Letters to the Editor from Camden Residents & Business Owners
Residents representing a wide swath of our community have been submitting letters to the editor to the Camden Herald to share why they will be voting NO to pot shops in Camden on June 13th.
Spanning parents, medical professionals and clergy... sea captains and airline pilots... people who were born and raised in Camden and folks who moved here to enjoy a better life in one of the best small towns in America...
Below is just a sampling of letters that have been published in the Herald urging residents to Vote No on Articles 3 and 4 to say NO to pot shops in Camden.
Vote No to 3 & 4
By the Board of Directors of Camden Cares
Click here for our joint letter published the final week prior to the vote.
June 9, 2023
Strive for greater perfection, not less
By John Fitzgerald
Jun 9, 2023
I have absolutely nothing against individuals who use cannabis products, but I don’t think we need stores here in Camden. There are plenty of businesses nearby, up and down Route 1, where those who want to purchase cannabis products can go for them.
I share the many opinions expressed in the several letters to the Herald in the past weeks that are in opposition to cannabis stores here in Camden. I think one essential piece was Kate Bates’s letter (5/26) stating that the issue should primarily be looked at as an exception to the town zoning — do we really want or need that?
I also take issue with Becca Shaw Glaser’s column (5/26), which as titled, purported to be about the youth of Camden but did not mention that aspect until the very end of the piece and then it seemed only her experience. And, it went far beyond that, seeming to suggest that Camden should strive to become a less ‘perfect’ town. I, for one, like Camden the way it is. People can view Camden through a negative lens as a ‘too ideal’ small town, but I think there is a lot of value for this kind of place to grow up in and live. I’m sure that there are problems — I did teach here in the high school for several years. But, as Ms. Glaser points out, these problems, for youth and adults, exist almost everywhere.
I moved here in 1972. My first impression of the Camden/Rockport area was that I thought I’d found a bit of paradise. I still feel that way. As I said, I taught at CHRHS for 17 years until I retired in 2018. I witnessed dissatisfaction among students about the area, the ‘Peyton Placeness’ of it, but in my experience many, if not most, of these complaints were made by kids who did not engage with any of the numerous activities available to them. Students who did seemed to be happy and well-adjusted. And those opportunities to be involved in all sorts of meaningful and rewarding activities have only increased with time, thanks in large part to collaboration between those ‘native’ and those ‘from away.’
I will vote no on Articles 3 and 4. First because I don’t think we should alter our zoning for cannabis shops and second because I don’t think the town needs them. I think we should strive for greater perfection, not less. What’s wrong with that?
Cannabis shops are only good for the owners making a profit
By Scott Freeman
Jun 2, 2022
There is no gain to the community only to the people wanting the dope shops.
My home town of Rockland has two big black eyes with obnoxious looking signage on their shops and the smell of Skunk weed wafting out of the cars is common on my bike ride from Camden to Rockland.
In the Camden Herald article Mark Benjamin says he is a permanent resident of Camden since 2012, thank you for that fact. It’s sad you want to ruin this place you moved into. Quite frankly it’s just you wanting to make money.
Make money and ruin the place you moved to. Great.
These shops are only good for the owners making a profit.
I grew up with “Camden by the sea and Rockland by the smell.” The fish plants are now gone in Rockland, but the dope shops look like trash and degrade my home town.
Vote for Camden, not for a dope shop making someone a profit.
By Scott Freeman
Jun 2, 2023
There is no gain to the community only to the people wanting the dope shops. It’s all about making money with no regard for the fact it will ruin the town. Why do I say this?
I was born and raised in the South end of Rockland. Growing up it was "Camden by the Sea and Rockland by the smell." This was because of all of the fish plants in Rockland.
I now live in my Dad’s and Grandfather’s town, Camden by the Sea.
Often, I ride my bike from Camden to Owls Head and every ride the smell of skunk weed flows out of the cars and I get to smell it. How can people inhale that? Putting smoke onto your lungs just doesn’t make sense to me. To each their own.
My home town of Rockland has two dope shops on Main Street. In my opinion, two black Eyes on a beautiful town. Do not let this happen to Camden. These people want one thing: profit.
I became an airline pilot and for 30 years I got to see a lot of America and the towns with dope shops to me seemed really degraded. Often, I overnighted in San Francisco and the company would put us up in the heart of the financial district. It was a great place to explore — now walking around all you smell is skunk weed, bums living in the alley ways the area is trashed. Every city with dope shops to me is a black eye.
