Portland police defy voters' decision to make marijuana legal
On November 5, the city of Portland voted to make possession of 2.5 ounces of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age or older. The ordinance went into effect on December 6. This is a huge victory not only for Portland, but for the entire state of Maine. With Portland now on the map as the first city on the East Coast to legalize adult marijuana possession, we are well positioned to pass a law in Maine that would tax and regulate marijuana statewide by 2016.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that 67% of Portland voters voted in favor of the ordinance, the city police chief, Michael Sauschuck, recently announced that the police will continue to enforce state law. Under Maine law, possession of less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana is a civil violation, punishable by a fine of up to $600 dollars. Sauschuck’s decision to defy the will of the people is especially baffling considering that local police in cities like Jackson, Michigan (where voters recently passed a similar city ordinance) have announced that they will respect voters' decision to make marijuana legal for adults.
The disappointing police response in Portland is all the more reason to ramp up our efforts to pass a statewide initiative in 2016. Moving forward, we will continue to work with legislators to pass a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol, and if the legislature doesn’t support sensible marijuana policy reform, we’re confident that voters at the ballot box in 2016 will.
Medical Marijuana in Maine
Maine is one of 20 states (plus D.C.) that have removed criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana to treat certain illnesses. If you are a patient with a serious illness who wishes to become a patient in Maine, please visit the program’s website at the Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services.
Maine voters passed the state’s medical marijuana law, Ballot Question 2, into law on November 2, 1999 with 61% of the vote. The law was improved by a ballot initiative in 2009 (Question 5) to allow dispensaries and add additional qualifying conditions. All eight dispensaries are currently up and running and no major problems have been reported.
In 2011, the Maine Legislature passed legislation making patient registration optional in order to preserve patient privacy and tweaking several other portions of the law. You can read a summary of those changes here.
Marijuana laws in Maine (non-medical)
Did you know that Maine is a “decrim” state? In 2009, the Maine Legislature passed a measure that expanded the state's decades-old decrim law by making possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana a civil penalty, punishable by only a civil fine. For possession of up to 1.25 ounces, the fine is $350-$600. If the amount is between 1.25 ounces to 2.5 ounces, the fine is $700-$1000. Possession of more than 2.5 ounces can lead to a definite jail term of up to six months.
Of course, while removing the potential for jail time is a good first step, only taxing and regulating marijuana will solve the supply problem and completely remove marijuana from the criminal market. Please ask your legislator to support efforts to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
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