoked at parties, in private and even during school. We fit our stereotype perfectly: stoners in Dr. Martens and oversized graphic t-shirts who just wanted everyone to chill out. As obnoxious as I am sure that was for our peers, smoking weed was a way for us to relax and not focus on the impending doom that would be our young adulthoods. It meant less panic attacks, better sleep schedules and time for friendships and community—in spite of our crowded schedules.
When I heard that Governor Paul LePage vetoed L.D. 1650, “An Act to Amend the Marijuana Legalization Act,” I was dumbfounded as to why. As a result of legalizing weed, Colorado has seen countless benefits. Statistics surrounding decreased opioid deaths, increased funding for schools, and the plethora of medicinal uses have been plastered all over newspapers and social media. However, LePage cited Colorado as one of his reasons for vetoing legalization, saying that “marijuana-related traffic deaths more than doubled since recreational marijuana was legalized [in Colorado]. The violent crime rate in Colorado increased nearly 19 percent since legalization, more than double the national rate.”
This blatant misuse of information was shocking, as LePage not only created a one-dimensional image of traffic deaths and violent crime, excluding other factors like gun control and urbanization, and he conveniently failed to address all the positive change legalization made happen.
Regardless of what LePage thinks about the morality of legalizing weed, he seems to be ignoring one obvious fact: even if weed is not legal, people are going to keep using it. That is not to say that every illegal substance should be made readily available to consumers, but marijuana is, for the most part, a harmless plant that does not carry the risk of addiction or overdose as many other drugs do.
Even though I am not 21, and, therefore, could not buy weed from dispensaries, it was never a sketchy or dangerous endeavor. Neighbors, coworkers, and friends’ parents all grew weed in their homes, eliminating the risk of being sold laced or moldy weed. We felt safe in smoking, which is not something I can say about Maine. Last year, my friends and I were slipped phencyclidine (PCP) in the form of marijuana, and there was no way for us to come forward. We knew admitting that we smoked weed would leave us just as liable as the student who sold it to us, so we had no choice but to stay silent.
I have no doubt that within my lifetime, weed will be a completely legalized recreational substance in the United States. LePage may continue to block amendments and legislation, but as the stigma surrounding smoking fades and weed is seen as the lucrative and beneficial substance that it is, Maine’s state government will have no choice but to listen to the voice of its people. So put on some Kanye, load your bowls, and wait it out. It cannot be long now, no matter what LePage says, before we are all feeling a little bit more relaxed.