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Category:Competitiveness analysis of state legislative elections, 2009


Question 5 not the answer? The argument against it

Conflict of interest. Three simple words with one big meaning behind the Maine Medical Marijuana Initiative, also known as Question 5. That was the central theme of a conversation between ballotpedia.org and Question 5 opponents Don Christen and Don LaRouche. Both men, members of the Maine Citizens for Medical Marijuana, gave their firm stance on Question 5, the measure that asks voters: “Do you want to change the medical marijuana laws to allow treatment of more medical conditions and to create a regulated system of distribution?”

Despite their support for the medicinal use for the drug, LaRouche and Christen, both medical marijuana patients, oppose the measure due to, according to their campaign flyer, the initiative’s omissions of:

  • “Authorization-by a diagnosis of an illness or symptom that marijuana may be beneficial in their therapy."
  • “Protection for Doctors/State licenses if needed and requirement for Doctors to work with patients who request to use marijuana for their therapy.”
  • “Amount patient can possess needs to be increased.”

But the biggest issue the two men have with Question 5 is the government’s “conflict of interest”. According to them, the Department of Health and Human Services would oversee dispensaries if the measure is passed. This, for them, is where the conflict comes in.

According to Christen: “The main reason to vote this bill down is because we don’t want the DHHS coming in to interfere when they don‘t even want medical marijuana. We’re not against dispensaries, we’re against the DHHS coming in a setting fees. We’re not criminals, people know that I’m a caregiver, and if they need it, they can call me and I can provide them. That doesn’t make me a criminal. You know if an old lady who needs medical marijuana has been in a neighborhood for a long time, her neighbors know her and could help her out. In the big cities, there could be problems with criminal activities, but this is Maine.”

LaRouche concurred with his fellow campaign member when he stated that the if the question passes, it could hurt the overall cause of getting patients‘ their medicine. According to LaRouche: “We’re not asking for money, we’re not Washington, we’re not Massachusetts, we’re not California, we’re not Rhode Island. This is Maine, we’re the highest taxed state in the country and if this measure is passed, dispensaries are going to be charged $5,000 to produce medical marijuana. And then they’ll be charged by the county and town for approval. That could add up to $10,000. Then who is going to want to become a caregiver? Is the guy across the street who owns a lumberyard going to help us? Pharmacists aren‘t even charged $5,000 for their license.”

LaRouche has been a strong opponent of medical marijuana due to his experiences with muscle spasms and glaucoma. According to the Madison, Maine resident, he feels no side effects from the drug, and stated that he feels no pressure in his eyes when he smokes it. Christen, who also suffers from back spasms, went into detail about the trouble of growing the right amount allowed by current law, and how the new proposed law leaves out a revision to this. LaRouche quickly chimed in: “If you’re even a tenth of a gram over the legal limit, the DHHS is going to get you. They can go into your house, search it. You could lose your children. Children have been taken away.”

Christen then came in with his thoughts, keeping with the conflict of interest argument: “We want to keep this out of government bureaucracy as much as we can. The DHHS doesn’t want this to work, so why should we put it in their hands?”

Whether or not Question 5 is passed, a future strategy is already in the works. The men stated that two petitions have been started, one by the Maine Citizens for Medical Marijuana, which would include the aforementioned omissions by Question 5, and another by Maine Vocals, which would end marijuana prohibition altogether. Both petitions are targeting the November 2010 statewide ballot, according to Christen.

With so many uncertainties surrounding Question 5, at least one thing is for sure: Even after the November 3 election, the state of Maine hasn’t seen the last of the cannabis plant issue.


Medical marijuana initiative turns heads, confuses the mind

Question 5 has various supporters and opponents, many of whom come from the legislature and the campaign leaders. However, the state’s leading medical figures are putting in their say as well. Just to clarify, medical marijuana is legalized in Maine already; the measure isn’t about legalizing the drug for medical use. The measure is about establishing nonprofit dispensaries to protect patients from arrest when buying from the black market.

According to supporters, obtaining the drug under current law is risky since there are no clear provisions in obtaining marijuana. Patients could grow the plant, but with medical problems such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis apparent in most of them, that just may not be the most feasible solution.

Still, notable physicians in the state of Maine don’t think Question 5 is the best way to go. Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH and State Health Director, doesn’t believe public health agencies should oversee marijuana dispensaries, as proposed by the referendum. According to Mills: “And the referendum, if passed, would conflict with current federal law. So to put a state agency in the position of dispensing a drug in an illegal way, and a harmful drug, I think would put us in a horrendous position."[1]

It is a tricky subject, especially since some medical marijuana patients are against the measure. Impossible? Don’t tell that to medical marijuana patient Don LaRouche. I’m off to Augusta to meet with the man against the measure, and who is spokesman for the Maine Citizens for Medical Marijuana. You’re probably asking, “He’s for medical marijuana but against the measure?” Confused yet? That’s what we’re here for.

Check back later today for our Q&A with Mr. LaRouche.


High times at the University of Southern Maine

The University of Southern Maine has a great campus. Bar none. It’s not because of the great building structures or the organization of the parking lots and safe environment. It’s because of the convenient location. The university is right smack in the middle of the city of Portland. What’s also convenient is that it was walking distance from my hotel. You can tell what a tight community it is, and that was apparent right off the bat when I walked into the auditorium where Waiting to Exhale, the film about medical marijuana and the importance of legal purchase, was screened. I felt a great sense of friendliness as people asked me who I worked with and what we do as a informational website.

The screening was also enjoyable; who would’ve thought so much information could be packed into 110 minutes?

Cinematography aside, my penultimate full day here in the state of Maine seems to be a busy one. No response yet from the opposing side of Question 5, but ballotpedia.org will try its best to get what we need to help our readers make an informed decision about any ballot issue. Stay tuned for our featured Q&A with the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative’s Jon Leavitt, who will sit down with us tomorrow morning at his campaign headquarters. Mr. Leavitt will also give us the most recent polling on Question 5.

Keep a look out!


High Priority: Legal purchase of medical marijuana the center theme of documentary

687px-Flag of Maine.svg.png
Wednesday night at the University of Southern Maine saw the screening of Waiting To Inhale, a documentary by Jed Riffe on medical marijuana and the importance of its legal purchase. Wendy Chapkis, a professor at USM and author of Dying to Get High presented the film at Luther Bonney Hall located in the middle of campus. The screening, attended by approximately 50 students and faculty, lasted 110 minutes and interviewed many medical marijuana patients who faced self-described problems of obtaining their medicine. Also in attendance were volunteers for the pro-Question 5 campaign. Question 5, if passed, would allow patients to get medical marijuana from non-profit dispensaries and create ID card systems to protect them from arrest.

Before the screening, Question 5 supporter Ben Chipman, a member of the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative campaign, spoke to the audience about their efforts and about the opportunity to join them. Campaign volunteers also passed out fliers that called for “Safe and reliable access to their medicine,” along with “protection from arrest, loss of job, home, or children for using medicine their doctor recommended.”

Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative.jpg

After the brief speech, Chapkis agreed with the campaign, stating, “This is a critical time in Maine. When it comes to medical marijuana, we need to have ethical medical marijuana provisions to ensure patients’ health and safety.”

The documentary presented a range of topics, from the scientific breakdown of the cannabis plant to political efforts for and against its medical practice. The film began with interviews from a family that grew the plant for medical purposes, and who were raided on September 5, 2009 by Drug Enforcement Administration agents. The film also covered Proposition 215, the 1996 initiative in California that allowed for the medical use for the drug and the aftermath that ensued. Successful creation of ID card systems in the state of California after the measure was passed was shown, with Oakland Cannabis Clubs used as the main example. According to the film, the procedure for obtaining an ID card for medical marijuana included a doctor’s permission and a background check of said doctor by the club. Interviews from physicians, politicians such as Barney Frank, and activists were also included in the documentary.

After the screening, Chapkis was available to sign her book outside of the auditorium, which were also on sale for those in attendance.



Interview with Steve Fox (11/20/09), Marijuana Policy Project

This is an interview conducted on November 20, 2009 with Steve Fox. Steve Fox is the Director of State Campaigns for The Marijuana Policy Project. Steve is also the co-author of Marijuana is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink? (Chelsea Green, August 2009).

