So, a judge has ruled that Mainers will get to vote Nov. 8 on a citizen-initiated bill to legalize marijuana for everyday use.

If the referendum, sponsored by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, passes, adults could possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow a “limited number” of plants, according to news accounts.

Retail sales and social clubs would be allowed, with approval from communities. Public use would be banned, punishable by a $100 fine. Finally, retail sales would be taxed at 10 percent.

Maine would join four other states and the District of Columbia if this vote succeeds. Several other states are reportedly considering such laws as well.

I’ve supported medicinal pot, but retain strong doubts about it as a legal recreational drug. (Notice I refrained from saying the issue has its highs and lows.)

Still, some of the conservatives I admire most, notably the late William F. Buckley Jr. (whom I had the very great pleasure of dining with at the Black Point Inn several years ago) were strong supporters of legalization.

Liberals and libertarians have long said that a society that accepts one legal intoxicant, alcohol, for widespread but regulated sales, doesn’t really have much of a rationale to prohibit a similar intoxicant simply because the first one is imbibed and the other smoked.

Well, yes and no.

Why, for example, does the acceptance of one substance, used since hunter-gatherers turned to farming grain and grapes and turning them into alcoholic beverages, automatically justify adding another to the list?

It’s logical to argue that the problems we have with alcohol are quite enough to occupy our police, judiciary, counseling centers and social service agencies without adding some unknown but certainly substantial number to their caseloads.

This is not a call for a return to Prohibition. It didn’t work — but a big part of the reason was that alcohol use has a history that goes back at least 6,000 years. Pot, not so much.

And if you like the argument that our current laws against its use amount to a modern version of the 18th Amendment, then by the same logic, so do our laws applying to other mind-bending narcotics such as cocaine.

Once we have opened the box that releases new entries to the legal public pharmacopoeia, we are likely to find it very difficult to shut it again.

Remember, marijuana is not a “harmless” drug. As WebMD notes, marijuana use can create “a distorted sense of time, random thinking, paranoia, depression, anxiety and short-term forgetfulness.”

Further, “Though you may have heard otherwise,” it says, “marijuana can be addictive: Nearly 10 percent of people who use it become dependent on it.” And: “Marijuana can also cause more health problems if you have a condition like liver disease, low blood pressure, or diabetes.”

And ponder this: A bill to codify the blood levels of THC (marijuana’s psychoactive component) that would render a driver in violation of operating under the influence standards passed the Maine Senate but was rejected in the House — by a unanimous vote.

As this paper noted April 1, “According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 17 states have laws setting limits on THC in the bloodstream of someone operating a vehicle. Several of those states have set the amount between 1 and 5 nanograms per milliliter. The Maine bill sought to impose a 5 nanogram limit — the same as in Colorado and Washington state, where recreational marijuana use is legal.”

But opponents said no reliable standard exists. So, do we want to legalize something that can result in the impaired operation of dangerous machinery without any standard for holding someone accountable for such actions?

As the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana wrote in an op-ed on these pages, “Many issues have arisen in Colorado since marijuana was legalized and commercialized. Discharges from ERs for marijuana have more than doubled. There has been a frightening trend in young children admitted to ERs for accidental marijuana poisonings. Children as young as fourth-graders are selling or exchanging marijuana on school property. Fatal car crashes involving drivers who test positive for marijuana have also been on the rise.”

The group added, “Legalization would bring ‘Big Marijuana’ (out-of-state large-scale entrepreneurs) to Maine and with it the kid-friendly marketing seen in Colorado. Legalization would further normalize marijuana and increase youth access to the drug. Legalization would harm our growing and rebuilding economies, increasing already significant substance abuse costs borne by all Mainers.”

Finally, the referendum could potentially permit uses that are illegal under federal statutes. While those prohibitions are not now widely or uniformly enforced, that could change without warning.

Thus, a “no” vote in November seems the prudent course.

OH, AND HERE’S a brief addendum on the presidential race:

Winter is coming.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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