Next session, the Maine Legislature will consider a bill that follows the leads of the states of Washington and Colorado in legalizing marijuana for recreational use. But even before that measure has been drafted, it's drawing opposition from the allegedly clear-thinking executive director of the state Chiefs of Police Association.
"It will get into the hands of young people," Robert Schwartz told the Portland Press Herald. "It will be just like liquor."
To find out if that's true, I contacted the National Association of Teenage Dudes And, Like, Whatever. When I relayed Schwartz's comment to executive director Louis "Scrape" Chiccoboom, he almost dropped his game controller onto his bong.
"That's just so . . . I dunno, hee, hee . . . I mean, ha, ha, ha, hee, ha," Chiccoboom said. "Hoo, hoo, ha, ha, hee, hee, hee."
He then had to cut short our interview because he'd spilled a bag of Skittles on his briefing papers.
"I gotta . . . hoo, hoo, hoo . . . gotta . . . ha, gotta, um, yeah, well . . . ha, ha, ha, ha."
By which, we can assume teenage dudes are not likely to take Schwartz's concerns all that seriously. And unlike many things teenage dudes don't take seriously (life in general, for instance), in this case, there's plenty of justification.
That's because in Maine anyone who wants to smoke pot for personal enjoyment is almost certainly already doing so. Decent weed is readily available at reasonable prices in virtually every corner of the state. If you're part of the tiny minority that's having trouble finding a reliable supply, I suggest you ask the nearest available teenager.
That kid will tell you that marijuana is easier to get than cigarettes, the reason being that dope dealers don't feel compelled to ask for identification proving their buyers are at least 18 years of age. Legal purveyors of tobacco products can't afford to be so cavalier about who their customers are, because if they sell to someone who's underage, they face a fine and possible loss of their license.
The same is true of alcohol. You need to be able to prove you're 21 to buy a six-pack of beer. That requires you to possess a better-than-average fake ID and the kind of casual demeanor that says that even though you look about 15, you really are of legal age and you do this sort of thing all the time, so it's no biggie.
To purchase a nickel bag, you only need to prove you have money.
Which brings us to the two points that cops like Schwartz can't seem to grasp:
1) If pot were legal, the people smoking it would be all the same people who are smoking it now — with one notable exception.
2) A lot of kids would suddenly find it far more difficult to obtain the legalized product than it ever was to get the contraband kind.
Even so, there's little chance the bill sponsored by Democratic state Representative Diane Russell of Portland to remove all state penalties for possession and use of marijuana by adults will come much closer to passing the Legislature in 2013 than Russell's earlier version did in 2012. That proposal was rejected in the House by a vote of 107-39 and slammed down without a recorded vote in the Senate.