Marijuanabookpic.jpg



Q&A with Jon Leavitt, (10/23/09), Question 5

Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative.jpg

If Jon Leavitt, leader of the Pro-Question 5 campaign, is sure of anything, it’s that Maine residents will vote “yes” on Question 5 and his efforts will come into fruition come November 3. That was the demeanor of Mr. Leavitt, member of the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative, who took time out of his schedule to give us insight into his campaign. The “field office,” as he described it, was located in downtown Portland, in a very low-key building. Reflective of it’s campaign headquarters in the city, the campaign is taking a quiet approach in the weeks leading up to the election, due to strong support of Question 5 and solid support indicated through polls. Mr. Leavitt made it clear that said poll will make it’s debut come Tuesday of next week. The poll, conducted by the Portland based Pan-Atlantic SMS group, breaks down multiple facets of voter categories, including gender, age, political affiliation, education level, and household income. Mr. Leavitt provided ballotpedia.org with a copy of the poll, but asked not to release it until it has been made public.

Opponents have stated that the DHS would oversee dispensaries, which in their opinion, would hurt medical marijuana laws. What is your response to this?

When you set up a measure like this, you have to have the backing of a state agency. There’s no way around that. When started this, we had a choice of the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Public safety. We basically had a choice between the cops and the health department. I mean, yeah, of course we’re going to go with the health department.

What about $5,000 a fee for those dispensaries to be set up? Opponents have stated that total fees could amount to $10,000.

That’s wrong information on their part. Our opponents have been giving out misinformation to voters and I don‘t think they‘re a credible source. It’s a $5,000 fee. I don’t think that [fee] would be a problem to for them. I mean they don’t represent patients, they have no one backing their campaign.

Have you known someone close to you who has experience with medical marijuana? What for?

I just had a friend who died last week, who suffered from epileptic seizures. When he took marijuana, it would eliminate those seizures, but he got arrested for growing his own. He just couldn’t find a doctor who would recommend him for medical marijuana. They put him on that synthetic stuff, but it wasn’t working, and I really think he died as a result of him not being able to stay on [medical marijuana].

Do you think voters are aware of what the measure entails? How are you getting the word out to inform voters?

They’re aware. I mean voter support is around 85% for this. The polling shows that Question 5 is ahead by a large margin.

Have you ever worked on a campaign for a ballot measure before this?

(Sighs) Which one haven’t I worked on? Let’s see, well I worked on a measure in Massachusetts that deregulated the electrical industry.

When was this?

In the mid 90’s. For the past 10 years I’ve been working on mostly electoral work though.

How much money have you spent on radio, TV and newspaper ads up to this point?

None. Not to this point.

None at all?

We haven’t had to. We’re just getting a lot of strong support.

Senator Joseph Brannigan stated that this is the “other moral issue” next to Question 1. What groups has your campaign received opposition from?

Nothing. I kid you not. I think some of our opposition is focused on mainly Question 1. But if you look at strong Christian beliefs, it’s easy to point out in the Bible that plants are here for a purpose intended by God . There is an element of compassion in religion, and you can see that this issue helps people and their needs.

If Question 5 is not passed, what is your next step?

Question 5 is going to pass.

You’re that confident? You have no back up plan?

Yeah. I mean, if it fails, our back up plan I guess would be to start all over again. I don’t intend to start all over again.


Question 5 not the answer? The argument against it

Conflict of interest. Three simple words with one big meaning behind the Maine Medical Marijuana Initiative, also known as Question 5. That was the central theme of a conversation between ballotpedia.org and Question 5 opponents Don Christen and Don LaRouche. Both men, members of the Maine Citizens for Medical Marijuana, gave their firm stance on Question 5, the measure that asks voters: “Do you want to change the medical marijuana laws to allow treatment of more medical conditions and to create a regulated system of distribution?”

Despite their support for the medicinal use for the drug, LaRouche and Christen, both medical marijuana patients, oppose the measure due to, according to their campaign flyer, the initiative’s omissions of:

  • “Authorization-by a diagnosis of an illness or symptom that marijuana may be beneficial in their therapy."
  • “Protection for Doctors/State licenses if needed and requirement for Doctors to work with patients who request to use marijuana for their therapy.”
  • “Amount patient can possess needs to be increased.”

But the biggest issue the two men have with Question 5 is the government’s “conflict of interest”. According to them, the Department of Health and Human Services would oversee dispensaries if the measure is passed. This, for them, is where the conflict comes in.

According to Christen: “The main reason to vote this bill down is because we don’t want the DHHS coming in to interfere when they don‘t even want medical marijuana. We’re not against dispensaries, we’re against the DHHS coming in a setting fees. We’re not criminals, people know that I’m a caregiver, and if they need it, they can call me and I can provide them. That doesn’t make me a criminal. You know if an old lady who needs medical marijuana has been in a neighborhood for a long time, her neighbors know her and could help her out. In the big cities, there could be problems with criminal activities, but this is Maine.”

LaRouche concurred with his fellow campaign member when he stated that the if the question passes, it could hurt the overall cause of getting patients‘ their medicine. According to LaRouche: “We’re not asking for money, we’re not Washington, we’re not Massachusetts, we’re not California, we’re not Rhode Island. This is Maine, we’re the highest taxed state in the country and if this measure is passed, dispensaries are going to be charged $5,000 to produce medical marijuana. And then they’ll be charged by the county and town for approval. That could add up to $10,000. Then who is going to want to become a caregiver? Is the guy across the street who owns a lumberyard going to help us? Pharmacists aren‘t even charged $5,000 for their license.”

LaRouche has been a strong opponent of medical marijuana due to his experiences with muscle spasms and glaucoma. According to the Madison, Maine resident, he feels no side effects from the drug, and stated that he feels no pressure in his eyes when he smokes it. Christen, who also suffers from back spasms, went into detail about the trouble of growing the right amount allowed by current law, and how the new proposed law leaves out a revision to this. LaRouche quickly chimed in: “If you’re even a tenth of a gram over the legal limit, the DHHS is going to get you. They can go into your house, search it. You could lose your children. Children have been taken away.”

Christen then came in with his thoughts, keeping with the conflict of interest argument: “We want to keep this out of government bureaucracy as much as we can. The DHHS doesn’t want this to work, so why should we put it in their hands?”

Whether or not Question 5 is passed, a future strategy is already in the works. The men stated that two petitions have been started, one by the Maine Citizens for Medical Marijuana, which would include the aforementioned omissions by Question 5, and another by Maine Vocals, which would end marijuana prohibition altogether. Both petitions are targeting the November 2010 statewide ballot, according to Christen.

With so many uncertainties surrounding Question 5, at least one thing is for sure: Even after the November 3 election, the state of Maine hasn’t seen the last of the cannabis plant issue.


Medical marijuana initiative turns heads, confuses the mind

Question 5 has various supporters and opponents, many of whom come from the legislature and the campaign leaders. However, the state’s leading medical figures are putting in their say as well. Just to clarify, medical marijuana is legalized in Maine already; the measure isn’t about legalizing the drug for medical use. The measure is about establishing nonprofit dispensaries to protect patients from arrest when buying from the black market.

According to supporters, obtaining the drug under current law is risky since there are no clear provisions in obtaining marijuana. Patients could grow the plant, but with medical problems such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis apparent in most of them, that just may not be the most feasible solution.

Still, notable physicians in the state of Maine don’t think Question 5 is the best way to go. Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH and State Health Director, doesn’t believe public health agencies should oversee marijuana dispensaries, as proposed by the referendum. According to Mills: “And the referendum, if passed, would conflict with current federal law. So to put a state agency in the position of dispensing a drug in an illegal way, and a harmful drug, I think would put us in a horrendous position."[2]

It is a tricky subject, especially since some medical marijuana patients are against the measure. Impossible? Don’t tell that to medical marijuana patient Don LaRouche. I’m off to Augusta to meet with the man against the measure, and who is spokesman for the Maine Citizens for Medical Marijuana. You’re probably asking, “He’s for medical marijuana but against the measure?” Confused yet? That’s what we’re here for.

Check back later today for our Q&A with Mr. LaRouche.


High times at the University of Southern Maine

The University of Southern Maine has a great campus. Bar none. It’s not because of the great building structures or the organization of the parking lots and safe environment. It’s because of the convenient location. The university is right smack in the middle of the city of Portland. What’s also convenient is that it was walking distance from my hotel. You can tell what a tight community it is, and that was apparent right off the bat when I walked into the auditorium where Waiting to Exhale, the film about medical marijuana and the importance of legal purchase, was screened. I felt a great sense of friendliness as people asked me who I worked with and what we do as a informational website.

The screening was also enjoyable; who would’ve thought so much information could be packed into 110 minutes?

Cinematography aside, my penultimate full day here in the state of Maine seems to be a busy one. No response yet from the opposing side of Question 5, but ballotpedia.org will try its best to get what we need to help our readers make an informed decision about any ballot issue. Stay tuned for our featured Q&A with the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative’s Jon Leavitt, who will sit down with us tomorrow morning at his campaign headquarters. Mr. Leavitt will also give us the most recent polling on Question 5.

Keep a look out!


