Maine Medical Marijuana Initiative, Question 5 (2009)

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The Maine Medical Marijuana Initiative, also known as Question 5, was on the November 3, 2009 ballot in Maine as an indirect initiated state statute, where it was approved. The measure created nonprofit dispensaries to help patients get a safe supply of their medicine. It also established a statewide identification card system to protect patients from arrest. These changes brought Maine's law in line with the current laws in Rhode Island, Vermont and most of the other medical marijuana states with a statewide identification card.[1][2]


In April 2010 the Legislature approved bill LD 1811 which implements the 2009 ballot initiative and authorizes up to eight medical marijuana dispensaries and creates a state-run registry system.[3] On April 10, 2010 Gov. John Baldacci signed a tax bill into law which included taxing the sale of medical marijuana at state-sanctioned dispensaries. The tax is expected to generate an estimated $71,000 per year. According to officials, the Maine Revenue Service recommended no taxes on marijuana sales. The Maine Revenue Service argued that marijuana would be used for medical reasons and thus should be treated as a prescription drug. At the time the bill was signed, Maine did tax the sale of medications that did not require prescriptions. "There is an awful lot of money there. There is also a lot of potential for misuse. So yes, we should tax it and use some of that money to make sure it is regulated properly," said Sen. Joseph Perry. However, Jonathan Leavitt, executive director of the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative, said that while he is not surprised by the tax decision, tax revenue should be used to help people and not for law enforcement.[4]

Election results

Maine Question 5 (2009)
Approveda Yes 332,038 58.87%

Election results via: Maine Secretary of State, Elections Division, Referendum Election Tabulations, November 3, 2009

Text of measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1]

ME2009Nov Question 5 SB.PNG



The following summary was provided in the Maine Citizen's Guide to the Referendum Election:

Current law allows a person who has been diagnosed by a physician as suffering from certain medical conditions to possess marijuana for medical use. This initiated bill directs the Department of Health and Human Services to issue registry identification cards to patients who qualify to possess marijuana for medical use and to their designated primary caregivers. It sets limits on the amount of marijuana that may be possessed by qualifying patients and their designated primary caregivers. It allows the establishment of nonprofit dispensaries to provide marijuana to qualifying patients and directs the Department of Health and Human Services to issue a registration certificate to a nonprofit dispensary that meets certain criteria. It changes the description of the medical conditions for which the medical use of marijuana is permitted. It directs the Department of Health and Human Services to establish application and renewal fees sufficient to pay the expenses of implementing and administering the provisions of the initiated bill. [5]

Maine Secretary of State [1]

Intent and content

November 2, 2009 Maine Sample Ballot

The following description of the intent and content of this ballot measure was provided in the Maine Citizen's Guide to the Referendum Election:

This initiated legislation repeals Maine’s existing statutes regarding the medical use of marijuana and replaces them with a new law, entitled the Maine Medical Marijuana Act.

The new Act expands the list of medical conditions for which marijuana may be prescribed to include cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease”), Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s diseases, nail-patella syndrome, and the treatment of any of these conditions; plus any chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that causes intractable pain that has not responded to ordinary procedures for reducing pain over a period of more than six months, and any chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces severe nausea, seizures (including epileptic seizures), or severe and persistent muscle spasms, such as those associated with multiple sclerosis. The public would be able to petition the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to add other medical conditions to this list, according to rules that would be developed by DHHS.

Any person diagnosed by a doctor as having one of these medical conditions, and who, in the professional opinion of the doctor, is likely to receive palliative or therapeutic benefit for the condition or its symptoms, could qualify to possess marijuana for medical use. The patient would be issued a “registry identification card” by DHHS and authorized to possess up to two and a half ounces of usable marijuana and up to six marijuana plants, provided the plants were kept in an enclosed, locked facility. A qualifying patient could designate another person to assist them with their medical use of marijuana, provided that person was over the age of 21 and had never been convicted of a felony drug offense. This person, designated as a “primary care giver,” would be issued a registry card, and would then be authorized to possess, for each qualifying patient the person was assisting, up to two and a half ounces of usable marijuana and up to six marijuana plants kept in an enclosed, locked facility. Applications by patients and caregivers for registry identification cards, and the list of persons who had been issued registry cards, would be kept confidential by DHHS.

Possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes would be prohibited on the grounds of any school (pre-school through high school), in a school bus, or in any jail or prison. Smoking of marijuana would be prohibited in any public place and on any form of public transportation. Patients would not be permitted to control or operate any motor vehicle, aircraft or motorboat while under the influence of marijuana. Employers would not be required to permit use of marijuana in the workplace or to accommodate an employee working while under the influence.

