We’ve previously talked about Michaud vs. LePage in 2014, but a ton of interesting things are happening in Maine right now. First, check out the video above (from PBS NewsHour); Maine is the first state to allow prescription drug imports from other countries, putting them squarely in the gun sights of Big Pharma. People are worried the drugs might be unsafe, but the Portland program (run by CanaRx) has only had two complaints since it commenced back in ’04; they related to the shipment of insulin, which needs to be at a certain temperature and took too long to reach customers. Apparently the Maine shippers don’t ship temperature-sensitive drugs anymore, and as one economist in the WSJ article notes, Americans have crossed the Canadian border for cheaper meds since the 1950s, if not before — if safety was a primary issue, it likely would have collapsed as a process by now. The FDA believes that ‘Canadian’ drugs may actually be from other countries, however. Sheer fact is, if this program proves itself and is expanded to other states, it could seriously affect the bottom line of Big Pharma — and allow U.S. citizens to get prescription drugs cheaper. Some believe Maine is ‘going rogue.’ This story might be a concern.
In addition to being at the forefront of America’s battle with Big Pharma over drug prices, Portland is now part of the marijuana legalization movement. They just legalized possession up to 2.5 ounces, but since that’s a local ordinance that opposes state/federal ordinances, it’s likely people could still get busted for pot in the Portland area. Thing is, though, Maine is one of 13 states that decriminalized marijuana possession. It’s a civil offense; the fine is $1K or less. While some think this will lead to more Maine kids smoking pot, others believe the road to legalization (it would be the first major Eastern state to legalize) is important on the road to taxing pot and generating revenue from it.
So, forefront of pot (for the East) and forefront of battles with Big Pharma … how about Maine also being a leading state for how we conceptualize prisons? They’ve partnered with the Sunshine Lady Foundation to create a path to degrees for Maine inmates; 14 just graduated from the program. The recidivism rate on people emerging from this program is zero percent; the national prison recidivism rate is something like 70 percent. Since the average cost to house an inmate is $56K per year in Maine, keeping the system from becoming a revolving door is hugely important (the budget for Maine Corrections is only about $125 million; and no, while I was thinking about embedding a ‘Maine Justice’ clip, this doesn’t feel like the time). Most people believe rehabilitation works better than punishment in prison settings, so the Maine program (only used at two prisons in NY State and one prison in WA State) is very forward-thinking.
And here’s another cool thing: Maine is at the forefront of rural economic turnaround plans. Bar Harbor Foods, located in Whiting, Maine (which has a population of roughly 500), also makes lobster bisque and clam juice that’s sold in Whole Foods and a bunch of other national chains; some claim their clam juice is No. 1 in all of America. They were able to succeed because of $600K from CEI, or Coastal Enterprises. You don’t see that attention to rural economies all over the U.S.
Point is, interesting stuff happens all over the U.S. every day — we all know that. But Maine is really testing some of the key ideas of what we’ve come to expect in America, and that’s frankly pretty cool. Oh, and hey — they’re investing in early childhood education too! No wonder the mainstream media is starting to get all over Portland as a place to live and raise a family.