High Priority: Legal purchase of medical marijuana the center theme of documentary

687px-Flag of Maine.svg.png
Wednesday night at the University of Southern Maine saw the screening of Waiting To Inhale, a documentary by Jed Riffe on medical marijuana and the importance of its legal purchase. Wendy Chapkis, a professor at USM and author of Dying to Get High presented the film at Luther Bonney Hall located in the middle of campus. The screening, attended by approximately 50 students and faculty, lasted 110 minutes and interviewed many medical marijuana patients who faced self-described problems of obtaining their medicine. Also in attendance were volunteers for the pro-Question 5 campaign. Question 5, if passed, would allow patients to get medical marijuana from non-profit dispensaries and create ID card systems to protect them from arrest.

Before the screening, Question 5 supporter Ben Chipman, a member of the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative campaign, spoke to the audience about their efforts and about the opportunity to join them. Campaign volunteers also passed out fliers that called for “Safe and reliable access to their medicine,” along with “protection from arrest, loss of job, home, or children for using medicine their doctor recommended.”

Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative.jpg

After the brief speech, Chapkis agreed with the campaign, stating, “This is a critical time in Maine. When it comes to medical marijuana, we need to have ethical medical marijuana provisions to ensure patients’ health and safety.”

The documentary presented a range of topics, from the scientific breakdown of the cannabis plant to political efforts for and against its medical practice. The film began with interviews from a family that grew the plant for medical purposes, and who were raided on September 5, 2009 by Drug Enforcement Administration agents. The film also covered Proposition 215, the 1996 initiative in California that allowed for the medical use for the drug and the aftermath that ensued. Successful creation of ID card systems in the state of California after the measure was passed was shown, with Oakland Cannabis Clubs used as the main example. According to the film, the procedure for obtaining an ID card for medical marijuana included a doctor’s permission and a background check of said doctor by the club. Interviews from physicians, politicians such as Barney Frank, and activists were also included in the documentary.

After the screening, Chapkis was available to sign her book outside of the auditorium, which were also on sale for those in attendance.


Q&A with Newell Augur (10/21/09), Question 3

ME No on 3.png

I sat down with Newell Augur today, leader of the “No on 3” campaign and Maine People for Improved School Education. The interview took place at a coffee shop, where the coffee manager was curious about our interview. The manager asked, “So a “no” vote would repeal the law?” Mr. Augur replied, “No, a “no” vote would defeat the measure and keep the law in place.” That’s why we’re here for our readers: to keep them informed.

1. What is your campaign doing to get the word out to voter’s? How much money are you spending on TV, radio and newspaper ads, etc?

Well, I don’t want to give too much of what we’re doing. I could give you more information come November 4, but I just don’t want to give away our playbook. I could give you a recitation of what we’re doing, how we’re reaching out to voters. We’re trying to reach them in as an effective, efficient way as possible. We have reached out to various voter lists of both Democratic and Republican parties. Let’s see, we have our website and that’s been giving out information in terms of what we’re doing. You can receive updates on our campaign on our site, you know, and we’re using that to respond to the misinformation that the other side may be giving to voters.

2. Who are your major donors? Can you cite any specific organizations?

If you go to the ethics commission’s website, there is a list of political action committees that are donors to our campaign. Our political action committee, Maine People for Improved School Education, are the main donors for “No on 3”. You know, it’s right there in for Maine public to see. There’s a lot of information on that.

3. Governor Baldacci has stated his opposition to Question 3. How much of a help has that been to your campaign? Has he donated money towards the campaign?

Well you know, he’s the main guy. He’s the head of the state of Maine, it’s been a tremendous help. He knows more than anyone what a step back this would be if we erased all the hard work that went into this law. He was the first one who proposed this in his inaugural address a few years back. He took on entrenched special interests who didn’t want this law. He had the wisdom back in 2007 to know the importance of saving our money. We didn’t have a meltdown of the banking industry back then. So even before that, he knew the importance of how this law would save us money. The fiscal problems we face today make Question 3 even more central to what he wanted to do; this measure wouldn’t be nearly as significant if it was present 2 years back. The governor sees the what this law would do for education and savings. We are fortunate enough right now with the economy to realize the importance of saving money.

4. Other than the debates that you are participating in, do you have any specific rallies or other such events planned in the coming weeks?

No, not really. We haven’t been doing that. But we’ve been doing some grassroots events around local areas, such as football games, speaking at county fairs. That’s essentially been our grassroots work.

5. Has there been polling done for this measure to get a grasp of where voters are leaning?

Yes, there is the Pan Atlantic Survey that took place last month. It showed that the “Yes” [campaign] were ahead by 7 points. But, notably, it showed that 30% of the voters were undecided. I can’t really list the figures off the top of my head, but I do know the other side was up roughly five or six points. But the funny thing about referendums are that they can turn on a dime. Historically, candidate campaigns are different than these issues. “No” votes are usually typical in these measures, I believe it’s like 2 out of every 3 times that the “Vote No” succeeds.

6. I asked you this at the debate, but again, since voters should be clear on this: will jobs be cut if the law stands and Question 3 is defeated?

There already have been jobs cut. In a school district, you have a superintendent, an assistant superintendent, a transportation director, a food service director and a curriculum director. You know of course some of those are going to be cut in a new [consolidated] district. But we have 290 districts, which is far too many. People can’t afford those positions in their new districts. In this type of economic atmosphere, job creation and job preserving is important. But not when the position is money that is being taken out of the classroom. Wouldn’t you want a Gifted and Talented program rather than a transportation director? I don’t think I know a person in this country that would answer this question the wrong way; by not improving education.

7. What is your next step if question 3 passes? Will we see a persistence in your campaign?

No I don’t think so. If Maine people reject this, if Maine people want to invest money into administration and not schools, then I don’t foresee a renewed effort, certainly not on a future ballot. Legislature will have to take steps around the edges if the question is passed. It’s funny though, you’re right, Question 1 does overshadow this, even TABOR overshadows this. But I think this issue is what is going to impact us the most 20 years down the line. The effort to consolidate is not just about school districts, it’s about re-evaluating our government, it’s about providing better services in the most efficient and effective way possible.


The tools to survive a mid-week slump

Skip Greenlaw and Newell Augur treated me to a friendly, and sometimes intense, debate that presented both sides of the arguments of Question 3. I got a couple of nice bumper stickers from each of them as well as scheduled interviews with both campaign leaders later on in the week.

Two interviews were scheduled on Tuesday, one with the aforementioned Skip Greenlaw and the other with Question 5 supporter Senator Joseph Brannigan. Mr. Greenlaw was a little rushed due to his busy schedule as he had just finished a TV interview and was then heading to a radio interview after. If a lot of people do not know about Question 3, Mr. Greenlaw is sure trying his best to get it out there.

Mr. Brannigan’s interview was more relaxed and in a more quieter setting. It proved to be a interview that gave me good insight on how legislature views Question 5. If I were asked what I had got from the interview, or what stuck out the most, was that although the issue of medical marijuana is tricky and raises plenty of questions, Maine’s legislature in general seems to want to make it work if passed.


Q&A with Senator Joseph Brannigan (10/20/09), Question 5

687px-Flag of Maine.svg.png

Senator Joseph Brannigan has had 22 years of legislative experience, as he stated when he sat down with me. Much appreciation must be given to Senator Brannigan for welcoming ballotpedia.org into his home in Portland to talk about Question 5. He gave us much insight not only into his experiences with the issue, but also what effect it could have in the state’s legislative body:


1. What constitutes your support with Question 5? What history have you had with this particular issue of medical marijuana?

I've been a supporter of medical marijuana since the 80’s. We allowed medical marijuana back then, but it never panned out. We’ve been off and on with the issue, but it never really happens the way we want it to. So hopefully this can improve what we’re trying to get done with marijuana, medically speaking. This is a dispersal issue. The dispersal of medical marijuana to patients in need can’t get any worse than it is now.

2. How much money will the state spend on the ID card system, if any? Where would that money come from if not from the state?

My hope is that the state won’t spend any money on it. I would hope that the system would be self-sufficient. Maybe a charge would be enforced to those who would be using those ID cards. I would really want that system to be self-sufficient.

3. Personally, do you know of anyone who has had the need for medical marijuana?

No I don’t know of anyone personally or close to me. But I’ve spent some time with a group of elderly people who have specialized needs. It’s a complicated issue. This measure will make medical marijuana transactions more out in the open. It would regularize the relationship between the user and the caregiver.

4. Question 5 would not legalize marijuana in the recreational sense. Do you think some voters could be confused about the use of marijuana this measure would give?

I think the medical part has been strongly emphasized. It think people are pretty clear on that. Especially with the older folks I mentioned before. They really want the use of this medical marijuana because they are starting to wear down and it would help them.