The legislation authorizes the establishment of not-for-profit organizations as “nonprofit dispensaries” to acquire, cultivate and distribute marijuana to qualifying patients for medical use, and to be designated as primary caregivers for such patients. Every dispensary would have to qualify and be registered with DHHS and would operate under regulations to be developed by DHHS. The regulations must include restrictions on who could serve as a board member, officer or employee of a dispensary, and restrictions on the amount of usable marijuana or marijuana plants that the dispensary could produce and distribute to patients. Any cultivation of marijuana by a dispensary would have to take place in an enclosed, locked facility. No dispensary could be located within 500 feet of the property line of a public or private school that was already in existence, and local governments would remain free to restrict the number of dispensaries within their city or town or to enact reasonable zoning regulations applicable to dispensaries.

The proposed law provides legal protections from prosecution for primary caregivers, qualifying patients and nonprofit dispensaries operating in compliance with the law, and also includes penalties for noncompliance with the new law and rules.

If approved, this citizen initiated legislation would take effect 30 days after proclamation of the vote.

A “YES” vote favors enactment of the initiated legislation.

A “NO” vote opposes enactment of the initiated legislation. [5]

Office of the Attorney General [1]

Fiscal note

The following fiscal impact statement was provided in the Maine Citizen's Guide to the Referendum Election:

Correctional and Judicial Impact Statements. This bill modifies the law to allow the medical use of marijuana. The judicial branch may realize some minor savings from a reduced caseload related to previously illegal activity that will no longer be illegal. The bill also establishes new Class D and Class E crimes as well as civil violations for failure to follow the provisions of the law and that may increase the judicial caseload. The bill allows qualifying patients to commence actions in Superior Court to compel the Department of Human Services to perform certain actions mandated by the bill. This fiscal note assumes that the net impact to the judicial and correctional systems will not be significant.

Fiscal Notes and Detail. The implementation of this initiated bill is contingent upon approval by the voters at referendum in November of 2009. If adopted, an allocation of Other Special Revenue Funds will be needed for the costs of one Substance Abuse Program Specialist position beginning January 1, 2010 in the Office of Substance Abuse in the Department of Health and Human Services and for related administrative costs to implement and administer the provisions of the initiated bill, including issuing registry identification cards to patients and their designated primary caregivers and to issue registration certificates for non-profit dispensaries. It is further assumed these costs will be offset by application and renewal fees established by the department as required in the bill. center [5]

—Office of Fiscal and Program Review [1]


A Maine Medical Marijuana Initiative (1999) was on the 1999 ballot in Maine; it passed with 61.4% of the vote and took effect on December 22, 1999. That ballot initiative made the possession of no more than 1 1/4 ounces of harvested marijuana and 6 marijuana plants (of which not more than 3 may be mature flowering plants) legal in the state to eligible patients who were prescribed this for medical purposes.

Senate Bill 611, which was signed into law on April 2, 2002, increased the amount of usable marijuana a patient may possess from one and one-quarter ounces to two and one-half ounces.


Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative.jpg

Jonathan A. Leavitt was the official proponent of the measure. The Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative supported the initiative and formed the coalition Maine Commonsense and the committee Maine Citizens for Patients' Rights.[6][7] According to Leavitt, under the current law Mainers didn't have a safe and reliable way to get marijuana. Leavitt argued that patients only had two options: grow their own marijuana or buy it on the black market. Additionally, Leavitt noted that patients could "lose their homes, their jobs and custody of their children just for using the medicine their doctors recommend."[8]

According to Leavitt: "We feel the campaign is in really good shape right now. In the 10 years since the medical marijuana law went into effect, it has barely been utilized because patients have not had a legal means of obtaining their medicine except to grow their own, and that's just not workable for a seriously ill patient. With this measure, qualified patients will have full access to their medicine through the establishment of not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries."[9]


According to Leavitt, Question 5 would:[8]

  • Establish a system of non-profit dispensaries which would be overseen and tightly regulated by the state
  • Establish a voluntary identification card for medical marijuana patients and caregivers
  • Patients and caregivers would be protected from arrest, search and seizure unless there is suspicion of abuse
  • New protections for qualified patients and providers in housing, education, employment and child custody
  • Allow patients with Lou Gehrig's disease and Alzheimer's disease access to medical marijuana
  • Require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a procedure for expanding the list of conditions for which marijuana can be used

Question 5, proponents argued, would not:[8]

  • Legalize marijuana
  • Affect the penalties for use, possession, cultivation or distribution of marijuana for any purposes other than medical purposes for qualified patients
  • Increase the availability of marijuana
  • Cost Maine taxpayers anything. The cost of implementation would be covered by licensing fees paid by dispensaries.


