U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) told attendees at the first Maine Medical Marijuana Expo on Saturday that current laws against marijuana use are expensive, are applied unevenly and should be repealed.
“People who make a personal decision to smoke marijuana should not be subject to prosecution,” Frank said, noting that the legalization movement has allies in the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, reports David Hench at the Kennebec Journal. “This is the kind of fight that’s worth making. It’s winnable.”
Frank was present during a marijuana arrest at James Ready’s home in Ogunquit, Maine last October. Ready is well-known for his long term relationship with Congressman Frank, reports My Fox Boston.
The Congressman’s message was well received by a crowd of about 100, including many vendors set up for the day-long exposition in Portland, Maine.
|Photo: Tim Greenway/The Portland Press Herald|
|Steve Ruhl, left, and Cullen Stuart of the Maine chapter of Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp talk to visitors at their booth during the Maine Medical Marijuana Expo in Portland on Saturday.|
The event, put together by Charlie Wynott of the nonprofit Maine Medical Marijuana Resource Center, included exhibits of the latest growing equipment. Earlier in the day, prominent doctors in the medical marijuana field discussed the therapeutic use of cannabis for a range of debilitating conditions.
State representatives, retired law enforcement officers and civil libertarians also addressed the group.
“It’s good because there’s a lot more media, a lot more information out in the public, and I think the public itself is learning more and realizing we’re not just a bunch of hippie pot-smokers,” Linda Kennedy of The Patient Handbook told WLBZ. “This is medicine; it does help people. They don’t have to take manufactured drugs that are going to hurt them.”
Maine voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 1999, and in 2009 voters approved state-licensed dispensaries as one way of giving patients safe and legal access to cannabis.
Frank, a powerful Congressional figure on banking and finance issues, said he had been in Ogunquit earlier in the day to celebrate the repeal of the federal ban on gays and lesbians in the U.S. military.
The same evolution of attitudes that helped get “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed should help end the prohibition on marijuana, Frank said.
“The younger people are the more sensible people on this issue,” Frank said. “I believe within 10 years we’re going to be able to substantially diminish the criminality of marijuana.”
Police, Frank said, have much more trouble with a group of young men drinking beer than a similar group that has been smoking marijuana.
“Instead of bringing Mace, you might bring potato chips,” Frank quipped, to much laughter.
Event organizer Wynott, a longtime advocate of medical marijuana, has been HIV positive for 23 years and uses marijuana to ease nausea, to help keep his medicine down and to boost his appetite to help keep up his strength.
His group helps poor patients with terminal illnesses pay for the state medical marijuana license and get access to treatment, he said.
“I get calls every day from people who say, ‘I want to be a patient, but I can’t afford to,’ ” Wynott said. “The people I focus on are low-income, terminally ill, the most vulnerable people in our community.”
“So many people want to get off the pills and go natural,” Wynott said. “Cannabis is a great healing medicine.”