The Marijuana Election
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- On Tuesday, voters in nine states will have the chance to loosen restrictions on marijuana.
- In Maine – as well as in Arizona, California, Massachusetts and Nevada – a ballot initiative asks if we should go further, and legalize adults’ recreational use of the drug.
- Voters in the states all share some of the same hopes and reservations about greater consumer access to cannabis.
On Tuesday, voters in nine states will have the chance to loosen restrictions on pot.
@nytopinion: Voters in nine states will have the chance to loosen restrictions on pot
I must be the most maladapted pothead in Maine. Since 2013, I have had a Maine medical marijuana authorization card, for treating painful nerve damage in my elbows and hands. The thing is, though, I don’t actually like being high; it makes me feel a little sad, a little disengaged. I like everything about marijuana, you could say, except the being stoned part. Fortunately for me, the cannabis crème I use on my joints doesn’t mess with my head.
People use pot for plenty of reasons, both medical and recreational. On Tuesday, voters in nine states will have the chance to loosen restrictions on marijuana. Initiatives in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota would legalize marijuana for medical use. These states would join 25 others, and the District of Columbia, in which people with certain conditions can legally purchase the drug. Here in Maine — as well as in Arizona, California, Massachusetts and Nevada — a ballot initiative asks if we should go further, and legalize adults’ recreational use of the drug.
The initiatives range from California’s Proposition 64, which would allow for relatively unfettered recreational use for adults, to North Dakota’s Measure 5, which provides a limited blessing for usage by patients with very specific ailments: cancer, AIDS, hepatitis C, glaucoma and epilepsy, among others.
Voters in these states all share some of the same hopes and reservations about greater consumer access to cannabis. The reservations are no secret, and fear of increased drug use by minors is chief among them. But there are a lot of hopes, too — eliminating an unsavory black market and allowing the police to concentrate on more serious crimes, to name two. Also on the minds of plenty of voters, as well as their legislators, is that Colorado (which legalized cannabis in 2012) is expected to haul in more than $140 million in tax revenue from pot sales this year, double what was originally projected. Cannabis taxation would provide a steady stream of revenue to states strapped for cash.
Perhaps it’s my 1970s adolescence that has left me with the feeling that my use of cannabis, even for medical reasons, is somehow risqué. But things have changed since the days when I bought pot from fake health food stores on Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan.
Now I buy from a shop in charming Gardiner, Me., inside the former train station. There are comfortable chairs and a case displaying edibles and tinctures and a wide variety of smokable strains, each one described in terms as careful and loving as those of an oenophile describing a Burgundy: Blue Dream is “piney and fruity in aroma and flavor, delivering clear cerebral effects with the sedative qualities of an indica.” I choose a balm that makes my joints feel better, even if it makes me smell like the balcony of the Fillmore East.
If the initiatives pass — and polls in Maine suggest ours will — millions of Americans are about to join me.