Both sides of marijuana referendum intensifying campaigns

Marijuana referendum ads hit airwaves

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — We're already seeing plenty of political ads for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Emily Cain, among others. Now we'll be seeing new ones.

The battle over legalizing marijuana now has video ads hitting TV screens and social media, and both sides promise this is just the start.

The argument has been smoldering for years. Medical marijuana is legal with a prescription, but Question 1 would legalize recreational use of the drug for everyone over age 21.

Supporters are starting their public campaign with a very well-known spokesman: former sheriff and current state legislator Mark Dion, who says it's time to change the law. He told people at a news conference on Tuesday that even law enforcement believe that.

"I dare say most street police officers — if they had the opportunity to speak candidly — they'd tell you, without reservation, that marijuana is not a threat," Dion said.

Dion and other supporters say legalizing marijuana would let police focus on more important crimes, would make it easier and cheaper to get medical marijuana and even save the state money.

"Jailing individuals who use marijuana does not make sense from a civil rights perspective, a civil liberties perspective or from a fiscal perspective," said ACLU of Maine Executive Director Alison Beyea.

But opponents, who also launched their first video ad, say Question 1 would do lots of harm. Scott Gagnon of 'No on 1' said passing the law would make it easier for children to get marijuana, especially what they call "edibles."

"Edibles are very attractive to children … the gummy bears and sodas and lollipops and cartoon characters," he said. "We want to prevent that sort of thing happening in Maine,.

Gagnon also said he thinks legalization would mean more people using the drug.

"Absolutely, and that's what the industry wants," he said. "They wouldn't come to try to legalize if they didn't expect a broader customer base."

Supporters argue it's about recognizing reality and regulating how people get what they want.

"I think we would agree our current system hasn't worked at preventing marijuana from people who want it," said Beyea.

A lot of money will be spent on this marijuana issue over the next five weeks. The 'No on 1' campaign said it plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising. The 'Yes on 1' campaign will spend over a million.

Copyright 2016 WCSH


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