5. As a senator, how many of your colleagues would you say support this measure?

Well let me say that if this issue had gone to the floor, it would have passed. I don’t think it would have passed unanimously, of course there would have been questions of this being a slippery slope. We would have to have kept a close eye on it.

6. Have you done anything, personally, to help with the campaign in support of the measure?

No, I don’t think I’ve been asked or approach to help out. I try to lay out both sides. But the group of elderly people that I visited asked me what side I would vote on come November. I told them that I would be voting for this to be passed.

7. With Question 1 on the ballot this year, do you think Question 5 is being put on the back burner in terms of voters’ attention?

Well a lot of groups such as Catholic churches put a lot of “umph” behind defeating these issues. Besides Question 1, this is the “other” moral issue. Probably people who are against casinos too and…yeah [Question 5] might have gotten more attention had Question 1 not been there.

8. Is there anything you would like to add? Anything you would to say about Question 5?

Well I think that the legislature will be vigilant in making sure this is executed properly if it passes. I doubt that certain things will be mandated by this measure. But if it passes, the legislature will work to make it work.


Q&A with Skip Greenlaw (10/20/09), Question 3

Yeson3.jpg

Skip Greenlaw is the primary organizer of the Maine Coalition to Save Schools, the group running the “Vote Yes on #3” campaign. Mr. Greenlaw only had a few minutes do give us during the day, as he had other radio and television interviews to attend. Of course, that didn’t stop him from getting his message across clearly, as he did in the debate held at the University of Maine the night before:


Thank you for joining me. I know you’re very busy with the campaign, so this is much appreciated.

No problem.

1. In yesterday’s debate, you used the argument of urban vs. rural school districts, and how this consolidation law affects both differently. Can you describe the effects to our readers?

Well I can’t answer that conclusively. But there is a dynamic that exists and it has a lot to do with different things. It has a lot to do with geography, smaller school sizes, schools with “tighter belts” than others. The consolidation law may work for some school districts, but for others it may not be the best thing. We can’t enforce this upon them and then penalize them for it. That’s not democracy.”

2. What other options do you propose other than consolidation?

Well one of things that I had mentioned before, is I got a call from Aroostook County, that school districts had reduced salaries and hours. They cut $250,000 out of the central office over several years, but they are not getting credit for it. If the governor had initially said to the various school communities and superintendents around the state, ‘we’re in a budget crisis, we need to reduce spending, or we will do something drastic,’ people would have listened. Maine people want to help their government, but this law is being rammed down their throat.

3. What are you doing to get the word out to voters? How much money are you spending on tv ads, newspaper ads, etc.?

We have no money to spend on TV or radio ads. What we have is spent on supplies for the campaign. But no one is getting paid one cent. We have plenty of volunteers, we had over 61,000 signatures and 500 people gathering those signatures, but we do not have money for TV ads. The other side does have more to work with money because they have the backing of the governor.

4. For this veto referendum, a yes vote would repeal the law, and a no vote would keep it in place. Do you think this confuses voters? No. I think the secretary of state has a method of designing questions. They let people comment on the language and are very open with voters. I think the ballot language is ‘Do you want to repeal a law on school district consolidation and restore the laws previously in effect?’ I think that’s what it says. Anyway, we all think it is not a problem.

5. When all is said and done, if Question 3 is not passed, what is your next step?

We have to see what legislature does. We’ll have to wait and see what they tell us do to, what we have to cut. They need to let us know. In fact, we could have a lawsuit on our hands if some school districts are penalized for not consolidating.


Day 3 in New England: Less roads, more questions

When I learned about the debate between Skip Greenlaw and Newell Augur, campaign leaders for both sides of Question 3, I got to that event faster than...well, not very fast at all. That’s how it seemed, as I had to drive another long, slow two hours to get to the University of Maine to cover the event.

Nevertheless, it was worth the drive. I’ve never seen a debate in person; I’ve only seen them on TV. With any event, TV cameras are too selective. So the little things aren’t seen unless you are actually in attendance. For example, you don’t see the little reactions an opponent makes when he doesn’t agree with something. You don’t see the eyebrow raises, the head shakes or the surprised smiles. You don’t even see the mediator do what he’s supposed to do: mediate. At one point, the mediator had to quietly hold up his finger to warn one of the debaters not to interject during the other’s argument. The event was free, but I would’ve definitely paid to go see it if I was a Maine resident.

Today, I will speak to Skip Greenlaw, asking him questions about last night’s event and how he felt it went overall for his campaign. Tomorrow, I will sit down with Newel Augur and do the same. Also coming later, I will shift gears to Question 5 and talk to Maine Senator Joseph Brannigan, supporter of the measure. Question 5 proposes creating nonprofit dispensaries to help patients get a safe supply of their approved medical marijuana. It would also establish a statewide ID card system to protect patients from arrest. I will be asking the senator what recent polls are showing in terms of voter support or opposition. One thing to think about before this interview: Why isn’t this measure the frontrunner for voter attention, given it has to do with a topic that may seem taboo in other states?

All my interviews today and tomorrow are in Portland. Good thing too, I think I've had my fair share of the New England countryside.


Question 3 campaigns face off in debate

Skip Greenlaw carefully looked at his notes and eagerly waited his turn as his opponent spoke about Question 3. After his counterpart, Newel Augur, stated his case, it was Greenlaw’s turn for a sharp rebuttal. He faced his opponent, leaned forward, and with a look of certainty on his face, he bluntly stated: “The idea that we would lose millions of dollars if this law is repealed is wrong. You are wrong. You are dead wrong.”

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Such was the case throughout Monday night as the two campaign leaders debated for about an hour, touching on all aspects of Question 3, the veto referendum that, if voters say "yes," will repeal a school consolidation law that was enacted by the Maine State Legislature in 2008. The law states that the current 290 school districts in Maine must be consolidated by January 2009, which would reduce the number of school districts in the state to 80. A ‘yes’ vote would repeal the law, a ‘no’ vote would keep the law in place. Greenlaw, primary organizer of the Maine Coalition to Save Schools, firmly argued for the “Vote Yes on #3” campaign while Augur, leader of the Maine People for Improved School Education, did the same for “No on 3”.

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While the two campaign leaders spoke on a number of issues relating to the measure, including community impact and job cuts, the white elephant in the small but efficient room at the University of Maine was money. During his argument, Augur repeatedly stated that consolidating school districts would save millions of dollars that could be used to improve education. Augur argued: “People who vote no on this issue can wake up confident in the morning. The issue isn’t about schools, it’s about the 290 school districts that we currently have. That’s too many and too much money is lost.”

Greenlaw argued that although there were 290 districts, there are only 190 superintendents: “We all use facts to make our arguments, Mr. Augur. But not a lot of those facts are what they are honed up to be.” Greenlaw later stated that state superintendents’ salaries add up to $14 million, which he pointed out would not “accrue a lot of savings over time. This is a terrible injustice to the 40% of school districts that do not want to consolidate.”

When asked if some superintendents’ jobs would be cut if the consolidation law stands, Augur had a direct answer, saying that it was only necessary. “At the end of the day, the future of our children is what we should pay attention to. That’s the crux of the matter: Saving money so we can put it back into the classroom.”

Ballotpedia reporter Al Ortiz on location in Maine

At the end of the debate, each were given 1 minute to present their closing statements, with both men summarizing their points to the audience that was mostly made up of college students. Greenlaw presented his main argument in a straightforward manner, stating: “This law was passed much too quickly. What bothers me the most is that the residents of Maine have good judgment and those communities that were against the law weren't listened to. Mr. Augur has never been on a school board before. He doesn’t know how hard superintendents work. We need to give those communities time to withdraw from consolidation if it isn‘t working for them.”

Augur articulated his argument with a futuristic outlook: “This won’t effect me or Mr. Greenlaw in twenty years. We’ll probably be kicking back watching the Patriots play on TV. This is your money, your school districts. This is about your future. Do you want to spend money, pull money out of the classroom? A no vote is the right vote.”

Despite the stances both men have taken on the issue, a simple majority of voters will have the final say to which vote is right and which vote is “dead wrong”.


Maine Questions 3 and 5 fly under the political radar

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After the long trip, I’m finally here in the gorgeous city of Portland, Maine. Driving through one of the largest cities in the state, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’ve ever seen that many sailboats on a crisp autumn day. That’s just not what I’m accustomed to. But putting all aquatic activity aside, I have a full plate of debates, interviews and experiences in the week ahead.

In the shadow of this year’s Question 1 and the other hot topic of Question 4, Questions 3 and 5 can be somewhat overlooked, and information on the measures can be slim pickings. That presents a challenge for campaigns in both measures. In spite of this, leaders are pushing harder for their messages to be heard as the elections make their way from just over the horizon.

