Listen to a podcast of our editorial board’s meeting with supporters of both sides of Question 1.

Sometimes it’s the leaders who need leadership. For decades, politicians have been clinging to outdated ideas about drug policy because they didn’t want to appear soft on crime.

We support the citizen-initiated Question 1, an act to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol, because it would tell lawmakers to change course.

A “yes” vote says that there is such a thing as responsible, adult use of marijuana. The current law makes criminals out of people who are otherwise law-abiding and dumps millions of dollars into a tax-free black market. Legalization would put low-risk marijuana use on the right side of the law, and focus resources where they are more needed.

Our support for the ballot question does not mean that we consider all use of marijuana to be benign, or that we think its use is appropriate for everyone.

Our editorial board was divided on this referendum, especially because of a concern that passage of the proposal would send a confusing message to young people about drug use.

Many details would have to be worked out before we could be fully comfortable that this law would not result in aggressive marketing to teens or make it easier than it already is for young people to get their hands on pot.

But we are confident that when the Legislature comes back into session it could address that kind of issue before the law goes into full effect. We have no confidence, however, that lawmakers would take on this task unless the voters pass Question 1 and tell them to do it.

Ultimately, this measure is a referendum on the war on drugs, a 40-year-old failed public policy that has used the criminal justice system to address a public health problem. It has given Maine a marijuana policy that makes no sense – one that winks at some violators, punishes others too severely and pumps money into criminal organizations. Our medical marijuana program does a lot of good, but it’s haphazard, making cannabis unavailable to some people who would benefit from it, while providing a back door to legalization for some recreational users.

The referendum question is far from perfect, but it provides the framework for a much more workable system than now exists to balance personal liberty with legitimate public safety risks.

If the question were to pass, we would support legislation that strictly regulates edible products that could be confused with commercially marketed candies and treats. The state could also require the use of child-proof containers and warning labels.

We also expect the Legislature to make sure that municipalities have control over how many retail pot shops can open in their communities, or even whether there can be any at all.

Impaired driving and furnishing drugs to minors would still be against the law, and we would support police efforts to continue to enforce those laws.

But marketing, impaired driving or teenage drug use is not what Question 1 is really about. This referendum simply asks whether adults in Maine have the judgment to handle a little more freedom.

We think that they do, so we vote “yes.”