HHS Committee Holds Public Hearings on 12 Medical Marijuana Bills (15 Videos)

Posted on April 29, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Public hearings were held this week in the 127th Maine Legislature’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Standing Committee on the following bills:

    LD 5, An Act To Remove the Limit on the Number of Patients a Primary Caregiver May Provide for under the Medical Marijuana Laws

    LD 21, An Act To Amend the Medical Marijuana Laws

    LD 23, An Act To Remove from the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act the Requirement That a Patient’s Medical Condition Be Debilitating

    LD 35, An Act To Allow a Qualifying Patient To Use Medical Marijuana in a Hospital

    LD 266, An Act To Allow Access for Law Enforcement Officers to the List of Registered Primary Caregivers for Medical Marijuana Patients

    LD 560, An Act Regarding Patient Information Under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act

    LD 726, An Act To Increase Patient Safety in Maine’s Medical Marijuana Program

    LD 752, An Act To Permit Medical Marijuana Cultivation by Incapacitated Adults

    LD 766, An Act To Require a Medical Marijuana Primary Caregiver Cultivating in a Residential Building To Obtain an Electrical Permit

    LD 1058, An Act Regarding Medical Marijuana Registered Testing Laboratories

    LD 1059, An Act Relating to Marijuana Testing Facilities

    LD 1258, An Act To Amend the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act with Regard to Good Business Practices

Over 9 hours of public testimony was recorded:

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UPDATED: #MEGOV LePage Skips NE Governors’ Regional Opioid Abuse Summit; Dismisses as “Chit Chat”

Posted on June 17, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

(5pm UPDATE) Despite earlier today acknowledging the futility of such a move, moments ago Governor LePage’s office issued a statement calling on Democrats to reconvene and pass his “war on drugs” bill:

Governor LePage takes media questions on LD 1811 during March 2014 press conference.

Governor LePage takes media questions on LD 1811 during March 2014 press conference.

    “Drug trafficking by ruthless, out-of-state street gangs is on the rise, but Democrats are still pretending Maine does not have a problem with violent drug crime. Organized drug gangs are flooding the state with cheap heroin, but Democrats remain obstinate. They refuse to provide the manpower law enforcement agencies need to prevent these criminals from addicting Mainers with this killer drug.”

    “We even identified funding to add MDEA agents, judges and prosecutors to help combat the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state. That money is still sitting there. I could call the legislature back to take up my bill, but Democratic leaders could simply recess immediately and go home. I cannot force them to do something they are not willing to do.”

    “Democratic leadership stated they won’t call the legislature back unless there is an ‘extraordinary occasion.’ They don’t think that deaths from drug overdoses, babies born addicted to drugs and violent street gangs peddling poison on our street corners amount to an ‘extraordinary occasion.’ But Maine people do.”

More via BDN:

    Lawmakers had attempted to revise the bill to make it more politically palatable, but LePage signaled he would veto anything but his original proposal and a bipartisan panel of legislators unanimously moved to kill the bill.

    Democratic leaders in the Legislature have said they will not bring lawmakers back to Augusta until the next session begins in 2015. While LePage has the constitutional authority to call lawmakers back into session, he said Tuesday that it would be pointless. Lawmakers, if they chose, could simply recess immediately upon being called back to Augusta, he said.


Earlier this month, Governor LePage issued a statement on the then newly released 2013 drug-induced death statistics in Maine, which read in part:

Governor Paul LePage takes a question from NBC national correspondent Kate Snow during "war on drugs" press conference.

Governor Paul LePage takes a question from NBC national correspondent Kate Snow during “war on drugs” press conference.

    “Our Administration is focusing on the fact that Maine is subject to ever-increasing numbers of out-of-state drug trafficking organizations establishing drug markets in the state. This disturbing trend tears at the very fabric of our communities and puts our children at risk.

    As I have said in the past, we must be proactive in combating drug dealers and target our limited resources to better protect our communities.

    I think we all agree we also need to find more effective and efficient ways to treat addicts and provide them options that lead to successful long-term outcomes. In fact, the State has increased substance abuse funding in recent years from $7 million to more than $9 million. However, until we are able to curb the amount of drugs coming into our state, we will likely see the number of drug-induced deaths continue to rise.”