The two dope skunk weed shops in Rockland remind me of decline.
No other business in Camden sells products that are currently illegal at the federal level.
These shops are only good for the owners making a profit.
Vote for Camden. Vote no on Articles 3 and 4.
Adding retail marijuana stores to our town certainly won't be a net positive
By Sophie Piconi
Jun 2, 2023
I am a proud mother of two: a soon to be high school graduate who's going off to college this fall, and his younger sister who has a few years of school left. Raising them in Camden for the past five years has been a blessing, and I'm so grateful that they’ve been able to spend some of their formative years in such a special place.
I'm also fortunate that they managed to navigate around marijuana and other drugs growing up here. At the same time though, I’m keenly aware that it’s become more and more difficult for all of us parents to protect our children from drugs, especially with the proliferation of THC-infused edibles and gummies sold by the pot shops that keep popping up all around us.
I know marijuana stores in Maine check ID's at the door (or are supposed to), but I think we all know people are re-selling the pot shops' extremely potent THC products to our kids. Maine's Office of Cannabis Policy recently admitted that they haven't been following standard operating procedure when it comes to oversight of recreational marijuana stores, but more worrisome was their announcement that the re-selling of THC products sold by medical marijuana shops has become a "widespread problem." (They don't have enough data as it pertains to recreational pot shops yet, which is bound to be worse.)
The statistics are alarming: according to the Northern New England Poison Control Center, there has been a 300% spike in youth cannabis exposure reports between 2013 and 2022. And those are just the cases where the Center was consulted by a parent or caregiver who believed their child had been poisoned. That stat is specific to cannabis-ingestion only, and since they can't account for unreported cases, the problem is likely to be exponentially higher.
The Center notes that "the route of exposure is almost always ingestion. For teens and adults, a sizeable majority of cases we manage are the result of ingestion, as edibles are more likely to lead to accidental exposure (e.g., not realizing a baked good/candy contained THC) and also more likely than smoking to cause unexpected/unwanted experiences when taken deliberately due to the delayed and often stronger reaction."
Look, no town is perfect, and I know full well that we already have problems with substance abuse in our schools — just like every other town in America. But all in all, we have it good here in Camden. Adding retail marijuana stores to our town certainly won't be a net positive, and it won't help us raise healthy, happy kids who continue to excel at school and athletics and move on to great things in life.
We have an important choice to make between now and the voting deadline on June 13th: continue to build Camden into a place that is attractive to younger families who want to raise their kids here, or prioritize selling marijuana to adults here, even though they can already acquire it within a 15-minute drive without making an existing and very serious problem worse.
I hope you'll think seriously about the pros and cons of pot shops in Camden and come to the same conclusion I did: We are better off without them. Whether you're a parent, grandparent, guardian, or anyone else who values and cares about our community and its kids, I hope you'll vote NO to Articles 3 and 4.
Vote no on Articles 3 and 4
By Kate Bates
May 26, 2023
Articles 3 and 4 are zoning questions and nothing else. They’re not questions concerning whether you are for, against, or ambivalent about a person’s right to use cannabis. They’re not questions about tradition versus modernity or whether or not you like the potential proprietors. The core question being asked is, “Are cannabis shops just another type of retail business that fits the character of the other retail members of the zone or are they substantially different?”
I think the following characteristics make them substantially different: No other businesses in Camden primarily sell psychoactive substances. No other businesses in Camden sell products that are currently illegal at the federal level and not fully legal in over half of the U.S. states. No other retail stores downtown have an age-based requirement to gain entry. And no other existing downtown retailers require a setback of any distance from a school.
These significant differences mean cannabis shops don’t share the same characteristics, and thus character, as the other retailers in Camden’s business district. Our town has often rejected zoning outliers. I urge Camden voters to do that once again.
Vote no to cannabis shops in Camden
By Jesse Bifulco
May 19, 2023
A rich community includes people of all ages, the young and the old. Often, we focus too much on the diminished physical capacity that age brings; something to be serviced for money.
But it is my sincere belief that the young need the old, just as the old need the young. Young people need to hear the wisdom of experience. But it is more than that. The young need the opportunity to understand the vulnerability that comes with aging. Young people in their strength and energy need the opportunity to be of service. It is important that they get to feel the simple pleasure of being of use to another person — of helping without the chance to gain. This lesson is a critical piece of youth development into fully realized human beings.