Medical marijuana dispensary sign

According to the state of Maine there were no official committees that opposed Question 5.[10]

In October 2009, Don LaRouche and the Maine Prosecutors Association took a public stand against Question 5. LaRouche, a spokesman for Maine Citizens for Medical Marijuana and marijuana supporter, argued that Question 5 wasn't the answer to legalizing marijuana in Maine. Specifically, LaRouche said he was concerned about state Department of Health and Human Services ability to oversee the program and the $5,000 cost for a dispensary registration and identification card process. He said he does not believe that the state department of health and human services should be in charge of the dispensaries.

Maine Prosecutors Association

The Maine Prosecutors Association president Evert Fowle, like LaRouche, argued that Question 5 included more than just the legalization of marijuana. "This law reeks of paranoia that the entire criminal justice system is not to be trusted," he said. Question 5 has a child-custody provision that stated that a medical-marijuana patient cannot be denied visitation or custody of a minor unless their behavior is "unreasonably dangerous to the minor." Fowle said this provision is not available to non-medical-marijuana patients. Additionally, Fowle argued that the initiative permits someone with several misdemeanor drug convictions to run a dispensary.[11][12]

Maine Chiefs of Police Association

The Maine Chiefs of Police Association spoke out against the measure in late October 2009. They said that they were concerned that with the legalization of dispensaries there could be an increase in crime. Additionally, the association noted that they were worried about too little regulation or monitoring of the dispensaries, should they become legalized. "I think people have sympathy for people who need this for medicinal purposes. The control of it, so it doesn't get into people's hands where it doesn't belong, is the concern of law enforcement," said Robert Schwartz, executive director of the police association.[13]

Campaign contributions

$163,845 was reported to have been contributed to campaigns relating to Question 5, all of which was in support.[14]


In 2009, the Maine Citizens for Patients' Rights received a total of $20,000 in cash contributions. All 2009 funds are reported to have resulted from contributions from the Drug Policy Alliance Network.[10] Through 2008, the group received contributions of $90,600. Some of the contributors were:[15]

  • 6/23/2008, Scott Mortimer, $500.00
  • 6/26/2008, Drug Policy Alliance, 70 West 36th St., New York, NY 10018, $10,000.00

The Drug Policy Alliance of New York contributed a total of $30,000 to the Maine Citizens Patients' Rights. According to recently released campaign finance reports that were released during the week of October 14, 2009, the most recent contribution donated by the group has been $10,000.[16]


As of October 29, 2009, no opposition groups registered with the state ethics commission to raise or spend money towards the campaign against the measure.[16]

Media editorial positions

Main article: Endorsements of Maine ballot measures, 2009


  • The Seacoast Media Group said,

State voters 10 years ago approved a measure to legalize medical marijuana use by chronically ill people, but the law provided no legal means by which to procure the drug. Question 5 provides that means, by setting up nonprofit dispensaries. Ill people have enough worries. Vote YES. [5]

—Seacost Media Group [17]


  • The Sun Journal said,

Question 5 now comes before voters this year, asking to create a system of nonprofit dispensaries to allow legitimate patients legal access to marijuana...And it would be, if Question 5 were creating marijuana dispensaries that weren't standalone entities, but directly affiliated with doctors, hospitals or pharmacies. This proposed system is fraught with potential problems for law enforcement and regulation and should not be instituted. On Nov. 3, please vote no on Question 5. [5]

—Sun Journal [18]

  • The Bangor Daily News said,

A key problem with the law proposed by Question 5 is that it would create marijuana dispensaries with very little oversight. Under the proposal, the state Department of Health and Human Services would oversee the dispensaries, which raises the question of whether the agency would then have a responsibility to control the quality of the marijuana that is distributed. DHHS has a domain of responsibility that is already too large as its budget shrinks. [5]

—Bangor Daily News [19]

  • The Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel said,

We are concerned about the opportunity for diversion that this would create. What we've seen in recent years with prescription drugs and clinic methadone is that any medication distributed for legitimate uses can end up in the wrong hands [...] Ultimately, this is a federal issue and should be resolved in Washington, not in Maine. Mainer's should vote "no" on this measure. [5]

—Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel [20]

