PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A week from tomorrow, Maine voters will be asked to approve five different citizen initiatives at the polls.
Question 1 asks voters if they want to legalize possession of marijuana for people over the age of 21 and allow the state to regulate and tax it. Maine is one of five states across the country that has a measure to legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana on the ballot.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Janet Mills came out and said the proposal, if approved, would repeal existing laws prohibiting marijuana use by juveniles. Supporters of Yes on Question 1 have disputed Mills' legal interpretation and say it's simply not true.
Caregivers and parents of sick children also fear if the initiative passes the state's long-standing marijuana medical program will eventually be dismantled and patients will lose access to their medicine.
Pro-marijuana forces hope Maine will become one of the first states on the East Coast to legalize pot on Nov. 8. If Question 1 is approved, adults 21 years and older would be able to possess up to 2.5 ounces of prepared pot. It also allows adults to grow up to six mature plants, 12 immature plants and an unlimited amount of seedlings. The sale of pot would be taxed at 10 percent.
AG Mills recently said the proposal could legalize marijuana for everyone, even children. Mills said the referendum removes existing legal language that makes possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil infraction for minors. The interpretation by the state's top prosecutor was an "October surprise" for No on Question 1 opponents, who in turn unveiled a new batch of tv ads and put referendum supporters on the defensive.
Scott Anderson, an attorney that represents the pro-legalization Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said the interpretation by the state's top prosecutor is incorrect.
Susan Meehan moved her daughter Cyndimae to Maine several years ago from Connecticut to treat severe seizures with medical pot. While Cyndimae's condition did improve tremendously, she passed away earlier this year. Samantha Brown's five-year-old daughter Kaylee relies on medical pot to control her seizures. Both moms worry that legalizing pot for recreational use will limit access to medication for children and push smaller growers out of business.
They point to Washington state, which legalized marijuana four years ago. Many medical dispensaries closed when the recreational and medical programs were merged.
"These programs also started with the same kind of language as Maine," Meehan said. "We are not going to touch the medical program and that's great this passes but happens a few months down the line."
Yes on 1 campaign political director Alysia Melnik said the initiative was crafted with the state's medical pot program in mind. She said the medical program, which has about 48,000 patients, will not be affected.
"We encourage people to read the initiative," she said. "It specifically protects the rights of caregivers, patients and dispensaries because everybody who wants Yes on 1 wants to expand access to marijuana for therapeutic use."
Dawson July is a medical marijuana caregiver and operates out of a former dairy building. He grows marijuana plants for patients and specializes in certain strains that he sells in his storefront to patients.
He's concerned about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that has poured in from out of state to push for legalization and the increase in regulations, which included background checks and caps on canopy space for growers, rules he says that have forced small growers in other states out of business.