Tonight at 6 p.m. EST, I will be in attendance as the aforementioned Skip Greenlaw will debate Question 3 with opponents at the University of Maine. The interview with the Question 3 supporter will have to wait due to his busy schedule and preparation for tonight’s showdown. I’ll be covering both sides of the argument and have the summary of the night’s events posted shortly afterwards.

Tomorrow, look for my interview with state Senator Joseph Brannigan, a supporter of Question 5 and medical marijuana. We’ll get insight on how strongly of a position the senator, who is currently in his sixth term, has on the issue and what he plans to do to further promote the measure’s passage. Insight from the opposing side will come later this week as well![3]

All in all, the weather cleared up, the sun is out and the leaves are turning that tranquil golden-brown color we all love. I hope it stays that way.


Planes, trains or snowmobiles: My speedbump to Maine begs questions

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The excitement I had to get to Maine today was disappointingly buried in a steady, white precipitation. After battling poorly given directions in Philadelphia, merciless traffic in New York City and slippery roads in Rhode Island, I finally met my match in the form of a rough snowfall in Massachusetts. Something told me to keep plugging ahead, but that was quickly defeated when my car skidded for a long two or three seconds. Portland will have to wait for the night. Hello Boston…for now.

This dilemma, though, does beg some interesting questions. If the winter like atmosphere persists, how much of an impact would that make on the campaigns for and against Questions 3 and 5? Will we see more of an emphasis placed on the internet? More importantly, how will this case of “winter-come-early” affect voters who are unfamiliar with these ballot measures? For example, according to Skip Greenlaw, supporter of Question 3, many school districts that would be consolidated if the measure fails are located in some of the states’ poorest counties. Do some of those families in those counties have access to the internet so they could make an informed vote? Looks like we have to see what Mother Nature and her quirks have in store for the campaign leaders, the voters, and my car and me.

I think I’ll look for a bowl of clam chowder to keep me warm in the meantime, compliments of Beantown.


BP's first trip winds to a close

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Unfortunately for me my time in Maine has come to an end, but for Mainers the 2009 ballot measure campaigns are only beginning to heat up. Although, I covered only 3 of the 7 measures on the ballot this year, I do hope that the interviews and reports prove to be a useful resource. Thanks for following me and Ballotpedia as we made our first attempt to offer some extra insight into Maine politics. As I mentioned in the beginning, most trips - let alone first anythings - usually have a few road bumps on the way. So if you have any questions, comments or suggestions about our Ballotpedia Travel series please email me at BDLudlam@ballotpedia.org.

Make sure to keep up with Maine ballot news and review the individual articles for details about each measure.

Type Title Subject Description Status
VR Question 1 Marriage Attempt to repeal new same-sex law On ballot
CISS Question 2 Taxes Tax reduction for citizens who follow certain energy efficiency requirements On ballot
VR Question 3 Education Repeal the law mandating school district restructuring On ballot
CISS Question 4 Taxes Increases in government spending tied to inflation and population increases On ballot
CISS Question 5 Marijuana De-criminalize marijuana used medically On ballot
LRSS Question 6 Bonds $71 million in bonds On ballot
LRCA Question 7 Elections Increase the amount of time to certify signatures On ballot

Just in case you missed some Maine interviews

Ballotpedia reporter Bailey Ludlam


Wow! Talk about a week that went by way too fast and a lot of accumulated info! After only a week I can completely understand if Mainers' are already dizzy with November 2009 ballot info overload. And so, below I have compiled links to all of the Maine interviews from this week. I hope that they have proven useful and helped provide a closer look at same-sex marriage, the auto excise tax repeal and TABOR II.

QUESTION 1 - Same-sex marriage veto:

Question 2 - Auto excise tax repeal:

Question 4 - TABOR II:


Interview with Ben Dudley (10/8/09)

Ben Dudley

Ben Dudley is the executive director of Engage Maine and opponent of the Maine Tax Relief Initiative, Question 4 and the Maine Auto Excise Tax Repeal, Question 2. Both are scheduled to appear on the November 2009 ballot.


1a. On October 8, 2009 Dudley and members of the Center for Unified Maine protested TABOR II and Grover Norquist's appearance at Sable Oaks Marriott in South Portland. Here is what he had to say.

Grover Norquist is here to for an event by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, they are the sponsor of the TABOR initiative, and we are taking the opportunity, just as they are, to highlight their relationship with Grover Norquist and how his current extreme views are a very well represented in the TABOR campaign here in Maine.

1b. What exactly is it about his views in particular, regarding TABOR, that you find extreme?

He has a very extreme perspective on taxes and on government and on people who have received government services. He referred to farmers receiving economic support as “welfare bums.” He’s compared morality around the estate tax to the morality around the Holocaust. He’s got an extreme perspective and he said himself, he wants to "shrink the government to a size so small you can drown it in a bathtub." That very well represents the attitude of TABOR and what TABOR is trying to accomplish, rather than actually talking about the types of programs that government funding supports and how we all rely on it. Have a debate on what sort of resources we want from government structures. We are just having a conversation about taxes, the payment for them, which is completely divorced from the other conversation – about what our tax dollars actually pay for.

2. Some argue that Maine's implementation of LD 1, a type of limit on spending, is not enough because it can and has been circumvented by lawmakers. Others argue that it is enough to control state spending. What is your opinion on this argument?

First of all, the petitions that they circulated to get this question on the ballot, they began circulating those almost 2 years ago. So to start the process, get it in line to be on the ballot this year, they had to start almost 2 years ago. It was still 2007. It was well before the economic prices really happened and the circumstances have changed so dramatically from when they started the effort that its impossible for them argue that the state’s response to the crisis hasn’t been anything but responsible. First of all, we have expenditure caps in place, we have it in place since 2005 and they are working. The state government is well beneath those caps. State spending in actual dollars, nominal dollars, has actually decreased in the most recent budget cycle. Over the past several years, in real terms, state spending has continued on a decline. State budget makers and the governor have exercised enormous fiscal constraint in the past 5 years. And so, the argument that they are making, that we have some sort of runaway spending problem is factually, completely incorrect. What they are seeing to do is take this extreme context of an economic decline and freeze it in place with TABOR II to say “this is the right size of government right now in the middle the recession and this is where we want it to stay over the long term.” That’s an extreme perspective.

3. The Maine Heritage Policy Center argues that TABOR II will put the decision about state spending in the hands of the voters. They will decide. Do you think it will do this, increase choice in Maine?

In some ways it actually reduces choice. In Maine, in all of Maine, we have a proud heritage of town meetings, where members of the community, ordinary citizens come together to debate and approve town spending. What the TABOR II initiative would do is it would tell town meetings in ever community, just about every community across the state, that your town meeting is no longer the final decider. It takes the power from those citizens who decided to take the time to roll up their sleeves and really learn the issues. I don’t know how they make that argument.

4. What is your opinion of Question 2, the auto excise tax repeal measure?

Again, it’s another extreme measure. Frankly, it divides Republicans. Even conservatives don’t agree on excise tax cut. It’s a huge hit to municipal governments and maintaining the safety of our roads and bridges, vital infrastructure. I think all along, I think the other side has been cynical and I think they deliberately put that question forward as a way to divide the effort that would be opposing TABOR. I don’t believe they ever believed they would pass it; it was just a decoy all along. And it’s a decoy with a false green front. They are trying to capitalize on consumers’ interests in efficient fuel vehicles and hybrids. So it’s cloaked in green.


Interview with Tarren Bragdon (10/8/09)

Tarren Bragdon

Tarren Bragdon is the chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center where both the Maine Tax Relief Initiative, Question 4 and the Maine Auto Excise Tax Repeal, Question 2 were authored. Both are scheduled to appear on the November 2009 ballot.


1. At an October 8 press conference at the Sable Oaks Marriott in South Portland Bragdon addressed the importance of Question 4. Below is his response.

For us, Question 4 is all about what one thing - you decide. Who has the final say on big increases and state spending? You, the taxpayer. Who signs off on future tax hikes? You, the taxpayer. That’s why the Maine Heritage Policy Center wrote Question 4. That’s why groups from the Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Merchants Association and thousands of individuals across the state are lining up in support of the taxpayer, in support of Question 4.

Question 4 will change Maine fundamentally. It will say to the taxpayer, you decide. You decide how government grows. You decide how taxes grow. We think that the taxpayer finds the need for Question 4 extremely compelling. State spending since 2000 has grown 60% and property taxes in Maine have grown 58%, while inflation is less than half that during the same period. And Mainers’ income have grown about half the rate of government spending increases. Now is the time for people to vote yes on Question 4.

2. Additionally, Bradgon addressed the so-called 'ratchet-down effect' that critics argue has happened in Colorado and could potentially happen in Maine if Question 4 is approved. Below is his response.

