Maine Medical Marijuana Initiative, Question 5 (2009)

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The Maine Medical Marijuana Initiative appeared on the November 3, 2009 ballot in Maine as an initiated state statute where it was approved.

The initiative proposed creating nonprofit dispensaries to help patients get a safe supply of their medicine. It also proposed establishing a statewide ID card system to protect patients from arrest. The measure was approved. The change 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 ID card.

Election results

Question 5 was approved as of November 4, 2009 at 2:05 a.m. EST.[1]

Maine Question 5
Approveda Yes 294,176 58.61%


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.[2] 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.[3]

Ballot summary

See also: Maine Medical Marijuana Act - Proposed Bill

The language that appeared on the ballot was:

Do you want to change the medical marijuana laws to allow treatment of more medical conditions and to create a regulated system of distribution?[4]


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[5] and the committee Maine Citizens for Patients' Rights.[6] 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."[7]

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."[8]


According to Leavitt, Question 5 would:[7]

  • 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:[7]

  • 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.[9]

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.[10][11]

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.[12][13]

Campaign contributions

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

Support donors

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.[9] 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]

Opposition donors

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.[17]

Media editorial positions

Main article: Endorsements of Maine ballot measures, 2009

Editorial boards in support

  • The Seacoast Media Group supported Question 5. They 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."[18]

Editorial boards opposed

  • The Sun Journal opposed Question 5. They 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."[19]
  • The Bangor Daily News opposed the initiative. In an editorial they 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."[20]
  • The Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel opposed Question 5. They 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."[21]
  • The Journal Tribune opposed Question 5. They 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."[22]
  • The Brunswick Time Record opposed Question 5. They 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."[23]

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[24]. 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.

Path to the ballot

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.[25]


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.[26][27]
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. Bangor Daily News,"2009 Election Results," last retrieved November 4, 2009
  2. Bangor Daily News,"8 districts to handle medical marijuana," April 8, 2010
  3. Bangor Daily News,"Medical pot users to pay sales tax," April 10, 2010
  4. Maine Secretary of State,"Upcoming Elections," retrieved September 7, 2009
  5. Maine Commonsense
  6. Maine Citizens for Patients' Rights
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Kennebec Journal,"Qualified patients need safe way to obtain medical marijuana," October 11, 2009
  8. Stop the Drug War, "Feature: Maine Medical Marijuana Dispensary Initiative Ahead in November Election Campaign," October 16, 2009
  9. 9.0 9.1 Maine Campaign Finance,"Maine Citizens for Patients Rights," retrieved September 27, 2009
  10. Morning Sentinel,"Opposition to marijuana ballot initiative forms," October 5, 2009
  11. Kennebec Journal,"Law goes far beyond what's needed to accomplish its purpose," October 11, 2009
  12. Kennebec Journal,"Maine police chiefs oppose marijuana dispensaries," October 27, 2009
  13. Kennebec Journal,"Police chiefs opposing marijuana proposal," October 28, 2009
  14. Follow the Money, Question 5"
  15. Campaign finance report for Maine Citizens for Patients Rights
  16. Morning Sentinel, "Pot-legalization backers fund Question 5 effort," October 14, 2009
  17. Morning Sentinel, "Pot-legalization backers fund Question 5 effort," October 14, 2009
  18. Seacoast Media Group,"Our take on state ballot questions," October 28, 2009
  19. Sun Journal,"Question 5: Clinic plan needs work," October 26, 2009
  20. Bangor Daily News,"No on Question 5," October 22, 2009
  21. Morning Sentinel,"Vote 'yes' for bond, clerks; 'no' on marijuana," October 26, 2009
  22. Journal Tribune,"Marijuana dispensary plan needs more study," October 29, 2009
  23. The Times Record,"‘No’ on Question 5," October 28, 2009
  24. Annals of Internal Medicine
  25. WMTV, "Maine Citizen Initiatives Certified; Will Go To Legislature," February 24, 2009
  26. Maine Public Broadcasting Network,"Poll Finds Waning Support for TABOR 2," October 26, 2009
  27. Maine Campus,"TABOR, Question 1 drop in polls," October 27, 2009