Portland becomes first city in Northeast to legalize possession of marijuana

7:11 PM, Nov 6, 2013   |    comments
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PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- On election day, two-thirds of voters approved of an ordinance that makes possession of up to two-and-a-half ounces of marijuana legal by adults 21 and over.

The measure, which will go into effect in thirty days, directs law enforcement officers to focus their efforts on other higher priority issues, but does not allow use in public places or the sale of the drug.

"We look forward to working with city officials and law enforcement here in Portland in making sure the will of Portland voters and taxpayers is respected," stated David Boyer, Maine Political Director of the Marijuana Policy Project. 

"Law enforcement has better things to do with their time, with their resources, than punish adults for possessing marijuana," he added.

Portland Police chief Michael Sauschuck says despite the passage of the ordinance, his officers will not change their approach to enforcing state and federal laws.

"There is really no change at all, and we have been very consistent about that since day one, that state law preempts an ordinance of this sort, a local ordinance of any sort, so it is not really going to change the way we do business on a daily basis," he explained.

He says officers will not be waiting to pounce on people who possess pot, but will issue citations when they encounter people breaking the law.

"It is not that we don't care about these kinds of offenses, it is that when we prioritize these things - there were 85,000 calls for services and 4600 arrests a year or so - it is that we deal with these situations as we come upon them," he said.

He says he is also concerned that drug dealers could see this move as an invitation to sell marijuana in the city. 

David Boyer says the next step will be to work with other municipalities in the state to change their ordinances, while legislators grapple with the issue in Augusta.  He says if the issue is not resolved through the legislative process, a statewide referendum could happen as soon as 2016.


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