One of the things we did in drafting the taxpayer bill of rights for Maine was ensure that there is no 'ratchet effect' on the Maine TABOR. Spending is allowed to grow every year at the rate of inflation plus population. Either of those numbers can never be less than zero. Some of that can never be less than zero. Maine also, a lot like Colorado’s TABOR created a Rainy Day Fund or a budget stabilization fund. So what surplus money goes to the state, $2 out of every $10 goes into that Rainy Day Fund. So that when the economy falters, there is money in the savings account to comp up spending. And what we have seen in this past legislature do is completely run the Rainy Day account down to zero this past May and we’re just beginning what everyone believes is going to be a very long recession. Question 4 has no ratchet effect, but instead a sound budget stabilization fund so that we have smooth predictable increases in government spending, not these wide swings that we have been subjected to over the last 20 years.

3. TABOR was rejected by Maine voters in 2006. How is the campaigning doing this time around?

From 2006, 46% of the voters already support TABOR, the state tax increases since then total $300 million over 4 years. So, our support has only grown. And we only need a small increase in support to push it over the edge and get 50% plus 1.

4. Some critics argue that TABOR in Colorado eliminated a lot of funds from education and ultimately hurt the state's education. Will TABOR impact Maine education?

Maine is a big spender when it comes it education, but what we don’t do well is outcomes. When you compare Maine to other states or when you compare Maine to Colorado, we see that we spend a lot more. We’re the 7th highest per pupil in the country but we have average or below average outcomes when you look at test scores, when you look at high school graduation rate, college enrollment rate, college completion rate. So our challenge is, as a state, we need to stop measuring our success by how much we’re spending and start measuring our success by what are our kids learning and are they prepared to compete in the economy. I think TABOR will do that. Education budgets beginning in 2008, with the 2007 law, had to go out to voter approval whether they went up or went down and what we are seeing is that spending increases have moderated in education but more importantly parents and taxpayers are focused on what are we getting for the money. And that’s what question 4 is all about - what are we getting and how do we have reasonable increases in spending?

5. Town hall meetings are currently used through out the state of Maine to discuss local budgets. Some people say that that way of governing is sufficient to establish the budget and it provides residents a place to voice their opinions about local spending. That a ballot measure on spending isn't necessary. Do you agree or disagree with this notion?

The town hall meeting is a New England tradition but it’s not an accessible way to make important spending decisions. In fact, we’ve done a survey that we will be releasing next week asking people if they think they have too little or too much input when it comes to property tax increases or state spending. About 80% of people say 'too little.' So this is the difference between what the people in government think, compared to what the voters think. Voters want to have that say. What happens in the town meeting is you get 3 or 4% of the voters to decide but if I’m out of town or if I’m physically not able to leave my home I can’t participate. That’s wrong. That’s not access or democracy. That’s just a small group of people getting together to make decisions. That might have worked well in the 1800s when we were all farmers in Maine but its not practical in today’s society. It really limits input.

6. In Maine, TABOR II appears to have stolen some of the spotlight from Question 4, the auto excise tax repeal. Can you tell me about how this campaign is going?

It is, although we are very much focused on both efforts. Maine has, as you know, the 7th highest auto excise tax in the country. This would be cut it in half and make it a much more reasonable tax. It’s a particularly punitive tax for people in the first few years of car ownership, so this is a way for Mainers to finally get the local tax relief they have been promised for years. But it’s a campaign that I think will be very hard fought. The towns like every dollar that they get from taxpayers. They don’t want to get 2% less, which is what would happen when Question 2 passes. So I think that will be a hard fought fight just like Question 4 or TABOR will be.

7. If both Question 2 and Question 4 are approved by Maine voters in November, what exactly does that mean for the state of Maine?

Great things! Because what it means is that we’ll finally get the promise of auto excise tax relief. It’ll be more affordable to buy a newer, safer, cleaner car and at the same time towns won’t be able to simply shift the property tax because voters will decide on large property tax increases. So, I think, it’s the best of all worlds. We get a tax cut, towns will be forced to look at whether they can become 2% more efficient and voters will have the final say if property taxes are increased as a final result.


Grover Norquist says YES to Maine's TABOR II, protestors say "Go home"

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Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and anti-tax activist, announced his support for Maine's Tax Relief Initiative, Question 4 today. "There's a heightened interest on spending and I think the Maine TABOR will sort of be a spark to other states. I'm talking to taxpayer activists and citizens' groups, in other states, all of whom are looking to see that if Maine, a moderate Northeastern state says, 'Yes, let's take a look at this,' it then becomes a stronger sell in Arizona and Washington and Oregon and Florida," said Norquist.

Norquist said that he in no way sees TABOR, taxpayer bill of rights, going away any time soon. In fact, Norquist said that he believes voters are more receptive to spending caps due to growing frustration with government bailouts and the distribution of stimulus money. However, opponents of TABOR II argue that, if TABOR is approved, the state of Maine will see a "ratchet down effect" on annual government spending that will eventually place very tight restrictions on the state's budget. Some refer to a past quote by Norquist in which he stated that he would like to reduce government "to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub," as evidence of an extreme restriction on government. However, Norquist argued that that is not the case. "I don’t want to abolish government. I want to reduce it to the size that would fit into a bathtub, meaning, very small. But that is a rebuttal to the ridiculous assertion that if you think government should go on a diet that you think it should disappear. When you suggest a person go on a diet you aren’t suggesting that they disappear. Cancer doctors are not anti-cell. Weight-loss clinics are not anti-people. And those of us who would like government to consume less of other people’s income are not against government, we're against a government that is too chunky, and too big," he said at the Thursday conference. Additionally, Tarren Bragdon, chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, author of Question 4, noted that they specifically drafted the bill ensure that there wouldn't be a "ratchet effect" in the state of Maine. "Question 4 has no ratchet effect, but instead a sound budget stabilization fund so that we have smooth predictable increases in government spending, not these wide swings that we have been subjected to over the last 20 years," said Bragdon.
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Opponents of TABOR II protested not only the Maine Heritage Policy Center's conference on Thursday but also Norquist's appearance in Maine to support Question 4. "Go home Grover," read some of the signs that protesters carried. Among the protestors were members of Citizens for a Unified Maine, who is running the No on TABOR campaign, and Ben Dudley, executive director of Engage Maine. Dudley said on Thursday that Norquist's presences "very well represents the attitude of TABOR, what TABOR is trying to accomplish," which he called "an extreme perspective."

Check back later for full interviews with Tarren Bragdon and Ben Dudley on Question 4.


Interview with Chris Cinquemani (10/8/09)

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Chris Cinquemani is the More Green Now campaign chairman and the organizer of the Maine Auto Excise Tax Repeal, Question 2. Question 2 is scheduled to appear on the November 3, 2009 ballot.


1. Why should Question 2 be approved by Maine voters?

The auto excise tax in Maine is a particularly burdensome, challenging, tax. Especially today, in these challenging times when so many families are trying to make ends meet. We decided to go after the excise tax, to try and reduce that burden because Maine’s excise tax is the 7th highest excise tax in the nation and 22 other states have no excise tax at all. So here we have another example of Maine leading the pack when it comes to a tax burden. We felt that by reducing this particularly burdensome tax - that’s even more of a challenge and a hurdle for our low and fixed income people who are already struggling to put food on the table and retire in dignity - we felt that we could reduce that tax and add financial security to these people. Put more money into those pockets and actually also look forward to the boost to the auto industry here in Maine, as well.

3. One of the arguments among critics of Question 2 is that the provision of promoting fuel efficiency is "green wash." What do you say to this?

We wrote the fuel efficiency provisions, environmental provisions, into this legislation because Maine has a long, proud tradition of respect and promoting conservation. We are looked to, by the nation, as an authority on conservation issues and we felt that by eliminating the sales tax and the first 3 years of the excise tax, purchasing one of these hybrid and fuel efficient vehicles, we are promoting greater environmental stewardship in Mainers' daily lives. These clean cars, they reduce carbon emissions by about 90% and with gas prices as they are right now they can save owners over $600 a year in fuel costs. So we felt that the government philosophy pf conservation hasn’t been working and that’s a philosophy of these penalties and taxes. And we felt, as I said, that by writing these provisions into the legislation we can put one of these green cars within reach for more and more Mainers and promote that greater fuel efficiency and conservation again in Mainers’ daily lives.

4. Critics of Question 2 argue that it will will draw away too much money from local road and transportation projects which will in turn hurt towns and residents during the state and nation's current economic downturn. What's your response to this?

