Recently, the state of Maine was made aware, from a federal level, that it would likely not be receiving 3.3 million dollars needed to fund critical mental-health programs within its school system. While something most view as necessary channels of support for the growing minds in our community, (young members whom we should be allotting substantial resources and opportunities to), because of Medical Marijuana decision-makers face a reality wherein impersonable minds are being cut off from needed support all in the name of bargaining chips for sad political games. On may 6th, Pender Makin, Maine’s Education Commissioner, said in a letter to Superintendent Deb Alden that the state's funding would not be renewed. “Because of our state’s medical marijuana law, which requires schools to allow students who have [a] written certification from their medical provider, indicating their need for medical marijuana to receive such treatment while at school”, the cash-flow we have become accustomed to would soon be entirely cut off. The Sun Journal first reported the letter.
So what changed?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration silently pushed forward a new agenda in 2019, suspending individuals and organizations from particpaiting in important mental health grant programs if money allocated to a state was used directly or indirectly to provide treatment with medical cannabis. The agency also stated that institutions would be barred from receiving money via any federal resources if such institutions provided or permitted “marijuana use for the purpose of treating substance use and [all other] mental disorders”. “The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a new requirement starting in year-three, requiring recipients of Aware grants to guarantee that funding will not be provided to organizations who permit the use of marijuana for treatment of mental illnesses or for tackling substance-abuse disorder. Maine schools have a statutory, and arguably moral obligation to permit such consumptive-use if a student holds a written certificate that requires it.” said commissioner Pender Makin. Marijuana Moment reached out to U.S Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), wherein she noted that “medical marijuana is a prescribed medicine for many Mainers. Maine residents have the right to access the medicines that are prescribed by licensed medical professionals, [and] by denying Maine the continuation of a significant mental health programming grant, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has undermined Maine schools’ ability to provide support services for their students. During this stressful time, letting ideological [political] views degrade [if not entirely discard] mental health resources will harm young people in Maine”
Maine is not the only state to be affected by these changes. Americans for Safe Access reported that 12 states, including the District of Columbia, are also disqualified from crucial support-programs. While some states like Maine are completely barred, others like Florida may have their funding revoked on a case by case basis within the context of individual districts. As certain states permit individual districts to make discrete decisions on cannabis use within school on their own validates this “case by case” possibility. A frustrating aspect that some states have begun to find themselves in huddles-around a morally-implicating, cost-benefit driven mode of decision making. Often states with few, yet some medicinal users have found themselves ousted from funding and thus needed programs that support a large amount of impressionable and valuable children. While it seems easy to discard the medical programs to gain the needed funding once-again, this decision in itself would place injustice, inequality and governmental moral-wrongdoing onto a minority-group of the population; real people who undoubtedly need their rights protected to thus guarantee their medicine.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also said these changes will be happening for their ever-important opioid prevention programs. While this is no surprise, these overarching decisions can and will come at the cost of many when considering the number of recovering addicts whom have accredited cannabis, in one way or another, for its role in their recovery. Many will argue that we lack enough information for long term effects regarding the consumption of cannabis to deem it as a legal medicine. But that argument is hypocritical and convoluted. Mental health is something that evolves over time. Dis-barring historically successful programs may concerningly not show any statistical insight until the damage has sadly been done. Only time will tell how burdening decisions like this may go, but in our eyes, the feds are playing with an immense fire, throwing kindle on top of the flames without thinking about what could and can happen, all over a mere silly little match.
Host of the Maine Potcast