So with that in mind, it was quite startling to learn that LePage intended to skip a private meeting of all New England governors held at Waltham MA’s Brandeis University today with the goal of regionally addressing opiate abuse, sharing information and developing strategies. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had previously unveiled his plan to deal with opiate abuse as he called for the summit:

    Patrick said he planned to meet with his counterparts from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine next week to discuss ways they could collaborate to reduce opiate abuse in New England.

    Representatives for Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, Connecticut’s Dannel Malloy, Vermont’s Peter Shumlin and New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan confirmed the governors would attend next week’s summit. A spokeswoman for Maine’s Paul LePage, the sole Republican governor in the region, said he would not attend due to a prior commitment.

Today Maine learned what that “prior commitment” was- a photo op in Augusta:

    Crime is down according to the Uniform Crime Reporting Division at the Maine Department of Public Safety. Governor Paul R. LePage and Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Morris will release details at a news conference Tuesday.

    Governor LePage credits the overall decline to a variety of factors, including more coordination between law enforcement, the courts, prosecutors and domestic violence advocates.

    “Maine is one of the safest states in the country. We can all be proud of that,” said the Governor. “Our police departments across Maine deserve to be recognized for the work they do. However, while we have good news to report, we still have issues to address. There are some disturbing trends we have identified, which we cannot ignore. Protecting the public’s safety is the greatest responsibility of government.”

However at today’s press conference, LePage wasted no time in pointing fingers at the other five governors for his no-show:

    A spokeswoman for Maine Gov. Paul LePage said he did not attend because of a scheduling conflict but wanted to be kept apprised of details. LePage later complained, however, that as the only Republican governor in New England his point of view might not be heard.

    So rather than listen to chit-chat, I’m here trying to get the work done,” LePage said during a news conference on crime statistics in Maine.

The governor’s office even tweeted the message:

Reuters noted LePage’s past opposition expanding access to naloxone, saying that it could encourage addicts to avoid treatment:

A reminder: At the original press conference where he stood with multiple administration and state law officials, Paul LePage also went on record as calling marijuana a “gateway drug”.

*RELATED: (UPDATED X3) Maine Gov Paul LePage To Reintroduce LD 1811, War On Drugs Bill, As Emergency Measure On Veto Day (May 1)

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(UPDATED x3) Maine Gov Paul LePage To Reintroduce LD 1811, War on Drugs Bill, as Emergency Measure on Veto Day (May 1)

Posted on April 30, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

(UPDATED x3) Governor LePage has just announced that he plans to reintroduce LD 1811, “An Act To Appropriate and Allocate Funds To Strengthen the State’s Efforts To Investigate, Prosecute and Punish Persons Committing Drug Crimes”, tomorrow as an emergency bill. Here is the press release:

      Governor Finds Funding to Pay For New Drug Enforcement Agents, Judges, Prosecutors
      Bill will go to Legislature on Thursday

    AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage will propose emergency legislation to fund his initiative to fight drug crime by adding Maine Drug Enforcement Agents, judges and prosecutors, which was a major initiative he outlined in his State of the State Address.

    Governor LePage takes media questions on LD 1811 during March 2014 press conference.

    Governor LePage takes media questions on LD 1811 during March 2014 press conference.

    “Although my proposal was widely supported, it died when the Appropriations Committee failed to fund it,” said the Governor. “But this issue is much too important to let die. I am pleased that we have found the funding to help combat the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state. We cannot wait any longer. We must act now to crack down on drug dealers and make our streets safe for Maine families.”

    The Governor will propose using revenue in the Unclaimed Property Fund account to pay for LD 1811, “An Act to Appropriate and Allocate Funds to Strengthen the State’s Efforts to Investigate, Prosecute and Punish Persons Committing Drug Crimes.” LD 1811 would add 10 new MDEA agents, two new District Court judges, deputy marshals and assistant clerks, and two prosecutors in the Attorney General’s office.

    In addition, the bill would provide $750,000 to augment existing drug addiction treatment programs. The total cost of the proposal is about $2.5 million.

    The proposal initially had broad bipartisan support in the Legislature, and it won endorsement from the judicial branch and law enforcement agencies across the state.


(UPDATED x2) On April 4, NBC Nightly News ran an in-depth story by national correspondent Kate Snow on the FDA approving opiate antidote Evzio. It featured paramedics in Portland, discussing using life-saving heroin antidote Nalaxone, also known as Narcan to save lives. A portion of that story focused on Maine Governor Paul LePage’s opposition to non-medical personnel having access to Narcan, with a clip from the press conference seen below.