And for the older population, who have led courageous and accomplished working lives, it is humbling to be vulnerable — to need help. But their voluntary exposure of vulnerability is not participation in charity or an expression of weakness. It is a necessary lesson for the young. The aging-in-place, by giving our youth the opportunity to help them, are performing a valuable service to the community. These lessons are needed to form our youth into the best kind of adults. Conversely, when trust is rewarded by acts of kindness, vulnerability is dignified. The confidence to expose one’s vulnerability publicly is the hallmark of a truly civilized place.
But unfortunately, of late, in the cities, we have seen drug dependence deprive many youths of their humanity. And rather than help an elderly person cross the street, they punch them in the face. That is an example we don’t wish to follow here. Not even a little. We need to ensure that our community continues to make our elder population feel confident that their vulnerability is valued by our community, and not something to be exploited.
As an elderlaw attorney, I’m given the privileged view of the thoughts and concerns of our aging-in-place population. The recent spate of crime in our community increases their stress levels. There are studies that have found that legal marijuana shops are linked to higher levels of property crime in nearby areas.
Anecdotally, the recent “juvenile crime wave” in Rockland, and recent reports of property crime in Camden may be correlated to the concentrated multitude of legal pot shops in the Midcoast. The recent spate of opportunistic crime may be just a precursor to a rise that will come because of increased cannabis use among youth. Our aging in place population is the most vulnerable to that crime.
I urge every Camden voter to vote no to both Articles 3 & 4 on June 13 in Camden. Voting yes sends the wrong message. We don’t need any more pot shops.
By Jeffrey Lewis
May 5, 2023
SLOW DOWN. So says a sign I pass almost every day. The words remind me I’m going too fast. I should know better than to speed, for I know how much I hate it when drivers race through my neighborhood, which they do every day.
The 25-mph sign is ignored by many. But the law signifies what and whom we value. Every driver could break the law and I’d still fight to keep the speed limit, for it stands for the well-being of our community.
On June 13 we are being asked to change our zoning laws for a cannabis consortium to pave the way for two retail pot shops in Camden. Like speed limits, our zoning laws ensure the character, aesthetics, and local economic vitality of our home. Changing them at the behest of a multi-state venture when there is no benefit for Camden is unwise.
No one has made a compelling case for why retail cannabis stores in Camden would be good for anyone other than the front men for the operation and their investors. For those of us who have invested our lives here, the rush to change our laws to suit those who would profit at our expense reeks of a contrived urgency. Their impatience with how much we care about Camden is telling: Their rhetoric says we are living in the past. Like much of what they say, this is untrue.
Towns that reject retail cannabis are not clinging to the past; they are protecting their future. They comprise most towns in Maine, including each of our closest neighbors. Rockport and Hope have already said no to retail cannabis. Lincolnville and Appleton are wise to go slow on this. For Camden to be the only town in our school district to rush into retail pot sales would be no proud distinction.
Data show that the early years of the 21st century have not been especially healthy for our children who grow up confronted with a myriad of addictive distractions and perils. Marketing intoxicants as attractive and convenient at this moment in our history — near our homes, schools, parks, and our family-friendly downtown is not a sign of progress but a sign of decay.
The proposals foisted on us have already torn at the fabric of our community. “Pot is already everywhere,” some of my friends say. While this an understandable feeling, it’s not a good reason to roll over. It’s resignation, and resignation is the opposite of living for the future. It’s like tearing down the speed limit sign. If pot is everywhere, and so easy to get anywhere, there’s no reason to toss our zoning laws so a cannabis chain can expand their adults-only stores into one of the loveliest places in the country — the place that we are blessed to call home. We don’t need this. Our future is brighter than that.
Camden is blessed with so much that is worth protecting: the natural beauty, the charming downtown, and our safe neighborhoods, but nothing is more important than our children and our future. Please slow down, please read the signs, please visit CamdenCares.ME to learn more, and please vote on June 13.
Vote no on Articles 3 and 4
By Kristen Smith
May 26, 2022
Marijuana retail stores do not fit into the family-oriented village that is Camden.
Age restrictive businesses limit the ability for nearly a third of residents to fully enjoy all downtown has to offer. As a mother, I love that my children are free to enter any shop of their choosing. I love that they are welcomed by all businesses. I love that Camden cares about their well-being.
Marijuana retail shops are not what this community needs and I urge all Camden residents to vote no on articles 3 and 4. Keep Camden kid friendly.
Check out more letters and also videos from local residents and business owners on our "Voices" page. Click here.