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Question 3- SMMC Board Recommends a No on 3 vote

October 29, 2021

Stance on Question 3- SMMC Board Recommends a No Vote 

The broadly written amendment, as presented, leaves too many potential ethical and legal pitfalls to be in the best interest of Mainers 

On November 2, the voters of Maine will be asked to weigh in on three referendum questions, with Question 3 stated as follows: 
 
“Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being?”   

Our SMMC Board is asking you to Vote No on Question 3. 

Animal Rights Maine, Maine Municipal Association, Maine Farm Bureau, Maine Potato Board, and the Maine Veterinarian Medical Association, among other similar groups, also oppose this amendment. Supporters of this amendment insist that the goal is hunger prevention, which is a very worthwhile goal, however this amendment is written so broadly that it could have a myriad of unintended consequences. 

First of all, constitutional amendments are the pinnacle of authority, in that they can overrule many other laws and statutes.  Say you want to have chickens in the courtyard of the apartment building you rent at, or in your apartment itself, if it is an unalienable right your neighbors, nor your landlord, could prevent it.  The way this amendment is written, you could say the same for cows, pigs, snakes, spiders, armadillos or any other “food of their choosing for their own nourishment.” 

There are certain species of animals and plants that are not native to Maine and introducing those species into our ecosystem can be disruptive and harmful.  The Maine Farm Bureau cited this in their rebuttal of this amendment saying, “Diseased crops and invasive species hurt everyone” and “Food safety matters.”  Does your neighbor have the knowledge and experience to raise the food they want without impeding on your way of life?

If this right is “inherent and unalienable,” then there is no limit to what they can eat, grow, and consume regardless of the view of neighbors who may be affected by the wastewater, odor, noise, or other environmental effects on the land which you abut or reside on. Typically zoning prevents this from occurring now, but an amendment could supersede that- only the courts will know for sure once the case is presented. The potential to overrule current zoning statewide seems like an extremely dangerous chance to take.  

Additionally, several animal rights groups are opposing this amendment for the same lack of clarity this amendment would provide around animal rights and specifically animal cruelty.  Set aside the issue that there are laws in place that prevent certain species from being deemed as proper food, and that the phrase “food of their choosing” may supersede those current laws, but this amendment says nothing about following laws on the care of animals for consumption.  The courts will need to decide, should this amendment pass, whether animal cruelty laws not being in the wording of this amendment is intentional or an oversight, in which case the courts would need to rule on whether voters approving this amendment without that language in there, constitutes a rejection of that animal care that is currently on the books.  Two former legislators raised the point that “Article. X Sec. 3 of the Maine Constitution says that laws that are currently in place that are not repugnant to this constitution shall remain. It does not say all laws will remain.”   

Which gets us to the final point, which is what problem is this constitutional amendment solving? If someone wants to grow a garden on their land, they typically can, so why does this need to raise to the level of being a constitutional amendment?  

Do we need more places to produce food? That is a zoning measure, not a constitutional amendment.  

Do renters need the ability to plant a garden at their residence?  Then that is a rental agreement law change.  
 
To write a broad amendment which doesn’t define what eligible food is, or rather, to purposely keep the amendment broad so that it includes the many perspectives of what "food of their choosing” could mean, is reckless and not the right answer for Maine.  

The broadly written amendment, as presented, leaves too many potential ethical and legal pitfalls to be in the best interest of Mainers. 

For those reasons, our Board of Directors is encouraging a No on 3 vote on November 2.  

 

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