NBC reporter Kate Snow asks Governor LePage about his opposition to Nalaxone.

NBC reporter Kate Snow asks Governor LePage about his opposition to Nalaxone.

One quote from Governor LePage on the topic has drawn much attention and summarized his views:

    “I think we need to treat, Let’s deal with the treatment, the proper treatment and not say, Go overdose, and oh, by the way, if you do I’ll be there to save you. I think we need to deal with the bigger, basic problem of drug addiction, drug trafficking and drug abuse in the state. That’s all I’m interested in.”

This morning, NBC’s Today Show again featured quotes from the same press conference as part of Snow’s ongoing report on heroin addiction:

    Not everyone is so enthusiastic about the medication. At a press conference on Maine’s drug problem, the governor was adamant that only medical professionals should have access to Narcan.

    “It’s an escape,” Gov. Paul LePage told NBC News. “It’s an excuse to stay addicted. I think we need to deal with the treatment, the proper treatment and not be saying, “go overdose and oh, by the way, if you do, I’ll be there to save you.”

But in a stunning move, NBC is reporting the governor’s office told them yesterday that LePage is reversing course and no longer opposing access to the antidote:


9am UPDATE: Via Sun Journal’s Scott Thistle is a clip of former Cumberland County Sheriff Rep. Mark Dion, speaking in more depth to the issues raised by the governor during the press conference and elaborating on his own remarks found below.


(Originally posted 3/12/14)

DSC_0032Governor Paul LePage yesterday held a press conference in his Cabinet Room to announce that he has submitted legislation to provide funding for 22 new state employee positions to fight Maine’s drug addiction and trafficking problems: 4 new hires within the Judicial Branch, 14 for the Department of Public Safety and four additional Assistant AGs. The move is part of his State of the State address promise to toughen up on Maine’s drug laws and enforcement.

With Attorney General Janet Mills, Cumberland County DA Stephanie Anderson, MDEA head Roy McKinney and law enforcement officers from around Maine in attendance, the governor spoke to and again listed statistics regarding the large number of Maine babies that are born addicted, criticized the state’s methadone clinics and called marijuana a “gateway drug”, a claim supported and expanded upon by DA Anderson when it was her turn at the podium.

Some quotes of LePage:

    “The methadone clinics in the state of Maine are an absolute dismal failure.”

    “I’m not here to say that eradicating the drug trafficking trade is a silver bullet. We still have the addiction efforts. This is a full-blown business activity, and we’ve allowed it to go from a little bit of heroin for your buddy to a commercial enterprise. We need to break the commercial enterprise. This is, we want to get the people who bring the poison into the state, we want to get them off the streets.”

The governor also managed to get in a few political digs regarding Medicaid expansion:

    “We must confront this troubling epidemic. While some are spending all their time trying to expand welfare, we are losing the war on drugs.”

LD 1811, “An Act To Appropriate and Allocate Funds To Strengthen the State’s Efforts To Investigate, Prosecute and Punish Persons Committing Drug Crimes” is sponsored by Sen. Gary Plummer (R-Cumberland) and while it beefs up enforcement and the drug courts, there are no provisions or mention within the bill as will be presented to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee in regards to medical treatment for addicts, education or counselling.

Some Democrats voiced their opinions on LePage’s approach:

Asst Majority Leader Senator Anne Haskell (D-Cumberland):

    “There are Mainers who today, are living drug-free lives — and the reason for that is the treatment required by the oversight of the drug court. I am pleased to see more resources allocated to the drug courts. However, they are only half the answer. We simply are not going to arrest our way out of drug addiction.”

Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan) agreed:

    “The governor does not have a track record of supporting prevention and treatment. We want to hear about what he will do on those fronts. We should all be able to agree that we cannot arrest or incarcerate our way out of Maine’s drug problems.”

Rep. Mark Dion (D-South Portland), a former Cumberland County Sheriff and House Chair of the CJPS Committee:

    “Where we part ways is he’s offering part of a solution. Judges and prosecutors that don’t have the resources to intervene in the addiction cycle will only guarantee more arrests and more detentions at our correctional facilities, which are already under stress.”