  • The Journal Tribune said,

There is a good argument for such a system: Maine doctors can currently prescribe pot to patients suffering from debilitating conditions like glaucoma, cancer and AIDS, but legally obtaining marijuana is difficult. But the Maine Chiefs of Police Association and Maine’s Office of Substance Abuse oppose the legislation. We believe they raise enough questions to justify a No vote on Question 5. [5]

—Journal Tribune [21]

  • The Brunswick Time Record said,

Notwithstanding the Obama administration’s new policy that it will not seek to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws, we believe Question 5 should be rejected by voters. There are still simply too many legal complications foreseen by the Maine Prosecutors Association and Maine law enforcement officers if this citizen initiative is approved on Nov. 3 for us to embrace its many otherwise worthwhile goals. [5]

—Brunswick Time Record [22]

Report on medical marijuana

The American College of Physicians, America's 2nd largest physicians group, published a position paper entitled Supporting Research into the Therapeutic Role of Marijuana. ACP publishes the Annals of Internal Medicine. The bi-monthly journal, established in 1927, is the most quoted medical publication in the world. They position themselves with the Institute of Medicine, American Public Health Association, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, American Nurses Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine and dozens of other medical and health organizations that support medical marijuana access, legal protection for patients and doctors, and continued research into the use of THC (the active agent in marijuana) in a wide range of diseases. They state that THC is effective in treating multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord injuries or other trauma, and well as the side effects of treatment for AIDS and Cancer.[23]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Maine

In January 2009, sponsors reported they collected about 55,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot. They were required to collect a minimum of about 55,000 valid signatures. The signature filing deadline was January 22, 2009.[24]


See also: Polls, 2009 ballot measures
  • A poll released October 27, 2009 by Pan Atlantic SMS Services revealed that 59% of voters are in favor of Question 5, whereas 32% are opposed and 9% are undecided. Approximately 400 voters were polled. The poll is reported to have a +/- 4.9% margin of error.[25][26]
Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided
Oct. 20 - 22 Pan Atlantic SMS Services 59% 32% 9%

See also



External links

Suggest a link

Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Maine Secretary of State, Division of Elections, "Maine Citizen's Guide to the Referendum Election, Tuesday, November 3, 2009," accessed May 13, 2014
  2. Maine Secretary of State, Elections Division, "Referendum Election Tabulations, November 3, 2009," accessed May 13, 2014
  3. Bangor Daily News, "8 districts to handle medical marijuana," April 8, 2010
  4. Bangor Daily News, "Medical pot users to pay sales tax," April 10, 2010
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  6. Maine Commonsense, "About the Maine Marijuana Project Initiative," accessed February 18, 2009
  7. Maine Citizens for Patients' Rights, "PROPOSED INITIATIVE SUMMARY," accessed October 1, 2009
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Kennebec Journal, "Qualified patients need safe way to obtain medical marijuana," October 11, 2009
  9. Stop the Drug War, "Feature: Maine Medical Marijuana Dispensary Initiative Ahead in November Election Campaign," October 16, 2009
  10. 10.0 10.1 Maine Campaign Finance, "Maine Citizens for Patients Rights," accessed September 27, 2009
  11. Morning Sentinel, "Opposition to marijuana ballot initiative forms," October 5, 2009
  12. Kennebec Journal, "Law goes far beyond what's needed to accomplish its purpose," October 11, 2009
  13. Kennebec Journal, "Maine police chiefs oppose marijuana dispensaries," October 27, 2009
  14. Follow the Money, "Maine 2009 Ballot Measures Question 5," accessed May 13, 2014
  15. Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics & Election Practices, "Campaign finance report for Maine Citizens for Patients Rights," accessed May 13, 2014
  16. 16.0 16.1 Morning Sentinel, "Pot-legalization backers fund Question 5 effort," October 14, 2009
  17. Seacoast Media Group, "Our take on state ballot questions," October 28, 2009
  18. Sun Journal, "Question 5: Clinic plan needs work," October 26, 2009
  19. Bangor Daily News, "No on Question 5," October 22, 2009
  20. Morning Sentinel, "Vote 'yes' for bond, clerks; 'no' on marijuana," October 26, 2009
  21. Journal Tribune, "Marijuana dispensary plan needs more study," October 29, 2009
  22. The Times Record, "‘No’ on Question 5," October 28, 2009 (dead link)
  23. Annals of Internal Medicine, "Search results for marijuana," accessed May 13, 2014
  24. WMTV, "Maine Citizen Initiatives Certified; Will Go To Legislature," February 24, 2009
  25. Maine Public Broadcasting Network, "Poll Finds Waning Support for TABOR 2," October 26, 2009
  26. Maine Campus, "TABOR, Question 1 drop in polls," October 27, 2009