PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Marijuana entrepreneurs and cannabis industrialists took over the Portland campus of the University of Southern Maine (USM) Saturday. The second annual New England Cannabis Convention is a chance for many vendors and medical marijuana caretakers to offer their expertise.
With the legalization of recreational marijuana on the ballot next month, one would think that everyone who works with marijuana would be in favor of being legally able to sell more of it.
You might actually be surprised to learn that the crowd was pretty split on Question 1.
Of course, the “Yes on 1” campaign had a strong presence, but many medical marijuana business owners do not support the referendum for a variety of reasons.
The New England Cannabis Convention is a room full of hundreds of people and businesses ready to get educated on the possible uses of marijuana.
But there's one interesting twist: “If you look around you will see there is literally no marijuana in [the] room. It's not allowed on the campus and it's not part of these shows," New England Cannabis Network president Marc Shepard said.
That's because in the state of Maine, only registered medical marijuana use is legal. That could change if Question 1 is passed on Nov. 8.
“We think that it's something adults 21 and up should be able to do that we don't punish those who use alcohol and there's no reason to do so with marijuana,” said David Boyer of the Yes on 1 campaign.
There was some strong support for regulating and taxing marijuana at the cannabis convention. Several business owners see the potential economic benefits.
“As a processor, it would allow us an opportunity to expand,” SJR Labs owner Joel Pepin said. “To hire more people, to add more to the local economy.”
Several entrepreneurs at the convention did not support the referendum.
Many of them said it could harm their small, local, medical marijuana businesses.
“I want it to be more about the people of Maine,” said David Whitten, the owner of Sticky Bud Farms. “I want it to be Maine farmers like myself, not big corporate people that have all sorts of money that these people do … we treat our patients with love, and passion, and a genuine caring.”
The Yes on 1 campaign said that though out-of-state businesses may enter Maine, preference will be given to local businesses.
“Marijuana is still federally illegal so all the marijuana that is grown and sold in Maine and will be in Maine,” Boyer said. “It will go to Mainers and it will be Maine businesses paying Maine taxes.”
Others who oppose Question 1 do so for health reasons.
Lisa Noyes said she is a recovering drug addict. “Ecstasy was my drug of choice,” she said. “Heroin, cocaine, crack, I never did needles. Anything I could get into my system, I got there.”
She said that marijuana is the only reason that she was able to get clean 13 years ago. “It’s taking away a withdrawal or craving and then it's gone. You get to decide.”
She believes that marijuana should only be treated as a prescribed medicine. “I don't want my marijuana on the counter of where my daughter could buy it as well.”
People from the Yes on 1 campaign said that old stereotypes about marijuana and its usage are just that: old.
“Smoking joints is kind of a thing of the past almost. It's kind of archaic,” Boyer said.
A lot of the displays were about capsules, lotions, oils, and a variety of ways that these vendors said marijuana can be used other than the stereotype of smoking a joint.
These opponents and proponents will have to wait until Nov. 8 to see how it all turns out.