Maine Gov Paul LePage Presents LD 1811, War on Drugs Bill, in Press Conference

Roy McKinney, Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Director, Speaks in Support of LePage Plan

Cumberland County DA Stephanie Anderson Speaks in Support of LD 1811, Gov LePage War on Drugs Bill

Conclusion of LePage War on Drugs Press Conference; Q&A with Press


Some parsed out moments:

1. ME Gov Paul LePage: Marijuana a “Gateway Drug”

    Reporter: “Governor, can you talk about how the push to legalize marijuana in Portland and possibly statewide affects this? Is it a separate issue?”

    LePage: “Yeah, it’s a separate issue. I think what they are doing in Portland is against federal law and the state law- I don’t condone it. I think… I will tell you, I’m not a user, so I don’t know what it does… but everybody that has experience with it is telling me it is a gateway drug. If it is a gateway drug, it’s certainly not helping the situation.”

2. LePage: Narloxone in home is “excuse to stay addicted”

3. Medicaid Expansion Question/ Drug Abuse Tie In Question by Susan Alexa

4. Press sings Happy Birthday to LePage press secretary Adrienne Bennett

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Rep Diane Russell (Portland): Maine must lead marijuana regulation (Video, Text, Pix)

Posted on February 23, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Link to full press conference conducted 21 Feb 2013. Speakers included: Rep. Russell, Shenna Bellows of ACLU of Maine, Denny Gallaudet (retired bank president and retired superintendent), David Boyer of the Marijuana Policy Project and Rep. Aaron Libby (R- Waterboro).

Representative Russell’s full address, as prepared:

“Maine is a remarkable case study in how a state can regulate marijuana in a controlled, responsible manner that balances the broad interests of public safety, substance abuse and parents. We have retail establishments that grow and supply marijuana to responsible customers.

We have proven that this can be done for medical purposes, and now it is time to institute that same strict regulatory infrastructure for responsible adult recreational consumers.

IMG_2464When was the last time you heard of a drug dealer carding a kid? It doesn’t happen. Responsible Maine business owners who sell alcohol do it all the time. It is time we let business owners who card their consumers earn the profits and not the drug dealers or drug cartels.

Two years ago, I introduced legislation to tax and regulate marijuana. I introduced it because I realized that the trends were shifting and public policy was going to have to shift to meet this new culture shift. What I did not realize was just how quickly that change would come.

Historically, the end of alcohol Prohibition began the day New York decriminalized its production. In our generation’s prohibition, Washington and Colorado were the tipping points. The question of whether to legalize or not was answered for history in November when voters in two states voted to allow marijuana to be taxed and regulated.

Over 1200 online viewers of the press conference, live streamed by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland)

Over 1200 online viewers of the press conference, live streamed by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland)

Most people have been remarkably supportive of my efforts and many share my concern about preventing young people from having access to marijuana. 85% of high school seniors are telling us that they have easy access to it. That number has not dipped below 82% since 1975. The War on Drugs began in 1971. If the metric by which we measure this program is the success we have had in getting it out of the hands of young people, then we have failed. Prohibition did not work with alcohol and it has not worked with marijuana, either.

Today, I join my colleagues in asking the legislature to do the responsible thing and to set up a regulatory infrastructure that takes into account the broad spectrum of interests: from law enforcement, from substance abuse counselors and especially from parents and teachers. Let us not bury our heads in the sands, hoping this issue will simply go away. We have been doing that for far too long as it is, and now we can see the trend is coming.

My bill would set up a strong regulatory infrastructure for the in-state cultivation and sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21 by licensed retailers. It gives preference to Maine-based business owners, dispensaries and caregivers in the application process to do what we can to ensure we are creating Maine jobs.


  • The bill taxes it at $50 per ounce, bringing in an estimated- and probably conservative- $13 million new dollars to the state.
  • 75% of that will go to the General Fund to offset education costs.
  • 10% will go to help law enforcement.
  • 10% will go toward substance abuse and prevention.
  • 5% would be set aside for research grants so that we can study the effects of marijuana use as well as THC potency.
  • This bill provides lawmakers an opportunity to have an open and transparent process to refine the regulatory framework of the current bill to ensure Mainers can be confident in the end result. If approves by the Legislature and Governor, the bill would go to the people for ratification by referendum.

    Maine has been a model state in how we regulate medical marijuana. We have been smart, conservative and responsible, proving that our state has the knowledge and ability to regulate properly. Our state motto, Dirigo, reminds us that we must lead. I’m asking my colleagues to do just that.

    Thank you.”

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