Portland, Maine, To Vote on Marijuana Legalization

Voters in Maine's largest city will have the chance to legalize marijuana in November. The Portland city council Monday night voted 5-1 to put the issue before voters.

The council could have simply adopted a citizen-initiated ordinance to legalize the possession of up to 2 ½ ounces that was endorsed by more than 2,500 voters. But instead, it punted, leaving it to Portland voters to approve the measure or not in the November 5 elections.

Even if approved by Portland voters, marijuana possession remains illegal under federal law. State law considers possession of less than 2 ½ ounces of marijuana a civil infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $600. 

The vote to take the matter to the voters came after a Monday afternoon press conference at which civil rights leaders and political figures said that marijuana prohibition is expensive and its enforcement is racially disproportionate. Speakers included representatives of the NAACP of Maine, the Maine ACLU, the Portland Green Independent Committee, and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Speakers cited the recent national ACLU report on racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement. Regina Phillips of the NAACP of Maine, invoking the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of black youth Trayvon Martin, argued that the marijuana laws are just another example of racial injustice in America. 

"It has begun to feel like locking up young black men has become a national pastime," she said, citing figures that showed blacks get arrested at twice the rate of whites in Maine.

Maine wastefully spends $9 million a year on "aggressive enforcement" of marijuana laws that "ensnares thousands in the criminal justice system," said the Maine ACLU's Bob Talbot. "These are tax dollars that could be spend on hospitals, schools, or better solutions. The truth is the war on marijuana is a failure."

City Councilor David Marshall said that even though Maine had decriminalized possession, being caught with pot is still a federal drug crime with all its consequences.

"There's a whole host of federal programs you can be denied simply by having a possession of marijuana charges on your record," he said, adding that he thought the measure would be approved by "a large majority" of voters.

– Article originally from Stop the Drug War.


1 Comment

  1. Mrs. Ratsrectum on

    Sounds great! Portland, Maine will be a great place for vacationers on the East Coast, especially New Englanders. Little Colorado or Washington in New England, the Amsterdam of the East Coast. Too bad the whole state missed the opportunity to legalize, but in any case, if this passes, Portland, Maine will make history by being the FIRST place on the East Coast to legalize for adult recreational use.

    If just the city council voted and implemented legalization, I can definitely see the feds pulling some kind of shit on them, however the feds will find it impossible to go after all the voters. We know that the feds persecute individuals so while taking a little longer, the city council members have made it clear that a handful of people on the council make easier targets than the targeting of the multitudes of voters make. It’d be easier to charge and prosecute city council members with whatever kind of shit they could in a threatening letter than it will for the feds to identify everybody in the general population. It could embolden other cities, despite what their state laws say, overwhelming the feds.

    I hope that Holder is including laws keeping cannabis illegal when he talks about looking at “laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.”

    Here is his specific sentence:

    “It is our collective obligation – we must stand our ground – to ensure that our laws reduce violence, and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.”

    These 2 paragraphs excerpted from AG Holder’s speech give a better idea that the NAACP now has Holder’s ear and can get him to to something. Hopefully, he will help rid us of cannabis prohibition somehow.

    Excerpted paragraphs:

    But we must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely. By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety. The list of resulting tragedies is long and – unfortunately – has victimized too many who are innocent. It is our collective obligation – we must stand our ground – to ensure that our laws reduce violence, and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.

    We must also seek a dialogue on attitudes about violence and disparities that are too commonly swept under the rug – by honoring the finest traditions established by generations of NAACP leaders and other nonviolent advocates throughout history; and by paying tribute to the young man who lost his life here last year – and so many others whose futures have been cut short in other incidents of gun violence that pass, too often unnoticed, in our streets: by engaging with one another in a way that is at once peaceful, inclusive, respectful – and strong.