I think it’s important to remember that just a few years ago a lot of the opponents to Question 2, the Maine Municipal Association and town politicians across the state, they put forward a citizen initiative that would require the state to fund 55% of local education costs. And the reason they put that forward was because they promised to use that extra state aid to reduce our property tax burden. Instead what we found between 2004 and 2008, after the legislature increased state aid to municipalities by hundreds of millions of dollars, we actually saw local spending costs increase by again hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. That money was not used to produce property tax relief. In fact, during that same period of time, property taxes actually increased. So, the record of opponents, they don’t have credibility in this debate. They have made promises to create property tax relief and those promises have not been kept. And I think the important question to ask here, is not how can we allow local government to continue spending our money at the rate that they’ve been doing, I think the question we need to be asking is how can government reform and identify efficiencies so that we can create this local tax relief that Maine families need so much.


Interview with Scott Fish (10/8/09)

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Scott Fish is the spokesman for Stand for Marriage Maine, the official organization supporting the Maine Same-Sex Marriage People's Veto, Question 1 (2009) which is scheduled to appear on the November 3, 2009 ballot.


1. Why the people's veto against LD 1020, which was signed into law by the Gov. John Baldacci on May 6, 2009?

First of all because we think it’s a bad bill; there’s the first reason. And why we think it’s a bad bill? Because primarily it radically redefines the definition of traditional marriage in Maine. That would be the concise answer.

2. There has been a lot of controversy over the television ads, particularly the claim that LD 1020 will impact education. Some concerns have been raised about the validity of the statements. What is your response to that?

Number 1, the claim is accurate. Number 2, I think it's an issue that Mainers who have seen the ads are concerned about. I don’t think what we’ve done - our way of advertising or things - that we’ve said are meant to give people a false impression. What are our ads do is tell people that in spite of what our opposition would like you to believe, radically redefining marriage, changing the definition of marriage, in law in the state of Maine will have consequences. The opposition would like us all to believe that people will hardly notice the change. You’ll just wake up the next day and it’ll just be another day and this thing will just roll along. We know from what has happened in other states, after same-sex marriage has been legalized that that’s not true. There have been consequences in other states. And there will be consequences in the state of Maine.

3. Can you sum up the major issues or concerns that the campaign has about same-sex marriage?

The important issue of the campaign is that there was a law passed by a majority of legislators, signed into law by the governor which radically redefines marriage in Maine law. Right now, as we speak, Maine law defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman. What the new law does is, is it wipes away. All current law having to do with marriage as one man and one woman is replaced with the definition of marriage as a sort of, any two will do marriage law. It takes it a step further by saying that in law the marriage laws will be gender neutral. So that all of the terms that have to do with marriage - the family and marriage, the bride, groom, husband, wife, mother, father - has to be gender neutral. All of those terms become essentially meaningless. And so we see no compelling reason for the state of Maine to make this radical definition to marriage. And there are remedies, legal remedies, for several of the legitimate complaints that domestic partnerships have as far as protection under the laws. And those can be achieved without radically redefining marriage. So we want to protect the traditional definition of marriage. And the other purpose of the campaign is to let the people of Maine know that there will be consequences. One of them will be the teaching that same sex marriage is exactly the same, exactly on par as a biological mom and dad raising their kids, and we see that that will be taught to very, very young kids. And that's the second point. The third point under consequences is that individuals, small business owners especially, that would reject to same sex marriages for valid religious objections are really left open to lawsuits under this bill as its currently written.

4. On October 7, the state's education commissioner Susan Gendron asked Attorney General Janet Mills to provide an analysis of same-sex marriage law effects on schools. What is the campaign's reaction to this?

Our campaign looks at it as a political stunt and I’ll tell you why. In the first place, Janet Mills, in her capacity as attorney general testified in favor of same-sex marriage in, I think it was April 22nd of this year at the Augusta Civic Center when they had the one public hearing on LD 1020. So I think when you are an attorney general and you come out, as she did, you can see it YouTube and you can watch her testify, how you then supposedly come out with an unbiased opinion is a bit of a stretch. Susan Gendron, similarly, is in an interesting spot, because her boss, the governor not only signed LD 1020 into a law but he has appeared on t.v., Channel 7 in Bangor is one place I know, and also in print supporting the No on 1 position. And he has, in fact, taken part in fundraising activities for the No on 1 position. Susan Gendron, the education commissioner, serves at the pleasure of Governor Baldacci. So for those three to allegedly put together an unbiased legal opinion, again smacks as a political stunt and we’re hoping that Attorney General Mills will do the right thing and not allow her office to be misused in that manner.

5. What about the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices recent announcement to investigate donations made to the Stand for Marriage Maine announcement? How does that impact the campaign?

The investigation is not at the campaign. A guy named Fred Karger who has an outfit called Californians Against Hate is going after the National Organization for Marriage, which has given funding to the Stand for Marriage campaign. Fred Karger is trying to get NOM to release the names of people who have donated to NOM. What he did, he did the same thing in California, what he did with those names was harass those people. And that’s the purpose. What the ethics commission did was have the ethics commission staff take a look at Fred Karger’s complaint against NOM who said there’s nothing here worth investigating. They had a split decision on the ethics commission where three of the members said we think we should look into Fred Carter’s complaint against NOM a little more however, they decided to wait until their November meeting, which would be after election day. In order to decide exactly what it is they would like to investigate.

6. Can you speak to Maine's history with same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships?

In Maine this last session when LD 1020 was passed by the legislature there was a companion bill. Rep. Leslie Fossel gave a companion bill to LD 1020 and what Les Fossel’s bill would have done is - everywhere in Maine law where the word “marriage” appears she would have inserted the phrase “domestic partnerships.” In other words married people in Maine and people with domestic partnerships in Maine would have a been protected exactly the same under Maine law. What was different about Les Fossel’s bill was that it didn’t redefine marriage. It left marriage defined as one man and one woman. The proponents of LD 1020 wanted nothing to do with Les Fossel’s bill. They wanted to redefine marriage. In Maine, people in domestic partnerships have had legitimate, I think and the I think the campaign thinks, concerns on certain points in the dealing with partners-end-of-life issues and things of that nature. Maine already has a very liberal, and I mean that in the good sense, domestic partnership law but it could be improved upon. Les Fossel’s bill would have done that. And the LD 1020 crowd just didn’t want anything to do with it.

7. Is there a plan of action if Question 1 is rejected?

I don’t know, I haven’t heard of any thing. We are planning on winning on November 3rd. I haven’t heard any discussion about what will happen if we lose. The honest answer is I don’t know.



Template:BLudlam


Ballotpedia:Bailey Ludlam


Category:Original news reporting, Bailey Ludlam


BP's first trip winds to a close

Portland lighthouse (ME).JPG

Unfortunately for me my time in Maine has come to an end, but for Mainers the 2009 ballot measure campaigns are only beginning to heat up. Although, I covered only 3 of the 7 measures on the ballot this year, I do hope that the interviews and reports prove to be a useful resource. Thanks for following me and Ballotpedia as we made our first attempt to offer some extra insight into Maine politics. As I mentioned in the beginning, most trips - let alone first anythings - usually have a few road bumps on the way. So if you have any questions, comments or suggestions about our Ballotpedia Travel series please email me at BDLudlam@ballotpedia.org.

Make sure to keep up with Maine ballot news and review the individual articles for details about each measure.

Type Title Subject Description Status
VR Question 1 Marriage Attempt to repeal new same-sex law On ballot
CISS Question 2 Taxes Tax reduction for citizens who follow certain energy efficiency requirements On ballot
VR Question 3 Education Repeal the law mandating school district restructuring On ballot
CISS Question 4 Taxes Increases in government spending tied to inflation and population increases On ballot
CISS Question 5 Marijuana De-criminalize marijuana used medically On ballot
LRSS Question 6 Bonds $71 million in bonds On ballot
LRCA Question 7 Elections Increase the amount of time to certify signatures On ballot

Just in case you missed some Maine interviews

Ballotpedia reporter Bailey Ludlam


Wow! Talk about a week that went by way too fast and a lot of accumulated info! After only a week I can completely understand if Mainers' are already dizzy with November 2009 ballot info overload. And so, below I have compiled links to all of the Maine interviews from this week. I hope that they have proven useful and helped provide a closer look at same-sex marriage, the auto excise tax repeal and TABOR II.

QUESTION 1 - Same-sex marriage veto:

Question 2 - Auto excise tax repeal:

Question 4 - TABOR II:



Category:Original news reporting, Al Ortiz


Q&A with Jon Leavitt, (10/23/09), Question 5

Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative.jpg

If Jon Leavitt, leader of the Pro-Question 5 campaign, is sure of anything, it’s that Maine residents will vote “yes” on Question 5 and his efforts will come into fruition come November 3. That was the demeanor of Mr. Leavitt, member of the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative, who took time out of his schedule to give us insight into his campaign. The “field office,” as he described it, was located in downtown Portland, in a very low-key building. Reflective of it’s campaign headquarters in the city, the campaign is taking a quiet approach in the weeks leading up to the election, due to strong support of Question 5 and solid support indicated through polls. Mr. Leavitt made it clear that said poll will make it’s debut come Tuesday of next week. The poll, conducted by the Portland based Pan-Atlantic SMS group, breaks down multiple facets of voter categories, including gender, age, political affiliation, education level, and household income. Mr. Leavitt provided ballotpedia.org with a copy of the poll, but asked not to release it until it has been made public.

Opponents have stated that the DHS would oversee dispensaries, which in their opinion, would hurt medical marijuana laws. What is your response to this?

When you set up a measure like this, you have to have the backing of a state agency. There’s no way around that. When started this, we had a choice of the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Public safety. We basically had a choice between the cops and the health department. I mean, yeah, of course we’re going to go with the health department.

What about $5,000 a fee for those dispensaries to be set up? Opponents have stated that total fees could amount to $10,000.

That’s wrong information on their part. Our opponents have been giving out misinformation to voters and I don‘t think they‘re a credible source. It’s a $5,000 fee. I don’t think that [fee] would be a problem to for them. I mean they don’t represent patients, they have no one backing their campaign.

Have you known someone close to you who has experience with medical marijuana? What for?

I just had a friend who died last week, who suffered from epileptic seizures. When he took marijuana, it would eliminate those seizures, but he got arrested for growing his own. He just couldn’t find a doctor who would recommend him for medical marijuana. They put him on that synthetic stuff, but it wasn’t working, and I really think he died as a result of him not being able to stay on [medical marijuana].

Do you think voters are aware of what the measure entails? How are you getting the word out to inform voters?

They’re aware. I mean voter support is around 85% for this. The polling shows that Question 5 is ahead by a large margin.

Have you ever worked on a campaign for a ballot measure before this?

(Sighs) Which one haven’t I worked on? Let’s see, well I worked on a measure in Massachusetts that deregulated the electrical industry.

When was this?

In the mid 90’s. For the past 10 years I’ve been working on mostly electoral work though.

How much money have you spent on radio, TV and newspaper ads up to this point?

None. Not to this point.

None at all?

We haven’t had to. We’re just getting a lot of strong support.

Senator Joseph Brannigan stated that this is the “other moral issue” next to Question 1. What groups has your campaign received opposition from?

Nothing. I kid you not. I think some of our opposition is focused on mainly Question 1. But if you look at strong Christian beliefs, it’s easy to point out in the Bible that plants are here for a purpose intended by God . There is an element of compassion in religion, and you can see that this issue helps people and their needs.

If Question 5 is not passed, what is your next step?

Question 5 is going to pass.

You’re that confident? You have no back up plan?

Yeah. I mean, if it fails, our back up plan I guess would be to start all over again. I don’t intend to start all over again.


Question 5 not the answer? The argument against it

Conflict of interest. Three simple words with one big meaning behind the Maine Medical Marijuana Initiative, also known as Question 5. That was the central theme of a conversation between ballotpedia.org and Question 5 opponents Don Christen and Don LaRouche. Both men, members of the Maine Citizens for Medical Marijuana, gave their firm stance on Question 5, the measure that asks voters: “Do you want to change the medical marijuana laws to allow treatment of more medical conditions and to create a regulated system of distribution?”

Despite their support for the medicinal use for the drug, LaRouche and Christen, both medical marijuana patients, oppose the measure due to, according to their campaign flyer, the initiative’s omissions of:

  • “Authorization-by a diagnosis of an illness or symptom that marijuana may be beneficial in their therapy."
  • “Protection for Doctors/State licenses if needed and requirement for Doctors to work with patients who request to use marijuana for their therapy.”
  • “Amount patient can possess needs to be increased.”

But the biggest issue the two men have with Question 5 is the government’s “conflict of interest”. According to them, the Department of Health and Human Services would oversee dispensaries if the measure is passed. This, for them, is where the conflict comes in.

According to Christen: “The main reason to vote this bill down is because we don’t want the DHHS coming in to interfere when they don‘t even want medical marijuana. We’re not against dispensaries, we’re against the DHHS coming in a setting fees. We’re not criminals, people know that I’m a caregiver, and if they need it, they can call me and I can provide them. That doesn’t make me a criminal. You know if an old lady who needs medical marijuana has been in a neighborhood for a long time, her neighbors know her and could help her out. In the big cities, there could be problems with criminal activities, but this is Maine.”

LaRouche concurred with his fellow campaign member when he stated that the if the question passes, it could hurt the overall cause of getting patients‘ their medicine. According to LaRouche: “We’re not asking for money, we’re not Washington, we’re not Massachusetts, we’re not California, we’re not Rhode Island. This is Maine, we’re the highest taxed state in the country and if this measure is passed, dispensaries are going to be charged $5,000 to produce medical marijuana. And then they’ll be charged by the county and town for approval. That could add up to $10,000. Then who is going to want to become a caregiver? Is the guy across the street who owns a lumberyard going to help us? Pharmacists aren‘t even charged $5,000 for their license.”

LaRouche has been a strong opponent of medical marijuana due to his experiences with muscle spasms and glaucoma. According to the Madison, Maine resident, he feels no side effects from the drug, and stated that he feels no pressure in his eyes when he smokes it. Christen, who also suffers from back spasms, went into detail about the trouble of growing the right amount allowed by current law, and how the new proposed law leaves out a revision to this. LaRouche quickly chimed in: “If you’re even a tenth of a gram over the legal limit, the DHHS is going to get you. They can go into your house, search it. You could lose your children. Children have been taken away.”

Christen then came in with his thoughts, keeping with the conflict of interest argument: “We want to keep this out of government bureaucracy as much as we can. The DHHS doesn’t want this to work, so why should we put it in their hands?”

Whether or not Question 5 is passed, a future strategy is already in the works. The men stated that two petitions have been started, one by the Maine Citizens for Medical Marijuana, which would include the aforementioned omissions by Question 5, and another by Maine Vocals, which would end marijuana prohibition altogether. Both petitions are targeting the November 2010 statewide ballot, according to Christen.

With so many uncertainties surrounding Question 5, at least one thing is for sure: Even after the November 3 election, the state of Maine hasn’t seen the last of the cannabis plant issue.


Medical marijuana initiative turns heads, confuses the mind

Question 5 has various supporters and opponents, many of whom come from the legislature and the campaign leaders. However, the state’s leading medical figures are putting in their say as well. Just to clarify, medical marijuana is legalized in Maine already; the measure isn’t about legalizing the drug for medical use. The measure is about establishing nonprofit dispensaries to protect patients from arrest when buying from the black market.

According to supporters, obtaining the drug under current law is risky since there are no clear provisions in obtaining marijuana. Patients could grow the plant, but with medical problems such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis apparent in most of them, that just may not be the most feasible solution.

Still, notable physicians in the state of Maine don’t think Question 5 is the best way to go. Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH and State Health Director, doesn’t believe public health agencies should oversee marijuana dispensaries, as proposed by the referendum. According to Mills: “And the referendum, if passed, would conflict with current federal law. So to put a state agency in the position of dispensing a drug in an illegal way, and a harmful drug, I think would put us in a horrendous position."[4]

It is a tricky subject, especially since some medical marijuana patients are against the measure. Impossible? Don’t tell that to medical marijuana patient Don LaRouche. I’m off to Augusta to meet with the man against the measure, and who is spokesman for the Maine Citizens for Medical Marijuana. You’re probably asking, “He’s for medical marijuana but against the measure?” Confused yet? That’s what we’re here for.

Check back later today for our Q&A with Mr. LaRouche.


High times at the University of Southern Maine

The University of Southern Maine has a great campus. Bar none. It’s not because of the great building structures or the organization of the parking lots and safe environment. It’s because of the convenient location. The university is right smack in the middle of the city of Portland. What’s also convenient is that it was walking distance from my hotel. You can tell what a tight community it is, and that was apparent right off the bat when I walked into the auditorium where Waiting to Exhale, the film about medical marijuana and the importance of legal purchase, was screened. I felt a great sense of friendliness as people asked me who I worked with and what we do as a informational website.

The screening was also enjoyable; who would’ve thought so much information could be packed into 110 minutes?

Cinematography aside, my penultimate full day here in the state of Maine seems to be a busy one. No response yet from the opposing side of Question 5, but ballotpedia.org will try its best to get what we need to help our readers make an informed decision about any ballot issue. Stay tuned for our featured Q&A with the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative’s Jon Leavitt, who will sit down with us tomorrow morning at his campaign headquarters. Mr. Leavitt will also give us the most recent polling on Question 5.

Keep a look out!


See also

References